Drunkenness no longer a viable defense in rape cases

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Drunkenness no longer a viable defense in rape cases


Recent rulings from Korean courts, where the excuse of being drunk at the time of committing an act of rape has successfully reduced jail sentences, are not the accepted practice anymore.

The Supreme Court yesterday confirmed the original verdict at an appeals hearing for a 42-year-old sex offender surnamed Gwak, sentencing him to seven years in prison and that he be listed on the online sex offender registry for five years following his release from prison for rape.

In June last year, Gwak broke into the house of a 19-year-old girl whom he met in the bar he owned in Anseong, Gyeonggi, and raped her.



The girl was passed out drunk, according to prosecutors.

In previous trials, Gwak told courts that raping the girl was a mistake he committed impulsively because he was seriously intoxicated, but the courts didn’t accept it as a legitimate excuse.

“Gwak broke into someone’s home and raped a girl who was sleeping while intoxicated,” the initial court said in the ruling.

“We see that Gwak was drunk, but it is very obvious that he made clear decisions when we look at the details of the case.”

Gwak appealed to the Supreme Court, saying that the previous trials were unfair because they excluded his drinking excuse when deciding the sentence.

Gwak also said it is unfair that the courts deprived him of a chance to reach an out-of-court settlement with the victim.

“Gwak’s nature of crime was very bad,” Judge Kim Chang-seok of the Supreme Court said in the ruling. “We judge that giving a severe penalty is fair though he was drunk.”

The Supreme Court also sentenced a 42-year-old man surnamed Lee, who hurt a woman while he attempted to rape a female passerby while intoxicated, to five years in prison, to be listed on the online sex offender registry for 10 years, and wear an electronic tracking device on his ankle.

In October, the Gwangju High Court sentenced a 27-year-old sex offender surnamed Lee to seven years in prison for raping an 18-year-old girl in Gunsan, North Jeolla, in July of last year.

In the initial ruling, he was sentenced to five years in prison, but he appealed to the high court that the penalty was too severe for a crime that was committed while intoxicated.

The court also ordered the suspect to be listed on the online sex offender registry for 10 years and wear an electronic tracking device on his ankle.

Previously, Korean courts have been publicly criticized for lenient punishments on drunken sex offenders.

In the 2008 Cho Du-sun case, which shocked the nation when Cho raped an 8-year-old elementary student in Ansan, Gyeonggi, causing her to lose 80 percent of her colon and reproductive organs, the Supreme Court only gave him 12 years in prison.

The prosecution demanded life imprisonment for the accused, but the court commuted the demand, saying there is a chance that Cho could not control himself because he was intoxicated. However, stronger punishments on drunk sex offenders have been made by courts since the Cho case.

Last year, the Uijeongbu District Court gave 10 years in prison to a U.S. soldier who was arrested for raping a high school girl in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi, in November last year.

“Judges don’t take sex offenders’ drinking excuse into consideration and reduce the sentence anymore recently,” a judge at the Seoul Central District Court told the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Lee Dong-hyun, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]
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