The Korea Herald


Over 9,000 hotline calls made by stalking victims in 2023

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : April 25, 2024 - 15:03

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The number of calls made by stalking victims to the state-run women's counseling hotline jumped more than three-fold over the past three years, government data showed.

A total of 9,017 cases of over-the-phone counseling were provided by the 1366 emergency counseling service, according to a joint report by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and the ministry-affiliated Women's Human Rights Institute of Korea. The figure has increased exponentially, having recorded 2,710 in 2021.

The emergency hotline is operated 365 days a year, around the clock, and provides counseling, and guidance for emergency shelters while also connecting victims to government agencies that can provide administrative and legal help.

While the cases of counseling provided through the 1336 hotline related to stalking victims, prostitution, and digital sex crimes increased, those related to domestic violence, sexual violence and dating violence decreased. Overall, the annual number of counseling sessions provided by the 1336 service decreased by 6.2 percent from 313,000 in 2021 to 294,000.

According to the officials at the WHRIK, such a rapid increase in stalking-related inquiries can largely be attributed to the recent enactment of the Act on Punishment of Stalking Crime. The law provided legal grounds for authorities to take immediate and direct action in cases of stalking, whereas previously, action could only be taken after a stalker had committed a crime, such as an assault or direct threat against the victim.

Officials believe that the enactment of the law sent a strong message to the victims, motivating them to actively report their cases to the authorities.

However, doubts remain over the effectiveness of police measures in protecting stalking victims.

Last year's report by the Police Science Institute pointed out that while the police can force "urgent emergency measures" against stalking suspects, those who refuse to comply are not subject to criminal punishment and are only mandated to pay an administrative fine of up to 10 million won ($7,270).

Between the stalking law's enactment in October 2021 and July 2023, police enforced 6,030 cases of urgent emergency measures. But in 11 percent of those cases, the perpetrators did not comply with the police order.

"There needs to be an in-depth discussion for stalking suspects to receive criminal punishment, not just an administrative fine if they deliberately violate the urgent emergency measures," PSI researcher Kim Hak-shin wrote in the study.