Korean Law Demystified!

The Serious Crime of ‘False Accusation’ (in Korea)


In Korea, “False Accusation” (무고) is a serious crime. If found guilty, you can/will end up in prison (no probation). Two women recently met with this fate for falsely accusing rape: Case 1, Case 2. And below are (Korean) Supreme Court cases worthy of note. I present only the conclusion/gist.

FYI: It’s not “False Accusation” if you erroneously/mistakenly believed something to be a crime. “False Accusation” aims to punish flat-out lies.

1. It doesn’t matter that it was something the “victim” secretly okayed – that he/she was willing to take the rap for it (Supreme Court Decision of September 30, 2005, 2005Do2712).

2. The events referred to (in the accusation) must relate to an actual crime, but those events need not spell out all the elements of a crime. (Supreme Court Decision of April, 13, 2007, 2006Do558; Supreme Court Decision of May 25, 2006, 2005Do4642).

3. Reporting only his/her accomplice’s crime – but not one’s own involvement – IS NOT “False Accusation” (Supreme Court Decision of August 21, 2008, 2008Do3754).

4. The prosecution has to affirmatively prove the falsity of the accuser’s claim, meaning “failure to recognize the veracity” is not enough (Supreme Court Decision of January 27, 2004, 2003Do5114).

5. Exaggerating (unimportant) details that do not affect the constitution of a crime IS NOT “False Accusation” (Supreme Court Decision of January 16, 2004, 2003Do7178).

6. An accused who (simultaneously) files a criminal complaint saying something like, “Please punish the accuser for ‘False Accusation’ in the event that his/her accusation turns out to be groundless…” CAN BE “False Accusation” (Supreme Court Decision of March 15, 2007, 2006Do9453).

7. Reporting a crime for which the statute of limitations has expired IS NOT “False Accusation,” but reporting it by making it seem like it hasn’t (expired) IS “False Accusation” (Supreme Court Decision of February 8, 1994, 93Do3445; Supreme Court Decision of December 5, 1995, 95Do1908).

8. The reporting itself must have been voluntary (and/or part of the criminal complaint) – not merely a byproduct of police questioning (Supreme Court Decision of February 9, 1996, 95Do2652).

9. Once a criminal complaint is submitted (to the police), the crime of “False Accusation” is complete and can’t be undone (Supreme Court Decision of February 8, 1985, 84Do2215).

10. Article 157 refers to instances where the person specifically confesses of having committed “False Accusation,” meaning simply admitting having lied is not enough (Supreme Court Decision of September 5, 1995, 94Do755).

These are sort of the things I had to memorize for the multiple-choice section of the (Korean) Bar Exam. There are many more cases regarding “False Accusation,” but I chose to share the above 12 for the time being.

Thanks for reading!

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