By Lee Eung-tae

At 9 on a Friday night, Christina walks around a platform of Stockholm station whistling. She's finished work and is going to have her 28th birthday party with her family. Full of expectations, she gives a broad smile to the passengers.

Best of all, she is now free from the importunities of her ex-boyfriend who harassed her after she broke up with him. He is now in jail because he was convicted of stalking her. If he approaches her in any way after his release, he will be immediately re-arrested.

At 9 on a Friday night, Hana anxiously enters Seoul subway. Looking nervously around to see if the guy is following, she tries to smile at the passengers. She has been stalked for nine years by a former male colleague. She has been harassed, threatened, verbally abused by him on 900 occasions.

She reported him to the police several times. He faced trial and was supposed to be in jail, but, he was set free. Why? A court incredibly decided that a man with his decent job would not commit crimes. Incessant horrific harassment has driven Hana to attempt suicide.

Christina and Hana are fictitious, but the representatives of the truth: stalking is dealt with in radically different ways in different countries.

Under Swedish law, a stalking crime carries a sentence of up to four years in prison. In 2011, repeated harassment became a criminal offence under the rubric of unlawful persecution.

By contrast, in Korea, stalking was considered to be a mere misdemeanor until 2021, so offenders were given small fines or released with a warning. Numberless helpless women were left vulnerable to vicious stalking.

Under new legislation, stalking is labeled a criminal offence carrying a sentence of up to three years of imprisonment or a 30 million won ($21,000) fine. Despite the revision, the number of reported cases has increased. As a society, we need more awareness.

Stalking is a felony that devastates the lives of our mothers, wives, daughters and close friends. We must understand that because the aggressors are usually known to the victims, the latter usually avoid seeking justice for fear of retaliation. This actually encourages the perpetrators. To be frank, this infuriates me.

The whole nation was shocked by the appalling news last year of three women murdered by a stalker. He bore a grudge because they avoided him and reacted by brutally killing the three of them.

The same year, a woman in her 20s was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. He stalked her for several months after their breakup and finally murdered her. It is really heartbreaking to imagine how horrible her life had been for those awful months before she was murdered. What if she were my lovely daughter, my close friend, my brilliant student or my dear colleague?

Stalkers do not look like criminals ― whatever a criminal might look like, they are us. They have the same decent jobs, the same hobbies. They live in nice homes. They are our sons, friends, colleagues or neighbors.

We all could become stalkers if we ignored the abysmal consequences or if we did not empathize with the victims' pain, just dismissing the crime as nothing but a minor offence. With hindsight we see those heinous criminals are the products of our society's neglect to create an awareness of the seriousness of stalking.

When I heard the news that a young female subway worker was killed by a stalker in Sindang Station on Sept. 14, I was deeply heartbroken, as a father of a daughter who is the same age as the victim. My prayer is that all the victims find peace in heaven, where there is no stalking.


Lee Eung-tae (eungtae@gmail.com) is a former high school teacher who taught English for 35 years.


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Stalking is no trivial misdemeanor

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26.09.2022

By Lee Eung-tae

At 9 on a Friday night, Christina walks around a platform of Stockholm station whistling. She's finished work and is going to have her 28th birthday party with her family. Full of expectations, she gives a broad smile to the passengers.

Best of all, she is now free from the importunities of her ex-boyfriend who harassed her after she broke up with him. He is now in jail because he was convicted of stalking her. If he approaches her in any way after his release, he will be immediately re-arrested.

At 9 on a Friday night, Hana anxiously enters Seoul subway. Looking nervously around to see if the guy is following, she tries to smile at the passengers. She has been stalked for nine years by a former male colleague. She has been harassed, threatened, verbally abused by him on 900 occasions.

She reported him to the police several times. He faced trial and was supposed to be in jail, but, he was set........

© The Korea Times


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