Stop hate crimes against women
While crossing the street, a woman was hit on the face by a man’s elbow while walking in the opposite direction as him. She tapped him on the back to speak to him, but he then turned, threw her to the ground and smacked her in the face. Her nose was broken and her face was bleeding. That happened in Songpa District in southern Seoul in the afternoon of April 8.
A day earlier in Seoul’s Gwanak District, a young woman’s shriek echoed throughout Nakseongdae Station as she was hit on the head from behind by a stranger. After being arrested by police, the man hit her, he said, because “she appeared to ridicule me.”
There’s another story. On April 4, on a university campus in Seoul, a male student was arrested by police after spraying a bottle of coke into the faces of female students nearby. He told the police that he did it because it felt bad for women who go around without studying hard. The school’s bulletin board was later plastered with condemnations, including one that said, “What if it were hydrochloric acid!”
All of these cases took place recently. Women increasingly complain that it is scarier than ever to get around these days. But police do not believe them. After the Songpa District incident, they let the offender go home after investigating him. After the police reaction was reported by local media, public outrage soared. Lee Soo-jung, a professor of criminal psychology at Kyonggi University, said, “Such attacks targeting random people are motivated by the mentality to pick on someone who seems inferior. Law enforcement authorities must punish any crimes based on such antisocial motivation, no matter what.”
Compared to other countries, our society’s reaction to hate crimes has been insensitive. Despite the proposal last year of a bill in the National Assembly to deal with hate crimes based on sexual, racial and religious differences, our lawmakers had to withdraw it after confronting vehement opposition from religious groups, whose members feared the bill would encourage homosexuality. A Liberty Korea Party lawmaker recently planned to submit a bill aimed at revising our criminal code to strengthen punishment for hate crimes against women, but it ended up being narrowed in scope to sexual harassment.
The United States is different. It has the Hate Crimes Prevention Act to punish hate crimes, including misogyny, as well as a law to classify and manage statistics on various types of hate crimes. After arresting a man who hit a female Korean American on the head with a hammer in March, the Los Angeles Police Department sent the case to the prosecution. Lee Na-young, a professor of sociology at Chung-Ang University, said, “So much discussion has been had to deal with hate crimes against women since the tragic murder case in Gangnam Station last May, but nothing has changed. Our society must start by recognizing the damage, mental and physical, that women in our society have to experience as a socially underprivileged group.”
JoongAng Ilbo, April 11, Page 29
*The author is a national news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.