Is S. Korea dangerous for women?
Despite the Yoon Suk Yeol government's pledge to crack down on crimes against women, concerns are growing over the women's safety following a spate of gender-based violence cases.
The tragic death of 38-year-old Lee Eun-chong, who was murdered by her former coworker and boyfriend after being stalked, stirred criticism over a lack of practical protection for victims of gender-based crimes under South Korean law. In Lee's case, she had been granted a temporary restraining order to prohibit her ex-boyfriend from getting close to her, but he was still able to kill her.
In July, Lee was fatally stabbed in front of her home in Incheon. She had reportedly tried to end the relationship with her killer due to his physically abusive behavior.
An online post in early September -- purportedly by Lee's bereaved family -- indicated that Lee had been given a wearable electronic device to alert the police in case of an emergency. However, the post claimed that Lee was asked by police to return the device just four days before she died. The police denied the claim.
Some 44,000 petitions have been filed as the trial for the case began on Sept. 19, calling for tougher punishment for the perpetrator.
Rising fears over gender-based violence have been fueled by the tendency of Korean courts to take mitigating factors into account when sentencing assailants in gender-based violence cases.
This is illustrated by the so-called "roundhouse kick" incident, where a man attacked and attempted to rape and murder a woman in Busan in February 2022.
The man, who had an extensive criminal record of 18 prior convictions, was given 20 years in prison by an appellate court in June, a far lighter sentence than the 35 years sought by the prosecution. The victim said she believed the judges took into account the offender's family background, specifically his parents' divorce, when determining his sentence.
The case drew media attention after the victim uploaded a post online titled, "I'll be dead in 12 years," which portrayed her fear of being murdered as soon as the assailant gets released after jail term and approaches her in retaliation for his punishment. The post went viral following an initial lower court ruling that handed down a 12-year sentence to the offender. Amid widespread public attention, the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the 20-year sentence handed down by the appellate court.