I have a problem, and I was hoping you might have some advice. In the apartment above me there is frequently domestic violence going on--I hear lots of noise and a girl screaming like she is very hurt. I have called the police multiple times. They come, knock on the door, but of course the people inside won't open the door, and the police won't open it either.
My school asked me if I want to move to a different apartment, but that does not solve the problem. I want to know, what can I do to help this girl? Every time I hear her scream, I feel so guilty. And when she stops screaming, I wonder, is it because the beating stopped or because now she is too hurt to scream?
I have Korean colleagues and friends, but all of them seem unwilling or unable to help me. Please help me help her!What a terrible situation to be put in. I'm truly sorry that you have to endure being around such violence. I'm pretty sure I heard a little bit of domestic abuse when I first moved to Korea, but wasn't ever certain. As I've learned since, Koreans are sometimes a tad emotional and overly passionate, so screaming and crying might be provoked without violence. Also, Koreans have gotten used to noisy neighbors and tend to block the disturbance--whatever it might be--out.
I'm not sure if you mean 'girl' as in a child or an adult, so I'll answer for both.
If it is a child then the situation is a little trickier. Koreans very deeply use and approve of corporal punishment. While the trend might be slowing in the public school system, it is still very much a part of discipline in the home. It all boils down to respect and adherence to the hierarchal norms that Korean society is obsessed with. To some Koreans, if a child misbehaves it's not because they are a child or foolish, but rather that they intentionally chose to disregard the structure of Korean relationships and must be disciplined. The method doesn't matter to them as long as the child understands and follows the pecking order.
In this sense, a call to the police over what a Westerner might call "child abuse" could prove to be useless. The parents would justify it and unless the child has severe or easily noticeable injuries (not just bruises), the police will probably overlook it. Remember, "culture" is always the excuse offered up when defending questionable behavior. I know that isn't comforting in the least for you, but that's how it goes. However, if you can spot the child out and about around your apartment, maybe say 'Hello' and take a causal look at her neck, arms and legs. If you see something questionable, contact one of the links below.
Now, if the 'girl' is a woman and, therefore, a battered wife or girlfriend, you can take more direct action. You could call the landlord or maintenance person and let them know of the "disturbance". You could try spotting the woman outside her place and having a face-to-face conversation with her (although she probably won't open up to you and language could be an issue as well). You could even try banging on the ceiling or their door while the abuse is taking place. The bottom line is that you need to make sure the abuser knows that other people know what's happening.
I think calling the police over and over again isn't a bad thing to do at all. Eventually, the locked door excuse won't work (as they often do) and the police will demand entry. The problem is that the victim might not be interested in talking to the police. Koreans don't like legal solutions, nor do they like losing face. This situation offers both. Luckily, you're not Korean and you don't have to deal with the culture barriers.
If the police won't do anything and you're sure that your neighbor is being beaten and/or is in a helpless situation, then you could always go to Korean Women's Hot Line (