Supreme Court nixes rape ruling

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Supreme Court nixes rape ruling

The nation’s highest court Monday overturned a Seoul High Court ruling that sentenced a 45-year-old man surnamed Cho to nine years in jail for raping a girl over a period of three years when she was 15 to 18 years old, citing a lack of evidence.

The pair has a 2-year-old baby and lived together for at least a month. The Supreme Court sent the case back for retrial to the appeals court. In Cho’s original trial, the court ruled it was impossible to believe the girl, identified as Miss Kim, voluntarily had sex with a man her parents’ ages.

Kim was only 15 years old when she first met Cho in a hospital one summer day in 2011. Kim was hospitalized after a car accident, and Cho was there to visit his son, who was also hospitalized. They initially crossed paths in an elevator, according to prosecutors. The couple had their first sex a week later in Cho’s car. The sexual intercourse continued and by early 2012, Kim was pregnant.

After Kim realized she was going to have Cho’s baby, she left home and moved in with him. Cho, the head of a small talent agency, was married to a second wife but the couple was separated. A month later, Cho was jailed in a criminal case unrelated to Kim, but that didn’t affect their relationship. She visited Cho in jail on numerous occasions and wrote him handwritten letters.

But later that year after Kim gave birth, she had a change of heart and accused Cho of rape. She claimed that her decision to move out of her own house was forced by the middle aged man, according to officials. Cho denied her accusations and said the two were in a romantic relationship based on mutual affection. Nevertheless, Kim’s family called the police and Cho was charged with rape.

A Seoul district court sentenced Cho to 12 years in jail, ruling that it was “beyond common sense for a girl to develop sincere emotions for a man of similar age as her parents and agree to have sex [based on her own free will].”

The appellate court reduced the jail term to nine years, taking into consideration that Cho had no record of similar offenses. But on Monday, the tables were turned when the Supreme Court ruled Cho was innocent, referring to the letters and mobile text messages the pair exchanged.

The judge on Monday quoted Kim’s letters and text messages to Park, stating that the teenager had told the man in his 40s that she loved him, wanted to live with him and fell in love the first time she laid eyes on him.

On Monday, Kim told the court that she only spoke and wrote such romantic sentiments to prevent Cho from being verbally abusive to her.

The age of consent in Korea is 13, which many people believe should be raised, one of the reasons this case had attracted much media attention.

BY CHOI HYUN-CHUL, LEE YU-JEONG [selee@joongang.co.kr]

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