The late actress Choi Jin-sil
By Kim Rahn
Women's groups are angry over the top court's ruling that ordered the late actress Choi Jin-sil to compensate a builder for failing to maintain ``dignity'' as a model representing its products.
They censured the Supreme Court for not realizing the suffering of domestic violence victims, which included Choi.
Korean Womenlink, the Korea Women's Hot Line, and the Korea Women's Association United issued a joint statement Wednesday lambasting the ruling.
On June 4, the court reversed a high court ruling that decided in favor of Choi in a compensation suit filed by Shinhan Engineering and Construction in 2004 against the actress, who was the model for its apartments.
The advertiser claims she did not keep her contractual obligation to ``maintain dignity,'' because she disclosed to the public her bruised and swollen face which was caused by the violence of her then husband, former baseball player Cho Sung-min. They divorced soon afterward.
The top court ruled that she caused damage to the company by ``failing to keep her social and moral honor'' and thus depreciating the brand image. Following Choi's suicide last October, her two children ― one preschooler and the other primary schooler ― are now the parties against whom the suit was filed. Their grandmother is their legal representative.
The firm demanded 3 billion won ($2.3 million) in compensation.
As to the ruling, the groups claimed that revealing the results of domestic violence was not a matter of ``dignity'' but a matter of ``survival.''
``The core of the case is domestic violence, which is rampant here but is rarely reported to police. Many people also think that victims are partly to blame for domestic violence. Despite such social notion, Choi, a top celebrity, disclosed her situation, and it showed that she had severe suffering and was desperate to escape,'' the groups said in the statement.
``The ruling will silence many more domestic violence victims. The court gave up its social responsibility for domestic violence,'' a director of Korean Womenlink said.
``Every individual has the right to maintain his or her dignity. When a person is suffering, he or she needs to restore their dignity and social honor by disclosing the damage and seeking proper legal help as Choi did. But by ruling that she failed to maintain dignity, the court made her honor unrecoverable forever,'' she said.
The groups said they deplore the top court's appalling decision that forces a victim to ``maintain dignity'' and makes them responsible for all damages. ``The court ignored the `right to be safe,' which is the basic right for `survival.' We urge the court to apologize to Choi, her family, and other domestic violence victims,'' they said.