Domestic violence of a very different kindWhen it comes to domestic violence, men aren’t always on the delivering end.
Most people have probably heard stories about Korean wives who get beaten up by their husbands, especially following a much-publicized incident last February that involved the popular comedian Lee Kyung-sil and her baseball bat-wielding husband.
The Ministry of Gender Equality says that the number of cases reported to the Domestic Violence Counseling Service in 2001 was 114,612. That figure is about a 50 percent increase from the previous year.
Moreover, according to a survey on domestic violence by Gallup Korea, which was done in January 2003 with 1,516 Korean adults, 33.4 percent of Korean men have struck their wives at least once. On March 2, a Filipino woman married to a Korean man died in a fall from her apartment balcony while she was running away from her husband, who reportedly was beating her.
More and more Korean women have been striking back or, in some cases, administering the first strikes. Three-hundred and forty-seven husbands reported their wives to Seoul Metropolitan Police for domestic violence in 2001.
The number of battered husbands increased 59 percent from the previous year. Lee Ock, head of Korea's only counseling center for abused husbands, The Man's Hot Line, says most of the battered husbands are sincere and good-tempered people.
"They get beat up by their spouses not because they are physically inferior to the women, but because they don't want to fight back; they want to keep their families together,” says Ms. Lee.
Aggression against husbands ranges from constant verbal abuse to wives who attack with fits or other instruments.
"One of the worst cases I've ever seen was a man with a broken arm," says Ms. Lee.
That incident was mild compared to one that appeared in the news in April 2001. A Korean man won a divorce settlement from his wife who had pummeled him for 16 years, put him in a mental hospital and took all his retirement benefits.
Battered husbands get little attention from the media because too often men don’t report the abuse out of humiliation. Plus, no male celebrities have spoken of the violence.
“This issue is important,” says Shin Dong-won, a psychiatrist at the Samsung Medical Center, “but I feel the media just want to sensationalize this whole area when the number of battered husbands is very small compared to battered wives."
Dr. Shin points out that the number of husbands who have suffered physical abuse from their wives in Korea averages less than 3 percent per year, while in the United States the figure reportedly is 36 percent.
by Kay Park
For additional information on The Man's Hot Line, call (02) 2652-0458 or visit www.manhotline.or.kr