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Social media exposure of alleged sexual assault victim stirs controversy

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Published : 2013-05-13 21:02
Updated : 2013-05-13 21:02

Concerns are spreading over the reckless online and social media exposure of a woman claimed to be the alleged Korean-American victim of groping by sacked presidential spokesman Yoon Chang-jung.

The alleged victim’s name, Facebook address and pictures have been quickly distributed through social media and some portal sites.

The 21-year-old Korean-American intern assisted the former presidential secretary while he was accompanying President Park Geun-hye in Washington. Yoon is suspected of groping the woman but denied all allegations. Washington police have launched an investigation after a sexual misconduct claim was filed against him Wednesday. A preliminary police report alleged the suspect “grabbed her buttocks without her permission” on Tuesday night.

Along with the political satire of Yoon, pictures of the woman were published on some Internet sites here under a title of “Yoon Chang-jung’s woman.” Some Internet users even posted comments such as “She is a beautiful enough woman to provoke Yoon,” and “We need to investigate more of the woman who seduced (Yoon).”

Women rights activists urged online users stop distributing the victim’s information, saying that it makes the impact on the victim much worse and it is a serious crime as well.

A second wave of tragedy for sexual assault victims comes when their names and personal information, including their pictures, show up online, experts on sexual violence said.

“The victims struggle to erase all the bad memories related to incident. But the online exposure of the victims’ information makes the impact on them much worse,” said Lee Hyun-sook, head of ECPAT Korea office. ECPAT is an international network of people and organizations working toward the elimination of child sex crimes.

The National Human Rights Commission is currently drafting a guideline for the media when reporting on victims of sexual violence. But the country has no legal tool to limit or punish those who distribute the information of sexual victims.

“It is important to have more legal tools to protect victims, but it is more important to promote social awareness that revealing their names and personal information is a serious crime,” Lee said.

Leaking information of sexual assault victims online, without a sense of guilt, has been stirring a heated debate here.

Personal information of a rape victim who was allegedly assaulted by famous TV actor Park Si-hoo, was released online too. This led many internet users to openly talk about her past and make false accusations that she intentionally made moves on Park in order to exploit money.

“This reflects how little (Korean) people care about the human rights of sexual (assault) victims. They view the victims as people with sexual experience and further blame them that they are responsible for causing the incidents,” Lee said.

The well-known hallyu star was accused of raping the 22-year-old woman on Feb. 15. The alleged victim said the 36-year-old actor raped her while she was passed out. Last week, the victim dropped the charges against Park. But the celebrity has been sued by a group of activists here that he and his lawyers released information on the alleged victim online during the police investigation.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)

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