Court’s strange logic
A 20-year-old man who beat a burglar that broke into his home and put him in a coma was denied his claim to self-defense and found guilty of assault. The court handed down a jail sentence of 18 months to the man surnamed Choi because the defendant was not carrying a weapon and had tried to flee when Choi saw him. It added that beating him into a coma was excessive. The court decision, however, raised questions by the public on how self-defense is defined in Korean courts.
The self-defense claim has often been disputed in local courts, especially in cases where wives murder their husbands after repeated assault and abuse. The police have drawn up guidelines to build self-defense cases based on court precedent. One must not provoke or start a physical attack. One should not use weapons or exercise violence more harshly than the other party. One’s physical damage must not be more severe than that of other party. The other party must not be hurt enough to require hospitalization for more than three weeks.
But the terms are hardly realistic and much more strict than in other countries. Imagine a strange person breaking into your house in the middle of the night. It is not easy to discern whether the person has a weapon or not. By instinct, you would grab anything heavy nearby. When facing a robber or attacker, you could inflict an injury that requires more than three weeks of treatment. But under the terms set out by Korean courts, few can claim self-defense, even if they are assaulted or in danger.
The definition and terms of self-defense must be decided on more realistic grounds. Defending oneself against a break-in should not be considered by the court on the same terms as during a drunken brawl. Different terms should be laid out according to the place, conditions and motivation of the offender so that a person defending him or herself does not end up being a criminal.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 27, Page 30