A local court has come under fire for “lenient” punishment on a dating abuse perpetrator, a medical student who was slapped with a fine after being charged for locking up and beating his then-girlfriend in March.
The Gwangju District Court handed down on Nov. 30 a fine of 12 million won ($10,300) in consideration that a jail sentence could “heighten his chances of getting expelled” from his school, Chosun University.
The case was thrust into the media spotlight this week and soon went viral on social media after the ruling that critics said showcased the justice system’s lack of recognition of the seriousness of domestic and dating violence.
The student, whose name was withheld, was released with the fine after physically abusing and choking his ex-girlfriend, who is also a medical student at the same university, while holding her captive in her own apartment for four hours on March 28.
According to court documents, he broke into the victim’s place at 3 a.m., while drunk, accused her of taking his phone calls with “no manners” and slapped and hit her repeatedly.
The victim suffered two broken ribs in the incident, and had to receive three weeks of medical treatment. In an audio file recorded by the victim during the abuse and broadcast by a local TV network, the perpetrator threatens to kill her while the victim begs him stop beating her.
Prosecutors had initially sought a two-year prison sentence, but the court only gave him a fine, saying the perpetrator “deeply regrets his wrongdoings” and “if he gets sentenced to any penalty heavier than probation, the medical student may face expulsion from his school.”
Chosun University, meanwhile, held a committee meeting Tuesday -- more than eight months after the incident took place -- after receiving fierce public criticism when the case was reported in the media. The school announced Wednesday that it would expel the convicted student. “We are deeply sorry for all the trouble we’ve caused,” the school said on its Facebook account.
Suffering from depression and anxiety disorder, the victim shared in a public online post in October that she had asked her school to arrange her classes so she and her attacker didn’t have to be in the same classroom. But her requests were rejected.
When the perpetrator gave her a settlement offer, the victim asked him to leave the school temporarily until she graduated instead. He refused and eventually was indicted.
“We want to ask the court,” said women’s rights group Korea Women’s Hot Line. “What is more important? Social justice or the perpetrator’s future as a medical doctor? A victim’s life or the perpetrator’s career opportunities?”
Because the attacker did not receive a jail term from the Gwangju District Court while Chosun University did not expel him until recently, the victim was faced with a situation where she had to leave the school in order to avoid running into the attacker again.
“Why should someone like him be allowed to become a doctor?” the victim wrote in her online post. “I’m the victim and I’m still the one who has to be scared and feel unsafe at school.”
In the post, the victim also shared that although he had abused her frequently prior to the particular incident on March 28, she couldn’t break up with him because the attacker threatened to release privately recorded video footage of them.
By Claire Lee (email@example.com