Korean Law Demystified!

Constitutional Court of Korea: ‘Fucking Crazy’ NOT Criminal Insult under South Korean Law

As you may know, in Korea, it’s a crime to publicly insult another person w/o justification. Korean Criminal Act (형법) Article 311.

An article recently reported that the Constitutional Court of Korea found as unconstitutional a prosecutor’s decision to give a “suspension of indictment” to a person who’d said to another in public, “You’re fucking crazy!” in English (during an argument). The Court’s reasoning: it fell short of being a crime (at all).

Constitutional Court of Korea (대한민국 헌법재판소): Although not technically part of the judiciary, it functions as such (for all intents and purposes). It is easier to think of it as part of the judiciary. It exclusively reviews the constitutionality of all laws/regulations as well as government action/inaction.

Suspension of Indictment (기소유예): A crime was indeed committed, but the prosecutor is willing to let this one go. The prosecutor takes into account the perpetrator’s age, character, intelligence, relationship to the victim, motive, actions taken afterwards, etc. Similar to why Sherlock Holmes let the thief go in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. Holmes felt arresting Ryder would only make him into a more hardened criminal later. “Maybe I am committing a felony, but I may be saving a soul. Send him to jail now, you make him a jailbird for life…” -SH.

I do not know the exact details of the case. From what I gather, the Court viewed the utterance as more of an expression of frustration. This baffles me. That would make more sense if the utterance had been: “This is fucking crazy!” (i.e., the situation).

If someone publicly says to another, “You’re fucking crazy!” in Korean, I have no doubt it would constitute criminal insult under Article 311. So the takeaway is to curse in English?? I don’t get it.

To learn more about criminal insult in Korea, click here.

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