More people fall victim to dating violence in Korea

By Kim Dong-young Posted : May 17, 2024, 11:20 Updated : May 17, 2024, 11:45
The suspect in a dating violence case arrives for questioning at the Seoul Prosecutors office in Seoul on May 8 2024  Yonhap
The suspect in a dating violence case (center) arrives for questioning at the Seoul Prosecutors' office in Seoul on May 8, 2024. Yonhap

SEOUL, May 17 (AJU PRESS) - Korea is grappling with a disturbing rise in dating violence cases in recent years, highlighting the urgent need for increased social awareness and preventive measures.

The line separating lovers' conflicts from intimate partner violence has become blurred, raising questions about the boundaries that define dating abuse. Dating abuse encompasses any form of physical, sexual, or verbal abuse from a romantic or sexual partner, according to the Office on Women's Health (OWH) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). While dating violence is considered a crime, the boundaries are often unclear in certain cases.
Police statistics paint a grim picture. In 2023, 13,939 alleged perpetrators were taken into custody for dating violence in Korea, a staggering 55.7-percent increase from the 8,951 cases reported in 2022. Alarmingly, only 310 individuals were arrested for further investigation, as the remaining cases were deemed "small conflicts between lovers."
However, the victims' harrowing points of view tell a different story. A young woman in her 20s had decided to end her relationship with her boyfriend, but he threatened and blackmailed her, even going so far as to claim he would commit suicide. Feeling guilty, the woman attempted to reconcile with him, but the encounter ended in tragedy – she was stabbed to death at the very spot where they once went on dates. This incident happened in May this year.
Another chilling case in February followed a similar pattern. After announcing the end of her relationship, she was blackmailed by her boyfriend, who had a history of dating abuse. The man beat and stalked her until the bitter end, stabbing her to death and inflicting serious injuries on her mother as well.
Both cases occurred after the women attempted to break free from their boyfriends' control. Experts say fear of retaliation or the ambiguous boundary between love and hate may have stopped them from seeking help.

"Dating violence is no longer a personal matter but should be treated as a social crime," Shin Bo-ra, president of the Women's Human Rights Institute of Korea in Seoul told Aju Press on Thursday. "Dating violence could escalate to more severe crimes as it involves violence from individuals whom the victims know well, so more thorough protection measures are needed to provide assistance for victims," she added.

"Most perpetrators of dating violence often tend to exercise control over their partners and get angry when they are asked to break up," another dating consultant said.
The fear of retaliation in ending mutual or non-mutual relationships has even fueled the rise of so-called "safe break-up" strategies shared on social media. These strategies include silently moving away without telling their partners, announcing break-ups on social media to inform acquaintances, and seeking advice from family and friends.
However, Korea is still far behind in addressing dating violence. Under the current law, if the victim wishes, the offender can be released without charges. Many victims choose not to press charges due to fear of retaliation.
Lawmakers have tried legislative motions to penalize dating abuse separately from assaults and intimidation since 2016. However, with no further actions taken, those motions are expected to lapse with the dissolution of the current assembly at the end of this month.
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