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Over 5,000 cases investigated under anti-stalking law

Police statistics show five-month performance of anti-stalking law

The Korean National Police Agency building in Jongno-gu, Seoul. (The Herald Business)
The Korean National Police Agency building in Jongno-gu, Seoul. (The Herald Business)
Police have investigated over 5,000 cases for suspected violations of the anti-stalking law in the first five months since it went into effect, the Korean National Police Agency announced in its yearly white paper earlier this week.

The 237-page report analyzed 5,248 investigations among 5,707 reported stalking incidents as of March this year, five months since the law took effect in October 2021.

The law was the result of a 22-year effort since it was first proposed in 1999. For decades, stalking-related crimes were treated as misdemeanors punishable by fines of 100,000 won ($79) or less. Calls for stricter punishment have been rampant, pointing out that the lack of legal grounds stems from the social misconception that stalking is simply an expression of "excessive love."

Against this backdrop, the anti-stalking law specified stronger punishment in Article 18. Stalkers can be sentenced up to three years in prison or fined up to 30 million won. Stalking with a dangerous weapon is punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won.

Police data showed that 41 percent of arrested stalkers were those known by the victims. Of them, 20.9 percent were in a relationship with the victims, while acquaintances and neighbors were 11.4 percent and 4.1 percent respectively. More than four-fifths of the victims were women.

The detention rate for perpetrators was 4.8 percent among the 1,192 indicted cases, with 129 being sentenced to jail. This was almost threefold the 1.5 percent average of imprisonments for all crimes.

Yet, 29 percent of the total 3,039 opened cases ended up being thrown out. This is largely because Article 18-3 of the law designates stalking as an unpunishable offense upon the victim’s objection, the police explained. The article was a contentious point of debate during the National Assembly review for legislation, as it was claimed to motivate stalkers to force the victim to oppose punishment.

Meanwhile, the law also stipulates two types of police and court measures to protect victims from perpetrators.

One of them allows the police to take “emergency measures” against the stalker and seek approval afterward from the court in cases where there is urgent need for protective action. Emergency measures refer to banning access within 100 meters of the victim as well as any direct contact by any means of communication. A violation can lead to a fine of 10 million won or less.

Another enables the court to order “preemptive measures” to block potential re-offenses when the stalking is repeated or continues. The preemptive measures are similar to emergency measures, but come with stronger punishment when violated, including detention or a fine of up to 20 million won.

Police data showed that among 1,764 “emergency measures” taken by police, 12.1 percent were eventually violated. Of the 2,469 “preemptive measures” taken by the court, 9.8 percent were violated.

The report pointed out that this demonstrates how stricter punishment is more effective in protecting victims.

“The overall process taken in stalking cases are improving for sure, including early response, investigation, and protective measures against criminals, despite the short period of time to adjust to the legal change,” the report said, but noted that there is a continuous need for legal and institutional improvements.

By Lim Jae-Seong (
Korea Herald daum