By Yun Suh-young
The police issued new guidelines Sunday, allowing officers to enter people's homes without their consent after emergency calls have been placed.
The National Police Agency wants to change how officers respond to incidents of domestic violence, rape or assault. The guidelines provide more discretionary powers to the police when victims are at high risk of being murdered, raped or physically assaulted.
However, officers will only be granted access if police inspect the interior of the home from the main entrance or lobby and find evidence of a crime taking place.
Once they enter the house, they can inspect all rooms of the dwelling. Until now, police had been only allowed to enter homes if they received consent from the owner or resident.
The police say the change is an effort to reduce the number of murders and sexual or physical assaults that could have been prevented but took place because they were denied access.
In April this year, the police failed to save a life of a woman in her 20s who was locked in her attacker's home and raped. The police inspected 94 homes but failed to inspect 12 neighboring homes including that of the rapist's because they were denied access.
In a murder and rape case in Suwon, also in April, the police failed to save a woman who called for help. The victim was raped and brutally murdered during the hour and half the police wasted outside the murderer's home.
The new rule now allows police to enter even if a home owner denies the police request. The police expect the measure will help save victims who are afraid of revenge attacks after calling for help.
However, the new practice is receiving a mixed reaction from the public.
Although some agree with the police that officers should be given more authority to save lives, others are concerned that the new rule could violate people's right to privacy.
Civic groups such as the Human Rights Association and the Lawyers for a Democratic Society expressed worries that the new measure may "violate individuals' personal liberty or residential rights" and that the "vague standard of an emergency situation may give the police too much power."