▲ Legal questions and Korean justice Photo courtesy of J.H. Janßen
The first installment of this series provided basic information concerning the state of violence against women in Korea. It offered resources like the women’s emergency hotline (call 1366) and the Sunflower Centers, which have locations all over Korea and provides the One-Stop System for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
However, while it’s essential to have resources after the fact, one wonders what you should do before or during an assault. What if you’re a bystander, a concerned neighbor, or a victim?
In this article, we’ll explore these different scenarios and provide some general guidelines for possible responses.
To answer some of our legal questions, we sat down with Kim Chae-yeon, a lawyer who has been working with women and children for nine years. However, please keep in mind that any advice in this complicated area should be treated as purely introductory. Please seek out an actual consultation for any formal legal support.
Also, for the sake of brevity, this article will often rely on an example of a man assaulting a woman, even though these scenarios are not limited to that gender dynamic. Anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator of a crime.
Scenario One: The Bystander
You’re walking down the street and you see a man assaulting a women. What can you do?
Kim Chae-yeon advises to call the police. She says you can make yourself known as a bystander and ask the woman if she’s okay, however, legally, it’s best not to have any physical contact with the perpetrator.
She suggests utilizing power in numbers instead. For example, you can yell out calling other people in the area to gather and shame the attacker.
You can also use a cellphone to record or take pictures of the incident. Not only does it bolster the shaming strategy, it also gathers evidence for potential legal action.
If a physical confrontation seems unavoidable, one option is to simply get in between the individuals involved in the assault. However, you do so at your own risk.
There are no good samaritan laws in Korea. The context would probably be taken into account, but there are no guarantees for leniency in sentencing.
If the assailant attacks you, the best strategy is to block their punches. Do everything in your power to make your response less intense than their attack.
If your response isn’t deemed “a pure act of self defense”, then you’re looking at a fine of about 500,000 won and possible jail time of 6 to 12 months.
Scenario Two: The Neighbor
You’re in your apartment and you hear your neighbors fighting. You’ve tried to mind your own business, but it sounds like somebody might need help.
Once again, call the police. You can also knock on the wall or their door in order to let the occupants know that they’re not alone and are being overheard.
Once you’ve knocked, you can now use a cellphone to record what you’re hearing or witnessing.
In Korea it’s illegal to record someone without their knowledge. However, thanks to some legal acrobatics, the knocking technically starts a conversation which can then be recorded as admissible evidence.
▲ Your smartphone is a powerful tool against violence Photo courtesy of Karolina at Kaboompics
If you’re being assaulted, your main aim is to get away from your assailant. If you can’t get away, it’s imperative to protect your body using self defense techniques.
Unfortunately Korea still doesn’t have a lot of women’s self defense classes. However, there are plenty of Hapkido and Taekwondo centers where you can learn some basic moves.
First, guard your face with your fists and arms. Try not to fall to the ground since you may get injured doing so and it will be more difficult to make your escape. Standing with your feet apart in a wide stance will help you stay upright.
You might have to stun your attacker to escape. It’s best to go for the face. You can poke eyes or execute a head butt to the nose, using your forehead just below the hairline to strike your assailant.
Also, try kicking or hitting your attacker in the groin or knee caps. If he has you from behind, you can bring your heel down onto his foot, right above the arch.
Legally, defensive moves will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Each situation presents its own unique legal responses, and a female fighting against a male will most likely be treated differently than attacks involving members of the same gender.
Remember, if you have to defend yourself physically, the goal is to stun and run away, not to elbow your attacker into a coma. Use the legal system whenever possible to defend yourself.
▲ The necessity of self defense techniques Photo courtesy of Denise Nevins
Once you have escaped an assault, it is important to make sure you’re out of danger. Go to a public place. Ask others for help. Call the police.
Next, go to a hospital as soon as possible. Avoid taking a shower before you do. Bring any clothing that you wore during the attack. Take pictures of your injuries. Gather any photos or video evidence of the assault.
The hospital should put you in contact with the necessary resources to begin your recovery. If they don’t, use the phone numbers provided in this article. Speak to an advocate to find out what your rights are.
Lastly, if you are a victim of an assault, the most important thing is to try and recognize that you don’t deserve this. Take a moment to examine any doubts you have about this fact. Explore these feelings. Strive to acknowledge your own inherent self-worth.
Recognize that shame or guilt are often normal responses to being attacked. However, the fact is no one deserves abuse. This is not your fault.
Seek support in going through the necessary steps for recovery. Remember that there is no incorrect way to process a traumatic experience. Practice self-care and patience. Reach out.
You are not alone.
24/7 National Hotline for Women: 1366
Sunflower Center: 064-749-5117
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