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Korea: Police effectiveness with regard to domestic violence, including procedures followed by the police when a victim files a complaint (2005-2007)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 29 November 2007
Citation / Document Symbol KOR102587.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Korea: Police effectiveness with regard to domestic violence, including procedures followed by the police when a victim files a complaint (2005-2007), 29 November 2007, KOR102587.E, available at: [accessed 28 November 2015]
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.

Korea has passed two acts that make up the country's Domestic Violence Prevention Laws, which are intended to address domestic violence (KWDI 5 Oct. 2007, 8). The Prevention of Domestic Violence and Victim Protection Act (referred to as the Protection Act) came into effect in 1997 (ibid.) and the Special Act for the Punishment of Domestic Violence (referred to as the Punishment Act) came into effect in 1998 (Korea 12 Jan. 2007). Originally, the Punishment Act stated that its objective was to rebuild families; however, in 2002 it was amended to focus on protecting the human rights of victims of domestic violence (ibid. July 2006).

The Punishment Act specifies that police must investigate any report of domestic violence, stop the violence and provide the victim with appropriate access to support services or medical facilities (KWDI 5 Oct. 2007, 9). In particular, Article 5 of the Punishment Act states the following:

Judicial police officers who have received a report of on-going domestic violence crimes shall immediately go to the scene of the crime and take the measures described in the following subsections.

(1) Restraining acts of violence and investigation of crimes.

(2) Delivery of victim(s) to a Domestic Violence Counseling Centre/Protective Facility (Limited to cases where the victim agrees to the delivery).

(3) Delivery of victim(s) who needs immediate medical treatment to a medical institution.

(4) Notification stating that a possible motion for temporary measures under Article 8 can be made if the acts of violence recur. (Korea 12 Jan. 2000)

In addition, Article 7 of the Punishment Act states that "[j]udicial police officers shall promptly investigate a domestic violence crime and forward the case to a prosecutor" (ibid., Art. 7).

An article on police response to domestic violence, presented at a conference by a representative from the Korean National Police University (KNPU) indicates that prior to the amendment of the Punishment Act, the police response to domestic violence was often ineffective (KNPU Sept. 2006). Similarly, a 2004 national survey conducted by the Korean Ministry of Gender and Equality that was presented by a Korean Women's Development Institute (KWDI) representative to a meeting on indicators to measure domestic violence reportedly found that, when the domestic violence legislation was first passed, police were described as "negligent" in enforcing the law (KWDI 5 Oct. 2007, 9). In 2006, the KNPU Representative said that police officers' behaviour toward victims of domestic violence had improved "remarkably" since 2004 (KNPU Sept. 2006). Similarly, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006 indicates that the police generally respond to calls reporting domestic violence (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5).

A sociologist with the (KWDI) stated, in a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, that police generally enforce the domestic violence legislation (KWDI 30 Oct. 2007). The KWDI is a government agency (KWDI 30 Oct. 2007) that conducts research on women's issues, helps develop policy and works to increase women's participation in Korean society (KWDI n.d.).

The KWDI Sociologist provided the information in the following two paragraphs in a 30 October 2007 telephone interview with the Research Directorate.

The Sociologist stated that if a victim or a neighbour reports a situation of domestic violence to the police, officers generally do respond, as they are required to do by law. However, she further stated that if the victim is "ambiguous" about whether or not she wants the police to write a report or make an arrest, the police will act in accordance with their own values – and not necessarily in accordance with the laws governing domestic violence. The Sociologist indicated that, according to traditional Korean values, it is acceptable for a man to physically assault his female partner. She voiced her opinion that most police officers have "traditional social values."

The Sociologist clarified that if the victim does not want a police report written, or an arrest made, the police will comply with her wishes regardless of the severity of the situation. If the victim clearly indicates that she wishes to have police protection, the police will enforce the law. The Sociologist noted that protection orders are hard to enforce; victims must report "again and again" when the protection order is violated.

No further information regarding police effectiveness in responding to cases of domestic violence could be 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 additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Korea, Republic of. July 2006. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Consideration of Report Submitted by State Parties under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. (CEDAW/C/KOR/6). [Accessed 30 Oct. 2007]
_____. 12 January 2000. Special Act for the Punishment of Domestic Violence. [Accessed 30 Oct. 2007]

Korean National Police University (KNPU). September 2006. Jae-Min Kim. The Study on the Police Response to Domestic Violence in Korea: Focusing on Victim Protection in the Course of Police Investigation. Paper presented at the 7th Asia Association of Police Studies (AAPS) Annual Conference held in September 2006 in Bangkok, Thailand. [Accessed 30 Oct. 2007]

Korean Women's Development Institute (KWDI). 30 October 2007. Telephone interview with a sociologist representing the KWDI.
_____. 5 October 2007. Whasoon Byun. Violence Against Women in Korea and its Indicators. Paper presented to the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Indicators to Measure Violence Against Women held in Geneva, 8-10 October 2007. [Accessed 30 Oct. 2007]
_____. N.d. "Mission and History." [Accessed 13 Nov. 2007]

United States (US). 6 March 2007. Department of State. "Korea." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006. [Accessed 13 Nov. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The Asian Association of Police Studies (AAPS) and experts from the University of Michigan did not respond to requests for information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Asia Pacific Forum of Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asian Pacific Women's Information Network Center (APWINC), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), government of Korea, Human Rights Watch (HRW), The Korea Herald, The Korea Times, Korean Women Today, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), WomenWatch.

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 Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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