Domestic abuse rates soar
Domestic violence poses a serious threat to families. The threat is insidious because it originates within the family unit and households plagued by domestic violence are no longer unfamiliar to Koreans.
According to the Supreme Court Sunday, the number of cases filed with authorities nationwide to protect family members soared by 50.5 percent from 3,132 in 2008 to 4,714 in 2009. Since then, more than 3,000 cases have been reported each year.
More than 20 percent of complaints filed with the Family Court are related to violence involving parents against children, but few are properly investigated, sources at the court said.
Some shocking examples do surface, but penalties are not always effective in deterring further incidents of abuse. For example, a father in his 40s allegedly tore out his daughter’s hair because she returned home late. He received a period of probation, the sources said. Later, he was also tried on charges of abusing his son after forcing his son to do stretching exercises.
Another man allegedly threatened to kill his daughter with a knife and squeezed her around the neck with his hands after she quarreled with her mother. The mother was also kicked her on the knee. The parents had previously been booked for using violence against their teenage daughter.
Along with periods of probation, penalties for domestic violence include measures preventing access to family members, denying communication via electronic devices such as mobile phones and restricting parents’ rights.
But such measures have largely been ineffective, the sources pointed out. There are many cases in which fathers denied access to family members entered facilities housing the victims of domestic violence to meet their sons or daughters.
Restricting the rights of parents is sometimes also ignored. Many children do not want their parents punished because it means the sudden “absence of their guardian.”
Because of this, the court seldom issues the penalty of restricting parents’ rights. In 2010, no such sentences were given by the court in the country.
In Korea, there is a widespread perception that domestic violence is taken too lightly. According to a 2010 survey on domestic violence, 51.1 percent of respondents believed the issue was a family affair. About 62.7 percent said they would choose not to seek outside help.
The survey also showed domestic violence lasted for an average of 11 years and two months, with 48.2 percent of victims enduring it for a decade or more.