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Man convicted of sexual assault after Australian victim’s campaign

Airdre Mattner, an Australian woman who was allegedly drugged, abducted and raped during a night out in Seoul last year, won a months-long fight to bring her offender to justice in what some call a rare victory.

One of her offenders, a 37-year-old Nigerian man illegally residing in Korea, was sentenced to two years and six months in jail on charges of quasi indecent act by compulsion and negligent injury, among other offenses, Tuesday.

“The evidence sufficiently shows that the defendant sexually harassed the victim, who was unable to resist,” a judge at Seoul Western District Court said in a ruling.

“The nature of the crime is very bad,” the judge said. “The victim is not able to lead a normal life as she is suffering from suicidal ideation, anxiety, social disinterest and insomnia.”

CCTV footage showed that two men took the victim to a motel in Itaewon, a multicultural district in central Seoul, where she said she was raped. The other offender was never caught. 

Airdre Mattner
Airdre Mattner
Joo Hyo-jung, a lawyer for Polaris & Partners representing Mattner, said it is an exceptionally strong punishment for an offender charged with semi-forcible sexual molestation.

The case has shed light on problems faced by sexual assault victims under Korea‘s justice system, particularly for foreigners who may be more vulnerable due to language barriers and a lack of community support.

Her case was initially closed by police without an arrest. But it was reopened amid media attention after Mattner publicly accused the police of failing to gather evidence and inform her of the probe process.

Police issued an open letter to the victim to “straighten misinformation” and refuted the victim’s claims on Facebook, only to face a wave of criticism for publicly humiliating the victim. They later made an apology for “unintended troubles” and took down the post.

Mattner said she is seeking to file for compensation against the police for secondary damage and professional negligence. 

The defendant can file an appeal within a week. If the sentence is confirmed in higher courts, he will serve the prison term in Korea and be deported afterward. He will also be registered on a public list of sex offenders in Korea.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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