Women furious over police response
By Kim Rahn
Police have come under attack for not only their poor handling of an emergency call for help from a woman being raped, who was later murdered, but also the way they deal with sex crimes.
Women’s groups have demanded President Lee Myung-bak make a public apology for the case, which they claim showed the state’s practice of treating crimes against women lightly.
“The state, which has dealt with sexual assaults idly, is the murderer!” members of the nation’s main women’s groups said during a rally in downtown Seoul, Tuesday.
Their protest came after a 28-year-old woman was abducted, raped and chopped into pieces by a Korean-Chinese man in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on April 1. She had called the police’s 112 Crime Report Center, but it was found officers on duty responded tardily, presuming the case was “domestic violence” or a “mere sexual assault” that would not be linked to additional crimes.
“We demand police chief Cho Hyun-oh not to step down but to be sacked. The President should also apologize to the public,” said Choi Sun-hye, a member of Korea Women’s Hot Line, one of the participating groups.
They said in a statement that this case resulted from a combination of wrong common notions and practices.
“After catching the suspect, the Suwon Jungbu Police reported it as ‘mere rape’ to its superior office. Every rape is rape, it is clearly a crime. What is their criterion to decide whether a rape is ‘mere’ and another is not? If the decision differs, does the crime become different?” they said.
It was found that policemen at the center together listened to the victim’s plea for life to the suspect and the sound of the offender attacking the victim. “But they said, ‘The two seem to know each other,’ or ‘It sounds like they are husband and wife.’ This is unacceptable. If the offender is ‘someone who the victim knows’ or if it is a ‘husband attacking a wife,’ is police’s idle response justifiable?” the groups said.
They claimed it was the state that killed the woman as it has been negligent toward violence against women.
“The desultory response came from the social practice which gives different legal decision according to whether a violence case against a woman is ‘mere’ or ‘serious,’ whether or not the victim and the offender knew each other, and whether it is committed by husband or by others. Society has acknowledged sex crimes as sex crimes only when it is committed ‘by a stranger’ at night, ‘even though the victim resists desperately,’” they said.
Choi said Korea doesn’t treat violence against women seriously. “It is the state’s duty to protect people’s lives. It seems women are not the people of this country.”
She said the overhaul of the 112 call system is not enough, calling for fundamental, long-term measures to change the social atmosphere that is lenient to violence inflicted on women.
A coalition of 25 civic groups in Suwon also issued a statement on Monday, saying the murder resulted from police’s lack of will to protect citizens’ safety. “Police used to tell people to call 112 when facing sexual assaults. We are dumbfounded that they regarded the case as a ‘mere sexual assault’ and didn’t properly respond to the victim’s call,” it said.
Bloggers also doubted police’s capability.
“The officers repeatedly asked where she was and who was assaulting her even though she already said that. Are they parrots? And police call for independence from the prosecution for investigation right? They’d better be instructed by prosecutors,” a tweeter said.