Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Reporting Domestic Abuse in South Korea

Here's the question:
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 (www.hotline.or.kr) or visit the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (www.mogef.go.kr). Both of them have English websites and I'm sure will be able to communicate with you considering the amount of abuse that takes place among foreign-born brides on the peninsula. It also wouldn't hurt to drop by Korea4Expats' post on Help Centers for Abused Foreign Women. Your neighbor might not be a foreigner, but they could at least give you some solid advice or point you in the right direction.


You have a few options for now and hopefully they will work out because this kind of thing needs to stop. Does anyone else have any advice?

32 comments:

John from Daejeon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John from Daejeon said...

I lived with a terrible commotion going on in the next apartment to mine for my first 30 days in South Korea. These two newlyweds fought like cats and dogs from the moment they got home at 1 a.m. until they would leave at 5 a.m. I asked everyone I knew (co-workers, bosses, other expats) at the time what I should do about it, but they all said that this is Korea and that's just the way it is. Sadly, on my thirtieth day here, the fighting got so loud that my other neigbors actually heard and understood that the wife was stabbing her husband to death.

It had actually been her beating him every night after work and eventually killing him in the end for not living up to his promise of wealth when they were married.

It was also really a rough beginning for me here seeing just how my students with mental or learning problems or not of pure Korean blood were/are treated in school and by their peers. Also, seeing obvious cases of child abuse never gets easy, especially when a non Korean getting involved usually ends badly for both the person who cared enough to try and help the child and the child as well.

But the Metropolitician seems to understand it better than I will ever be able to or want to.

조안나 said...

What awful stories... I once heard muffled screams for several hours from some neighbor and I debated calling the police. Eventually it stopped, but it haunted me for a long time. I hope you or someone can get the problem resolved. Even at home, these cases are difficult to deal with because no one wants to talk about it...

堅燕 said...

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江婷 said...

成熟,就是有能力適應生活中的模糊。....................................................................

青卉青卉 said...

成熟,就是有能力適應生活中的模糊。.................................................................

ju吳phe宇te佳ns said...

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J said...

I'm Korean but grew up here in the US. It's true that Koreans are very expressive in their emotions, so a lot of non-Koreans mistake loud arguments to be out of control.

It is disturbing and sad, but the truth is that it is the norm to raise children with "discipline". Physical punishment is used in both schools and homes, though the common methods aren't at all fatal. Couples often fight. I don't see a lot of Koreans that marry for love but rather for family, business, convenience, arrangement, etc. But it's 2010 and things slowly have been progressing (maybe thanks to the romantic Korean soap operas??).

Explaining what is right and wrong won't help at all to these Koreans because you will always be seen as an outsider. It's sad cause I've tried to explain this characteristic of Koreans to others, but have been called racist toward my own kind. But people do need to know about this more so we can help.

With all that said, there are many positive traits to Koreans. Most Koreans are Christian. They tend to have a very compassionate, empathetic, understanding side to them. So instead of calling the police or talking to the neighbors, definitely go to a local church or ministry and talk to someone you TRUST (Koreans also love to gossip so be sure you don't become known for talking about your neighbors to everyone).

Hope that helps!

新順 said...

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芳瑜芳瑜 said...

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趙喜柯凡豐妤 said...

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DaniloM_W志竹olff0615 said...

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expat

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
家唐銘 said...

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張黃柏亞武茜 said...

Subtlety is better than force. ............................................................

Bliss Bunny said...

Dear J - your comments are a huge load of shit. My Dad freely beat the living crap out of all us, and he beat my mother too. Domestic violence is a korean tradition, like making kimchee in the fall or making fun of someone's body for not being perfect. Look at what happens in the Korean parliament - all of the fist fights and shouting. What happens at home is even more insane. Koreans think it is normal to have a completely miserable and abusive home life. They don't know how to live any other way. Signed - A Korean whose dad beat the living shit of her until she ran away from home.

Bliss Bunny said...

>>>It's true that Koreans are very expressive in their emotions, so a lot of non-Koreans mistake loud arguments to be out of control.

To clarify, the above statement is a huge load of shit. The arguments are indeed out of control.

>>>Most Koreans are Christian. They tend to have a very compassionate, empathetic, understanding side to them.

Haha. The Christians are the ones who beat their kids/spouses, verbally abuse them, and hate gays. They are only compassionate if they want to ask you a favor someday or you have higher social status than them.

文王廷 said...

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鄭雅雯 said...

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當我微笑時,世界和我一起微笑;當我快樂時,世界和我一起活躍。..................................................

ABEONLINENGLISH said...

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8468 said...

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瑰潼 said...

成熟,就是有能力適應生活中的模糊。.. ... ............................................................

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Ashley Murphy said...

The US Embassy in Seoul released a statement about crime in South Korea. In regards to child abuse, they write: "Suspected child abuse can be reported by calling the National Child Protection Agency at (02) 558-1391. Interpreters are available for foreign victims or persons reporting crimes."