Protect women from stalkersThe murder of a female subway worker at Sindang Station in Seoul by her stalker and former colleague has stoked a dispute in political circles over hate crimes against women. When Kim Hyun-sook, minister of Gender Equality and Family, came to the mourning site for the victim, she was asked by reporters if she saw the crime as hate violence toward women. She answered she did not.
The ministry explained that further discussions are needed to see if the killing was a gender-based hate crime. The ministry also promised to toughen laws against stalkers.
But the minister’s comment drew strong protest from women’s rights organizations and the Democratic Party (DP). They demanded the minister resign. They also called for a withdrawal of the plan by the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol administration to eventually shutter the ministry. Even if the dispute is aimed at seeking a solution to violence against women, it is not desirable to politicize a murder case.
The murder in Gangnam Station in May 2016 targeted a random woman. The investigation so far cannot put the Sindang Station murder in the same light. The murderer stalked the victim specifically and allegedly planned the killing methodically. “Instead of trying to categorize the crime, ways to find solutions to prevent such crimes are more imperative,” said Lee Soo-jung, a professor of criminal psychology.
The National Assembly Gender Equality and Family Committee was briefed on the case from the Justice Ministry, Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, National Police Agency, the Gender Equality Ministry, Seoul City government, and Seoul Metro. They were pounded for not taking preventive actions. If police and other institutions had paid closer attention, the crime could have been prevented.
But the legislature is also to blame for its inaction. As many as 14 bills to revise the stalking law of April 2021 are still pending at the legislature. One proposes to remove the provision that mandates a victim’s approval to punish their stalker. The Sindang murder could have been avoided if the revision had been made.
Gender conflict has become a political hot potato. Rival parties have been fanning the conflict as an ideological contest. What is urgent now is a practical solution to protect women from violence. At the same time, the practice of regarding stalking cases simply as a love affair must change. Politicians must share wisdom to come up with realistic solutions to defend women from predators instead of wrangling over gender issues.