Korean Law Demystified!

What is 폭행?

Pokhaeng is a crime akin to battery in American law. (Battery is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact.)

I say “akin” because the two are not exactly the same. Pokhaeng does not require actual physical contact: 1) Throwing a stone at someone –> can be pokhaeng even if the stone misses, 2) Yelling into someone’s ear –> can be pokhaeng as well. (Provided, these actions were intentional.)

The Seoul Eastern District Court recently found a woman guilty of pokhaeng after she threw a bowl of water at another person. She received a criminal fine of KRW 300,000 via a deferred sentence.


Article 260 (Crime of Violence)

(1) A person who uses violence against another shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, a (criminal) fine not exceeding 5 million won, detention, or a minor (criminal) fine.

(2) When the crime as referred to in paragraph (1) is committed on a lineal ascendant of the offender or of his/her spouse, he/she shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or a (criminal) fine not exceeding 7 million won.

(3) The crimes as referred to in paragraphs (1) and (2) shall not be prosecuted over the express objection of the victim.

– Translation mostly by KLRI (Korea Legislation Research Institute)

Pokhaeng is what is referred to as a “반의사불벌죄.” This means the perpetrator cannot be prosecuted if the victim expressly objects. If a (monetary) settlement is reached, the police will not proceed further.

Thanks for reading!

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