The Korea Herald


Blind spots in anti-stalking law emerged again

By Lee Jung-youn

Published : Nov. 6, 2022 - 14:23

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Criticism against the anti-stalking law is rising again following a court's decision to acquit a man of stalking charges, based on the fact that the victim did not answer the defendant's repeated calls.

The Incheon District Court announced Sunday that it had acquitted a 54-year-old man accused of stalking. The perpetrator was indicted on stalking charges after repeatedly calling and sending text messages to his former girlfriend from March 26 to June 3.

In April, a restraining order was issued against the man, barring him from within 100 meters of the victim's house and from making any kind of attempt to contact her, but the perpetrator continued calling. He once made 10 consecutive calls in four hours, but the victim ignored every attempt.

The perpetrator even blackmailed the victim by sending messages that implied that he would take his own life, and visited the victim’s workplace.

Despite repeated and continuous attempt to contact or threaten the victim, the court judged that the perpetrator cannot be punished by stalking laws as his attempts to contact the victim had failed.

"The perpetrator called, but the victim didn't answer. The ringing sound cannot be seen as a sound or message transmitted to other person,” the court explained.

In addition, the perpetrator was acquitted of all charges as the victim said she does not want him to be punished. Charges of repeatedly sending text messages, visiting victim's workplace without permission, and assault had to be dropped as under the current law, a stalking suspect cannot be punished unless the victim wants it, even in cases where a court order had been violated.

The anti-stalking law was enacted on Oct. 21, 2021, but stalking-related violent crimes have continued to break out, and public demand for stronger law emerged. Experts had warned that safety measures for victims were overlooked in the law, even when it was being passed.

On Sept. 14, a 31-year-old Jeon Joo-hwan murdered his former colleague at Sindang subway station on Line No. 2 after stalking her for three years. The victim sued Jeon twice, but no appropriate measure to secure victim's safety has been conducted, exposing her to danger.

The Sindang station murder has triggered the Justice Ministry's new plan to strengthen the anti-stalking law, which came up on Oct. 21. The plan includes provisions that consider online stalking as a stalking crime, allow location tracking device to suspects during an investigation, and enabling the punishment even though the victim does not want it.

However, some part of the plan confronted criticism -- attaching a location tracking device before a conviction might violate human rights -- and the plan is still under the procedure. The legislative committee have discussed over the revision plan on Oct. 26, but the plan still has long way to pass the National Assembly and gain legislative power.