[VIEWPOINT]Get tough now on domestic violenceThere has been another report of violence, in which a wife (an actress) was assaulted by her husband. Except for the fact that both are television personalities, Lee Chan’s assault on his wife was a typical wife-beating case. With the passage of time and changes in the social atmosphere, there have also been changes in the pattern of the crimes and fluctuations in the frequency of their occurrences.
However, there have been almost no changes in the crime of wife-beating since it was first revealed as a serious problem in our society in the 1980s. There is a peculiar characteristic to wife-beating: It is not complicated. It is a very simple kind of crime in which a husband, an ex-husband, a lover or a partner wields violence against his wife, a former wife or lover.
Despite a continuous publicity effort to instill in the minds of the people that domestic violence is a crime, it seems that people are getting more accustomed to wife-beating. About two weeks after press reports about Lee Chan’s wife-beating incident, people have already started to feel sick and tired of hearing about domestic violence cases.
In the beginning, Internet users posted more critical comments on Web sites about domestic violence, but their reaction now seems to have changed: They are saying, “It is their problem. Why do they want to bother others with it?”
Wherever we go, in our society, violence is rampant. People even do not mind using violence to achieve a goal. Regardless of whether it is in schools, homes or workplaces, people take it for granted to use violent and abusive words, and behave coercively by using violence. Our youths fill more than half of their conversations with abusive words, and domestic violence takes place in one out of six homes in our society. Why?
The thing I worry about most is that people tolerate domestic violence, or even do not consider it to be violence. Due to the insensibility and lack of consciousness our society has about violence, we unintentionally stand on the side of the assailants. If we do not sympathize with others’ pain and consider only the offenders’ situation, it is the same as launching a second assault on the victim or abetting the use of violence. If that is the case, aren’t we all accomplices to the assailant?
Domestic violence is a problem that our society urgently needs to solve. Violence ruins not only the body but also the people’s spirit, and ultimately leads them to lose dignity as human beings. If people’s recognition of domestic violence stays the same, Korea will never be an advanced country.
This year happens to be the 20th anniversary of the democratization movement.
Every sector in our society is struggling to advance further. Following the political democratization we accomplished, we must achieve democratization in our daily lives, our way of thinking and our culture.
We must nurture the ability to sympathize with others who are in pain and put ourselves in the position of the weak. We must also reform our social structure, which abides and abets violence. I think the process of nurturing such ability and reforming the social structure is the essence of democratization, as well.
The first step is punishing the offenders properly. When we educate our children, it is very important to clearly distinguish right and wrong, and what can be done and what shouldn’t be done.
The same rule applies to the training of animals. In order to prevent the recurrence of violence by offenders, we must let them know that they shouldn’t use violence at all and that they will be punished, without fail, if they do use violence.
However, the current laws for the prevention and punishment of domestic violence tend to regard it more as a conflict between husband and wife than as a crime. The law also puts more emphasis on restoring and maintaining family lives by sending the offenders back home rather than punishing them.
In order to punish violent offenders properly and protect violence victims, the Korea Women’s Hot Line proposed a drastically revised draft version of the current law. The revision has been pending at the Legislation and Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly for more than a year.
In order to make our society free from domestic violence, deliberation on the revision should not be postponed any further. There are no more excuses to make. The National Assembly must pass the revision as soon as possible.
*The writer is a representative of the Korea Women’s Hot Line. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Park In-hea