South Korean Sex law – Recognising men as victims too

Warning: This post contains subjects of an adult nature and can be disturbing to younger readers.
Male Sexual Crime South Korea

Some of our London readers may have noticed an advertisement campaign during March and April this year with the controversial slogan “Real men get raped – and talking about it takes real strength”. This campaign was launched by Survivor UK after the Metropolitan Police revealed the shocking statistics that every hour in London, a man is a victim of sexual crime. It is also estimated that only about 11% of male victims actually report the crimes. To put this into perspective, in 2009/2010, a total of 945 sexual assaults against men were reported, but the true figure is expected to be close to 10,000! And that is in London alone, so the amount of crime going unreported in the UK is immense!

Recently we discovered a very cool new site, run by fellow Londoners, KoreaBANG. This is a sister website of ChinaSMACK, a website which translates articles straight from China, allowing us to see what is happening and the responses of the Chinese citizens rather than what the UK news portals choose to tell us. KoreaBANG will be doing the same for South Korean news and we have already seen quite a few eye opening articles that make us question why other bilingual websites have chosen not to report on.

One very shocking article we read, that had many responses from Korean readers, was: New rape law introduced to include young boys as victims. This article talks about the much heated subject of the Korean law and it’s leniency when it comes to the punishing of sexual offenders. The new legislation states that from March this year, the law will now recognise underage boys as possible rape victims. Previously, any sexual assaults on underaged boys were merely considered to be physical assaults. Shocking right? We were always under the impression that the law is there to protect people, especially the vulnerable such as children, no matter what the gender. The UK is working hard to tackle the stigma around reporting male sexual assaults and in this post we take a look at South Korea’s attitudes towards this taboo subject.

In South Korea, sexual assaults carry a higher penalty compared to physical assaults so it is important that the offenders get tried correctly to receive the appropriate punishment. If like in the past, when a sexual assault on a young boy was tried under the definition of physical assault rather than rape, it would mean a punishment as low as just one year imprisonment and a fine of 5 000 000 to 20 000 000 won (which is currently approximately £2700 to £11000). But if tried correctly under sexual assault, it will now carry a penalty of at least 5 years imprisonment. It is quite shocking that only now, in 2012, South Korea has chosen to raise the penalty on such a serious crime. But most importantly, South Korea is yet to recognise adult men as possible rape victims.

In the UK, a rape is committed if the offender intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person with his penis whom had not consented. This law has been re-worded a number of times over the past – in the beginning, UK law was also restricted to just male on female rape, but this was later changed to include male victims in 1994 and in 2004, the law was again altered to include penetration of the mouth too. This final version covers most things and does not restrict the victim to being female, although the offender would still have to own a penis, so a female cannot be the offender. In Scotland, male rape was only included in 2010, as previously rape only meant vaginal rape and anything including the anus be it male or female was tried under indecent assault.

One of the main reasons as to why Survivor UK has launched this controversial campaign is because, even though the law is there to protect the victims in the UK, there is still the shame and embarrassment that stops the victims from actually being helped by the law. Even though we live in the year 2012, there is still this social expectation that a man should be macho, strong, and be able to protect themselves. And it is not just UK that holds such a traditional view on the male gender. Even in a time where women can vote and have equal stance in the work place, the men are still expected to be macho manly men in South Korea and in fact, the same image of men is expected in most parts of the world. This is why the Survivor UK has chosen to use the rugby ball, the symbol of the “alpha male” sport, with a nail to demonstrate how anyone can be a victim and has no relevance to a man’s strength. KoreaBANG translated a few comments made by South Korean citizens on the original article and one very interesting point was made:

An adult male could be made victim, and the trauma could be bigger. Especially if you are a Marine, many guys there are pretty tough and strong, and become more so by the time they are done training. So, if a couple of manly men gang up on one, there is no escaping that. A few years ago, a commander raped his subordinate a couple times after which the victim tried to kill himself unsuccessfully and was sent to mental ward instead. How horrible it must have been for a man priding on his masculinity to be subjected to that! But because of the current legal system it does not count as rape but treated only as sexual harassment, they could only be sentenced to a wrist-slap. Rape charge against man should stand.

This illustrates how it is possible for even the most strong of men to be victims. This extra pressure of social image means the victims are forced to lock up their feelings, which can be extremely unhealthy mentally and lead to disastrous consequences. Men are entitled to have feelings too and with the current Hallyu wave and South Korea’s mission to show the world that it’s up there as one of the most hi-tech and advanced countries in the world, they really need to first get rid of such attitudes and consider rape as a serious offense to both men and women. The fact that the law now recognises younger boys as possible victims is a promising step forward.

South Korea has been hit with quite a few scandals lately. There was recently an article on KoreaBANG about how the police failed to help a girl who called for help when she managed to break away from her kidnapper/raper. The South Korean Police did not turn up until 13 hours later only to discover the girl had been murdered and her body dismembered. You can read all about this horrific incident here. In addition to this horrendous crime, there has recently been a high profile case involving sexual assault happening in the idol world. Laws should be put in place to protect citizens, and we should not have to wait for a national scandal before something is finally done to protect the vulnerable.

Recently another similar incident emerged where the abuse was happening between the senior and junior students at a similar school. But sadly, KoreaBANG reports: Those who committed the sexual assault are still minors, but the Ministry predicted that if the sexual assaults are proven to have been forced, then criminal prosecution is possible. However, given that the victims and their parents refuse to testify, the sex offence has yet to be the subject of complaint, and it is not yet known whether the investigation will proceed smoothly. So even if the authorities are prepared to do something about it, the strong imbedded sense of shame is still causing obstruction for justice and stopping offenders from being punished for their crimes. These attitudes are not exclusive to South Korea but present all over the world, which is why Survivor UK launched it’s latest campaign to try and get male victims to feel less ashamed and strong enough to come forward and report offenses.This new law which finally recognises young boys as rape victims materalised not long after the hard hitting film Dogani was released. Dogani (The Crucible) is based on a true story of how deaf students at Gwangju Inhwa School was being sexually abused by the teachers in the early 2000s. The film has sparked public outcry over lenient court rulings, prompting police to reopen the case and lawmakers to introduce bills for the human rights of the vulnerable. Especially as it was discovered that: four out of the six teachers at the school for whom serious punishment was recommended by the education authority were reinstated (went back to their jobs) after they escaped punishment under the statute of limitations. Only two of them were convicted of repeated rapes of eight young students and received jail terms of less than a year (wiki). It is distressing that a movie was needed to spark a public outcry before this horrendous crime was taken seriously.

This is not the first time the UK has tried to tackle this issue. In Hollyoaks, a young teen soap that often tried to tackle social issues, had a story line where Gary Lucy’s character was raped due to rivalry. A lot of effort was put into this story line as the subject was considered to be “the last great social taboo” by creator Phil Redmond. We see Gary’s character, Luke Morgan, go through the traumatising ordeal alone, and when he finally speaks out, his father asks him to not go to trial fearing it would drag their family name through the mud. But after being continuously harassed by the offender, he goes forward with the trial and wins. This story line was important in the UK as hopefully it gave other victims hiding their shame the strength to come forward, and what’s more, it showed the UK how important it is to recognise men as possible rape victims and they should not be stigmatised as weak men as Luke was a young athletic man.

Even though the UK has causes such as Survivor UK, trying to tackle these issues and trying to breakthrough these unhealthy mindsets, we still have a long way to go. The same may be said for South Korea. So even if South Korea does change its laws tomorrow, it will still take a lot of effort to get the public to actually broaden their minds and for victims to feel safe enough to seek help. As the Hallyu wave soars and South Korea is being recognised as one of the big players of East Asia, it is important that South Korea as a country recognises that laws should protect and prevent danger to their citizens and develop a more modern attitude to go with all their futuristic gadgets.


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