Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 08:16 GMT

Korea, Republic of: Domestic violence, including legislation, availability of state protection and support services for victims

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 26 November 2009
Citation / Document Symbol KOR103305.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Korea, Republic of: Domestic violence, including legislation, availability of state protection and support services for victims, 26 November 2009, KOR103305.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b7cee81c.html [accessed 19 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Various sources note that violence against women in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) is a source of concern (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5; UN 10 Aug. 2007, Para. 25). The United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) noted in 2007 "the persistence of patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and society" and suggested "that these stereotypes are a root cause of violence against women" (ibid.). The United States (US) Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008 indicates that in 2008, "the [Ministry of Justice] registered 11,048 cases of domestic violence and prosecuted 1,747 cases" (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). The report cites a Ministry of Gender Equality (MOGE) survey that indicated that "approximately 30 percent of all married women [had been] victims of domestic violence" (ibid.).

According to information provided by the government of the Republic of Korea to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in August 2009,

[t]he prosecution indicted a total of 1,841 persons for domestic violence crimes and requested the court for protective dispositions on a total of 4,833 persons in 2008. The total number of those referred to the court procedure for domestic violence crimes is 6,674, accounting for 50 per cent of all suspects of domestic violence. (Korea 28 Aug. 2009, Para. 198)

Legislation

The government of the Republic of Korea enacted two separate laws, on the punishment of domestic violence and on the prevention of domestic violence and protection of its victims, in December 1997 (UN n.d.b). The two laws came into force in 1998 (ibid.). According to information provided by the government of the Republic of Korea to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,

The Special Act for the Punishment of Domestic Violence defines domestic violence crimes as acts of assault, injury, abandonment, abuse, arrest, confinement, intimidation and so on between family members which inflict physical, mental or property damage. Reflecting the characteristics of domestic violence crimes, the Act stipulates not only ordinary criminal punishment procedures but also protection order procedures for family protection cases such as limitation on access to family members, probation, therapy and counseling, and custody entrustment. Accordingly, domestic violence cases are handled as special cases from the investigation stage to the court procedure. (Korea 28 Aug. 2009, Para. 198)

The law enables authorities to order offenders to keep away from victims for up to six months (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5; The Korea Times 8 Aug. 2007). The South Korean English-language newspaper The Korea Times reports that these restraining orders may include a ban on offenders making contact with family members via e-mails and phone calls and may require offenders to keep at least 100 meters from applicants (ibid.). Family members other than actual victims are also allowed to ask for restraining orders (ibid.).

The law dealing with the prevention of domestic violence and the protection of its victims, entitled the "Act on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection, etc. of Victims Thereof" in the English version provided by the government, first entered into force on 1 July 1998 and has been revised several times (Korea 1 July 1998). The Act legislates the duty of the state to prevent domestic violence and to protect and support victims of violence (ibid., Art.1). The Act provides for the establishment of protection facilities for victims of domestic violence (ibid., Arts. 7, 8). In its 17 October 2007 revision, the Act made education on domestic violence mandatory in all schools (ibid., Art. 4-3; Korea 9 Apr. 2008, Para. 74). For more information, please refer to the attached English version of the "Act on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection etc. of Victims Thereof".

Spousal rape is not criminalized in the Republic of Korea (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5; UN 10 Aug. 2007, Para. 17). However, Country Reports for 2008 notes that while spousal rape is not illegal, "courts have established a precedent by prosecuting spouses in such cases" (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). In June 2007, in its response to CEDAW, the Republic of Korea indicated that martial rape cases might "follow a different path in the future" due to precedents set in earlier cases (Korea 4 June 2007, 6).

In January 2009, according to The Korea Times, a husband was convicted of raping his wife and given a 30-month suspended sentence in Busan District Court (The Korea Times 20 Jan. 2009). The offender had "frequently" raped his wife while threatening her with weapons (ibid.). According to The Korea Times, the ruling was the first time a South Korean court had recognized martial rape as a crime (ibid.).

State protection

In its 2007 report on Korea, CEDAW expressed its concern about "the low rates of reporting, prosecutions and convictions of cases of violence against women" (UN 10 Aug. 2007, Para. 17). CEDAW called on the Republic of Korea to conduct more research in order to eliminate violence against women (ibid., Para. 18).

In August 2009, the Korean government provided the following information on the prosecution of domestic violence cases:

In most cases of domestic violence, offenders and victims or references are usually closely related, and offences are usually covertly committed over a long period of time. As a result, the police often face difficulties in fact-finding and securing evidence. Moreover, in many cases, those involved tend to make false or exaggerated statements, and also reverse these statements after reconciliation. (Korea 28 Aug. 2009, Para. 201)

In January 2008, in a contribution to the Republic of Korea's Universal Periodic Review at the UN, the Korean Women's Association United (KWAU), in collaboration with other women's rights groups, stated that victims of domestic violence are not fully protected in the Republic of Korea because

i) violence at home is culturally a matter of privacy, ii) legal and institutional safeguards for the victims are poor, iii) the awareness is low in the police, iv) the aggressor is often allowed to stay at home while the victim is driven away under the existing legal system, and v) public services focus on counseling for the victims rather than punishment of the perpetrators, resulting in only 14.9% of prosecution among the arrested for domestic violence in 2003. (KWAU 25 Jan. 2008, Para. 2-2)

In its report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the government of the Republic of Korea stated that

Prosecution is suspended when the prosecutor deems it inappropriate to punish the offender because the offence or damage is minor, when the offender sufficiently repents of his or her misdeed, and when the relationship between the offender and his or her family can be restored. Furthermore, in conformity with the Special Act for the Punishment of Domestic Violence, suspension of prosecution on the condition that the offender receives counseling was introduced in August 2007. Accordingly, the prosecution decided in 2008 that 451 domestic violence suspects, whose prosecution was suspended, take counseling on domestic violence in designated institutions. Meanwhile, as for some minor crimes of domestic violence, the law prohibits prosecution when a victim does not wish to punish the offender and the prosecution determines that there is 'no authority to prosecute' in such cases. (Korea 28 Aug. 2009, Para. 199)

Country Reports for 2008 notes that the law requires police to respond immediately to reports of domestic violence and that "police generally were responsive" (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). The 2009 budget of the Republic of Korea allocates 27.1 billion Korean Won [approximately 25 million Canadian dollars (XE.com 20 Nov. 2009)] to address domestic and sexual violence, an increase of 5.4 billion from the previous year (UN n.d.a).

Support services

The Ministry of Gender Equality (MOGE), established in 2001, (KWAU 25 Jan. 2008, Para. 1-1; Korea 9 Apr. 2008, Para. 34), is tasked with working to prevent domestic violence and protecting its victims (Korea n.d.). In August 2008, the Minister of Gender Equality signed the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)'s Say NO to Violence against Women Campaign on behalf of the Korean government (UN 11 Aug. 2008).

Since 1998, the Ministry of Justice has operated a behavioural treatment program for domestic violence offenders to attend as part of court sentences (UN n.d.h). Since 2004, the Korean government has provided psychological and emotional rehabilitation programs to victims of violence against women in shelters throughout the country – such programs are financed by lottery proceeds (UN n.d.c). In 2008, the government supported 92 shelters across the country, 72 of which are for domestic violence victims (UN n.d.d). The shelters provide room and board, psychological counselling, job training and legal aid (ibid.). Several shelters are reserved exclusively for people with diabilities and migrant women (ibid.). The Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs operates 16 "One-Stop Support Centers," which offer 24-hour a day "counseling, medical support, investigation and legal support" to victims of violence (UN n.d.e).

The government also runs 24-hour "1366" emergency hotline centres across the country for women who are victims of violence, including victims of domestic violence, to access counselling, protection and emergency services (UN n.d.f). The centres help approximately 160,000 victims of all types of violence a year (ibid.). The 1366 centers also provide interpretation services in eight languages in addition to Korean and a separate national 1577-1366 hotline that serves migrant women exclusively (ibid.).

In addition, the Korean government has established a Housing Provision Project, which provides approximately 20 group homes in housing units rented for victims of violence and their families (UN n.d.g). In March 2009, The Korea Times reported that the MOGE had announced that it was adding 30 additional housing units in Incheon, Wonju (Gangwon Province) and Cheongju (North Chungcheong Province) to the 20 existing ones in Seoul and Busan (The Korea Times 18 Mar. 2009). The article notes that residents would be provided with ongoing counselling and follow-up to ensure that they would be able make a living independently (ibid.).

The non-governmental organization (NGO) Korean Women's Association United (KWAU) is a network of several women's groups that works to protect women's human rights and eliminate all violence towards them (UN n.d.i). The Korea Women's Hot Line (KWHL), created in 1983, advocates for and protects women, including those who are victims of domestic violence (KWHL n.d.; The Korea Times 22 May 2007). KWHL operates a Shimteo, a temporary protection facility for victims of domestic and sexual violence, which provides psychological and group counselling as well as medical and legal support (KWHL n.d.). KWHL also runs the Domestic Violence Counselling Centre, which counsels victims, trains counsellors and promotes awareness and discussion of domestic violence issues (ibid.). In addition, the NGO Korean Womenlink, which promotes women's rights, provides counselling on domestic violence through its offices located throughout South Korea (Korea Womenlink n.d.a; ibid. n.d.b). As well, the Korea Legal Aid Center for Family Relations provides legal advice to including for issues related to domestic violence (n.d.; The Korea Times 16 Feb. 2007).

Although the UN Secretary-General's Database on Violence Against Women, a repository of information pertaining to violence directed at women throughout the world, notes that some government programs were evaluated in a 2007 survey, the results were not available to the Research Directorate. Further information on the effectiveness of these government and NGO services was not found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Korea Legal Aid Center for Family Relations. N.d. "History." [Accessed 10 Nov. 2009]

Korea, Republic of. 28 August 2009. Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social And Cultural Rights. Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties in Accordance with Article 16 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Replies by the Government of the Republic of Korea to the List of Issues (E/C.12/Kor/Q/3) to be Taken Up in Connection with the Consideration of the Third Periodic Report of the Republic of Korea (E/C.12/KOR/Q/3/Add.1) [Accessed 19 Nov. 2009]
_____. 9 April 2008. National Report Submitted in Accordance with Paragraph 15 (A) of the Annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1. (A/HRC/WG.6/2/KOR/1) [Accessed 17 Nov. 2009]
_____. 4 June 2007. "Responses to the List of Issues and Questions with Regard to the Consideration of the Fifth and Sixth Periodic Reports." (CEDAW/C/KOR/Q/6/Add.1) [Accessed 17 Nov. 2009]
_____. N.d. Ministry of Gender Equality (MOGE). "Organization & Function." [Accessed 17 Nov. 2009]
_____. 1 July 1998 (amended 29 February 2008). Ministry of Government Legislation. Act on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection, etc. of Victims Thereof. [Accessed 25 Nov. 2009]

The Korea Times. 18 March 2009. Bae Ji-sook. "Shelters for Victims to be Introduced." [Accessed 12 Nov.2009]
_____. 20 January 2009. Park Si-soo. "Husband Convicted of Raping Wife Commits Suicide." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2009]
_____. 8 August 2007. Kim Tae-jong. "Domestic Abusers Face Harsher Restraints." [Accessed 12 Nov. 2009]
_____. 22 May 2007. Jennifer Radakovich. "Come Help Shelter for Survivors of Domestic Violence." [Accessed 22 May 2007]
_____. 16 February 2007. Kim Rahn. "Many Men Seek Divorce for Wives' Adultery." (Factiva)

Korea Women's Hot Line (KWHL). N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2009]

Korean Women's Association United (KWAU). 25 January 2008. "Review of Korea Women's Human Rights." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2009]

Korean Womenlink. N.d.a. "About Korean Womenlink." [Accessed 10 Nov. 2009]
_____. N.d.b. "Activities." [Accessed 10 Nov. 2009]

United Nations (UN). 11 August 2008. UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). "Minister of Gender Equality Signs UNIFEM's Say NO to Violence Against Women Campaign on Behalf of the Republic of Korea." [Accessed 16 Nov. 2009]
_____. 10 August 2007. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Concluding Comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women: Republic of Korea. (CEDAW/C/KOR/CO/6) [Accessed 18 Nov. 2009]
_____. N.d.a. UN Secretary-General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Budget to Address Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2009]
_____. N.d.b. UN Secretary-General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Special Act on the Punishment of Domestic Violence 1997." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2009]
_____. N.d.c. UN Secretary-General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Programs to Assist Victims in their Psychological and Emotional Recovery." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2009]
_____. N.d.d. UN Secretary-General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Shelters for Victims of Domestic Violence and/or Sexual Violence." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2009]
_____. N.d.e. UN Secretary-General's Database on Violence Against Women. "One-Stop Support Centers." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2009]
_____. N.d.f. UN Secretary-General's Database on Violence Against Women. "1366 Hotline Centers." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2009]
_____. N.d.g. UN Secretary-General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Housing Provision Project." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2009]
_____. N.d.h. UN Secretary-General's Database on Violence Against Women. "Treatment Programs for Perpetrators of Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2009]
_____. N.d.i. UN International Crime and Research Institute (UNICRI). "International Repository of Institutions Against Sexual Exploitation of Minors." [Accessed 20 Nov. 2009]

United States (US). 25 February 2009. Department of State. "Republic of Korea." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008. [Accessed 13 Nov. 2009]

XE.com. 20 November 2009. "Universal Currency Converter Results." [Accessed 20 Nov.2009]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral Sources: Attempts to reach the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA), Korean Womenlink, the Korean Women's Association, the Korea Women's Hot Line, the Women Migrants Human Rights Center and a senior fellow at the Korean's Women's Development Institute were unsuccessful. After being contacted, a representative of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center explained that the Center did not deal with the issue of domestic violence.

Internet sources, including: Amnesty International (AI), Freedom House, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA), National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) RefWorld, Organisation mondiale contre la torture (OMCT), Stop Violence Against Women (StopVaw), United Kingdom (UK) Home Office.

Attachment

Korea, Republic of. 1 July 1998 (amended 29 February 2008). Ministry of Government Legislation. Act on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection, etc. of Victims Thereof. [Accessed 25 Nov. 2009]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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