Get tough on stalkingThe number of victims of stalking or harassment is noticeably on the rise. Such behavior can escalate into serious crimes like assault and murder. But law enforcement officials still do not regard the initial offenses as being that serious.
After the Minor Offenses Act was revised in March, a conviction for stalking comes with a fine of 80,000 won ($72). The law defines stalking as repeatedly approaching and lavishing unwanted attention on a person and demanding contact and a relationship, or continually watching, following and waiting for them. The revision has finally set legal grounds for police to interfere and protect people from unwanted harassment. But the slap on the wrist that perpetrators get can hardly offer any protection for the increasing number of victims. Who would stop their stalking behavior because of a small fine?
In fact, many of those who have been harassing people as an act of “affection or adoration” have not stopped doing so even after having been penalized with fines. As a result, victims continue to live in fear and mental insecurity. It often takes them being seriously hurt by additional violent crimes to garner more aggressive police and legal protection. Even prosecutors and judges are prone to stalking these days. Because it is regarded as misdemeanor, social awareness on the seriousness of such behavior remains low.
The National Assembly needs to consider tougher punishments for stalkers and protection for victims. One lawmaker has proposed a bill for more aggressive actions on reining in stalking. According to the bill, police must immediately investigate a report of stalking, warn predators to stop their intimidating and harmful behavior, and restrict access and approach to the victims at their request. The United States, Japan and Britain all have strong regulations to protect victims of stalking.
Needless to say, an aggressive, obsessive demonstration of affection can be very threatening and intimidating to the person on the receiving end. The police as well as the judiciary branch must change their archaic mindset, where they prefer to regard all such behavior as falling in the area of personal affairs between couples. They need to see it as psychotic and anti-social behavior that could threaten the privacy of civilians.
The latest revision of the Minor Offenses Act is a start, but it’s not enough. The law needs to be upgraded to better protect the personal safety of a myriad of victims.