Family of Murder Victim Successfully Sue the Government for Police Blunder (in Korea)!

[Example Situation]


Norman is in a relationship with Mary. They like each other very much, but Norman’s mother hates Mary. One day, Mary and Norman’s mother get into an argument over the phone. Before hanging up, Mary tells Norman’s mother she’s coming over. Norman’s mother go gets a knife and waits for Mary. Seeing his mother like this, Norman is now scared and calls the police for help. He feels something’s about to go down! But the police mistakenly think Norman’s call is in relation to an already-reported incident nearby and pay no separate attention. Norman makes another call. The police are still mistaken. 24 minutes have now elapsed since Norman’s first call. Police finally realize Norman’s calls were in relation to an entirely separate incident! Police quickly arrive, but Norman’s mother has already stabbed Mary to death. Mary’s family sue the government. What is the likely outcome under Korean law?

The above example is similar to a case recently reported here in Korea.

I. The Ruling

The Seoul Western District Court found (partially) for the plaintiffs and ordered the government to pay them about 83 mil won (USD 73,000). The court saw the police 20% responsible for the death of Mary that day.

II. Reasoning

1. Had the police done their job properly, Mary’s death could have been  prevented especially since Norman’s mother was a 66-year-old woman.

2. The police should have known better because the two addresses were clearly different, and the dispatcher tried to get that point across.

3. The police are (only) 20% responsible because they did not partake in the actual killing + had no obligation to supervise Norman’s mother.

DID YOU KNOW? This happened in September 2015 in Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu.

Thanks for reading!

I also recommend this post:

How to Find Out the Statute of Limitations (for a Crime under Korean Law)


Example Crime: Rape (victim is an adult)

STEP 1: Identify the governing/applicable (criminal) law.

Article 297 of the Criminal Act (형법) says, “A person who, by means of violence or intimidation, has sexual intercourse with another shall be punished by imprisonment for a limited term of at least 3 years.”

STEP 2: See what the most severe punishment (for the crime) can be.

In this case, there is only one form of punishment -> “imprisonment for a limited term of at least 3 years.” So the worst-case scenario is you get sent to prison for a very, very long time (i.e., at least 3 years). But not “for the rest of your life” because of the words “a limited term of.”

FYI 1: Imprisonment (w/ or w/o prison labor) is always a more severe form of punishment than a (criminal) fine. This is true even when the defendant receives probation (and does not actually end up in jail).

FYI 2: When an English version of a Korean law just says “imprisonment,” it means imprisonment with prison labor (aka 징역).

FYI 3: Korean courts cannot give out sentences like “imprisonment for 1,000 years.” Max limited term (possible) is 50 years.

STEP 3: Use Article 249(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act. (See slide.)

In this case, the statute of limitations is 10 years (#3).

Why? Because the max punishment (for raping an adult) can (indeed) be 10 years or more (50 to be exact), but not life. Without the words “a limited term of,” the statute of limitations would be 15, not 10. The statute of limitations starts to run upon the completion of a crime.

Conclusion: The statute of limitations for raping an adult is 10 years.

Thanks for reading!

What is the Punishment for Beating Your Child (in Korea)?


Here in Korea, the Changwon District Court recently found a 42-year-old man guilty of child abuse (and sanghae) after he beat his 8-year-old son using a backscratcher. The court ordered him to pay a criminal fine of 1 mil won + attend 40 hours of child abuser’s treatment program. Link.

Back in March, the man beat his (recalcitrant) son after the son threw the remote at his grandmother, etc. The son ended up with bruises, and a teacher made a report the next day after suspecting child abuse.

According to reports, the man received just a (criminal) fine because he seemed penitent, and the family members did want him punished, etc.

In Korea, teachers have a duty to report suspected cases of child abuse. The number to call is 112. Or, you can call a regional agency found here.

Thanks for reading!

DID YOU KNOW? In Korea, a backscratcher is called “hand of a devoted son” (효자손). Somewhat ironic this was the item used for the beating.

When is a FINE a CRIMINAL FINE (in Korea)?


A: When it is referred to as “벌금” (in Korean).

When referred to as “과태료” or “범칙금,” the fine is not a criminal fine. So, unlike “벌금,” these two don’t end/show up on one’s criminal record.

For example: The punishment for conducting unreported private tutoring is “1년 이하의 징역 또는 500만원 이하의 벌금.” In contrast, the punishment for (mere) failure to post/show one’s certificate of report is “300만원 이하의 과태료.” The former is a crime, while the latter is not.

Note: The max (criminal) fine for the former will be increased to 10 mil won starting November. Korean law changes quickly, out of the blue.

DID YOU KNOW? Earlier this year, the Constitutional Court of Korea found as constitutional the law criminalizing unreported private tutoring. The law currently allows unreported private tutoring only if you’re a college/graduate student (not on leave). News report here.

“범칙금” are fines relating to minor offenses/crimes or traffic violations such as speeding or failure to buckle up. (Drunk driving is a crime.)

TLDR: When the English version of a Korean law says “fine,” it usually means criminal fine.

Thanks for reading!

I also recommend this post:

Types of Wills under Korean Law


The Korean Civil Act (민법) outlines 5 types of wills:

I. Will by Holograph Document

Entire document must be handwritten by the testator him/herself.

– Must contain the year/month/date. All three!

– Must contain testator’s name/address.

– Must contain testator’s seal or thumbprint. On (any) corrections too!

– The advantage: No witnesses necessary!

II. Will by Voice Recording

– Testator must state his/her name + the year/month/date.

– Witness must identify him/herself and corroborate the will.

– Interestingly, the law is silent on how many witnesses are needed.

III. Will by Notarial Document

– 2 witnesses and a notary must be present.

– Testator dictates his/her will –> notary writes it down + recites.

– Testator and the 2 witnesses then verify via signature or name+seal.

– The advantage: No probate process necessary!

IV. Will by Secret Document

– The document must be tightly sealed (using a seal).

– It must then be presented to at least 2 witnesses (both/all present).

– The outside of the doc must reveal it’s a will + the year/month/date.

– Also, each of the testator and witnesses’ signatures or names+seals.

– Get a confirmation date from a notary or court clerk within 5 days!

V. Will by Instrument of Dictation

– Only possible when testator is unable to use the 4 preceding methods.

– Testator dictates his/her will to at least 2 witnesses present.

– One of them writes it down and then recites.

– Testator and witnesses all verify via signature or name+seal.

– Must be submitted to a probate court within 7 days!

To learn more about wills, please read Articles 1060-1111 of the Civil Act.

DID YOU KNOW? Korean law does not allow you to just will away all your money/assets to people of your liking. This is because the law specifically guarantees all heirs a (bare) minimum share. This is called “유류분.” To learn more, please read Articles 1112-1118 of said Act.

Thanks for reading!

Indecent Exposure Law in Korea


In Korea, a professional baseball player is currently awaiting indictment for a crime he committed last month. He was caught masturbating in his car while watching a passerby woman. He’s most likely to be indicted for “Public Obscenity” under the Criminal Act (형법).

Article 245 (Public Obscenity)

A person who publicly commits an obscene act shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or by a fine not exceeding 5 million won, detention or a minor fine.

He’s been released from the team and won’t be playing baseball.

FYI 1: Unlike the two crimes below it, “Too Much Exposure” is only a minor crime. This means it won’t end/show up on one’s criminal record.

FYI 2: Streaking can be seen as “Public Obscenity” depending on severity. Whether it was severe enough to arouse (in others) “sexual” feelings.

Do People End Up in Jail for Stalking (in Korea)?


A: Well, sort of… It’s possible if repeated threats were involved.

The Ulsan District Court recently sentenced a man to 6 months in prison (no probation) for threatening/stalking a woman he was infatuated with.

Last year, the man had already been found guilty of threatening/stalking the woman. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison (2 years probation). But even after the conviction, he continued. So again, he was indicted and found guilty. And because he was (already) on probation, the court had no choice but to put him behind bars this time. No probation.

What’s interesting is that the (main) law used to convict the man was not directly related to stalking, but related to sending threatening/scary text messages. (See slide above.) He had repeatedly threatened the woman (and people around her) that he would kidnap/impregnate her, etc.

Compare this case to another recent case in which a man was acquitted of sending “scary” text messages: Link

Thanks for reading!

‘Loser Pays’ Rule for Attorneys’ Fees is Constitutional (in Korea)!


The Constitutional Court of Korea recently ruled as such. In Korean litigation, the loser is required to reimburse the winner’s legal expenses.


Article 98 (Principle of Bearing Costs of Lawsuit)

Costs of a lawsuit shall be borne by the losing party.

Article 101 (Case of Partial Defeat)

The costs of lawsuit to be borne by the parties in cases of a partial defeat shall be determined by the court: depending on circumstances, the court may charge either of the parties with the whole of the costs.

– Translation by KLRI (Korea Legislation Research Institute)

Of course, the loser is required to reimburse only up to a certain amount (depending on the “amount in controversy”). Please see table at the top.

For example: If the plaintiff sought 500 mil won in damages (and won), the maximum he/she can be reimbursed is 9.8 mil won.

6.8 mil won  +  (500 mil won – 200 mil won)  x  1/100  =  9.8 mil won

Of course, if the plaintiff spent less than 9.8 mil won, then that’s (only) what he/she is entitled to. Thanks for reading!

What if I Can’t/Won’t Pay the Criminal Fine (벌금)?


If a person still can’t/won’t pay via installment plans, the only option is to do manual labor. For how long depends on the amount. See above.

It was recently reported that former President Chun Doo-hwan’s second son Chun Jae-yong went into lockup at a workhouse. Back in August 2015, the Supreme Court of Korea found him guilty of tax evasion and sentenced him to 3 years in prison (4 years probation) + ordered him to pay a criminal fine of 4 bil won. Well, he ultimately paid only 140 mil.

This news created somewhat of an uproar here in Korea. Chun was to be locked up for 965 days in lieu of paying the remaining 3.86 bil won. This meant he’ll be paying off his fine at a pace of roughly 4 mil won a day! Doing relatively light manual labor! (e.g., cleaning, folding envelopes…)

This is because Article 69(2) of the Criminal Act (형법) does not allow for such lockups to last for more than 3 years (regardless of the amount). The idea behind that: if a lockup is too long, it essentially becomes a prison sentence (not a criminal fine). But many see this as a loophole.

In response, a lawmaker (last week) proposed to amend the current law so that the maximum duration would be 6 years (not 3).

Thanks for reading!

FYI: A minor criminal fine is called “과료” for which the max lockup period is 29 days. “과료” and “벌금” are both criminal punishments. In contrast, fines in the form of “범칙금” or “과태료” are not.

When is Groping a 12-Year-Old = Groping an Adult (in Korea)?


Sexual violence crimes perpetrated against someone under 13 (or 19) is punished more severely here in Korea. But this is true only if the perpetrator knew (or should have known) the victim was not an adult. If the perpetrator reasonably (but mistakenly) thought the victim was an adult, he/she will be tried (and convicted) as if the victim was an adult.

What are some examples of when the perpetrator should have known?

1) The perpetrator personally knew the victim.

2) The victim was wearing a school uniform.

3) The victim had told the perpetrator (before the crime).

What is an example of the opposite? (i.e., could not have known)

Today, the Seoul High Court affirmed a lower court decision which had found a man guilty of “groping an adult” even though the victim was actually a 12-year-old girl. The court took into the account the following:

1) The two were total strangers.

2) It was past midnight and very dark.

3) The victim was over 160cm tall and wearing plain clothes.

4) The perpetrator first approached/grabbed the victim from behind.

5) To police, the perpetrator kept referring to the victim as “that lady.”

The man was sentenced to 10 months in prison. He will also be registered as a sex offender + wear an ankle bracelet for 2 years.

Had he been convicted of (knowingly) groping a 12-year-old, the crim punishment would have been at least 5 years or a fine of 30-50 mil won.

Thanks for reading!