Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Domestic Violence in Korea: a difficult issue, but a necessary voice to raise

This is pitiful. But I have to address this issue because I feel heated and passionate about it.

As a woman who delt with domestic violence, for the very first time some months ago, I sit here at my laptop, listening to the women below me screaming, the sound of stuff being thrown around (large items, it sounds like), loud enough for the entire neighbourhood to hear.

I find it hard not to feel an inate desire to grab my knife and slice up that husband that's abusing her. And I highly doubt it's the ahjuum-ma (married woman) yelling at her kid for something he did. That was last week.

The screaming and crying for help makes me sick; and I think about how I had done the very same thing, out in the coridor, screaming with the likelihood of somebody opening the door and rescuing me from the punches. There were at least 3 other apartments next to me, and yet no one, no one came out to help me. I was sure to have woken up everyone in the midst of my sobs.

I soon realized after this incident, that the domestic violence problem here in Korea is ever present. Koreans think yelling, screaming, beating or physical-mental-emotional abuse is a family matter. You deal with it, because it's a part of the culture. It's a part of the tradition. It's how things are done. Having dated a Korean, and learning of his family history just soon before the incidence, along with numerous talks with other Koreans about this domestic violence matter-- I firmly believe that as a Korean, if a mother suffered from domestic violence from her mother or father as a kid, you are sure to find that same mother either being the perpetrator, or the one being violated.

I found the following article to be no less than a despicable article on domestic violence in Korea.

In a 2004 survey lead by The Ministry of Gender Equality in Korea, 1 out of 6 married couples deal with domestic violence. Now there are two points in this article that really hit me:

1st: The percentage of female victims who say they actually report the violent incident to police:

"...the survey showed that only 11.8 percent of female victims reported anincidence to the police while 44.3 percent replied that they did not reportthe case because they thought it would not do any good."

First and foremost, I find it hard to believe that nearly 45 percent of Korean females interviewed WOULD NOT report their domestic violence incident because they simply thought it wouldn't do any good. I took my case to the police. Luckily, my director was there to support me. After a month of uncertainty, believing that his only punishment would be a (quite unbelievable, if you ask me) $500 fine equivalent, I come to find at the end of that month-in-waiting for the case to be considered, that not only would he be required to pay the fine, but that the incident would go on a criminal record that would follow him for at least 5 years.

Alright, now in the US, there would not only be jail time, but fines as well as a probable permanent record. So you can imagine, I was appauled to find initially that he'd only be required to pay a fee after not only beating me, but threatening me afterward on several occasions. After waiting a month, and finally describing the incident to a detective, with whom I had to have a military translator to accompany me (as I later found out, my case was the first time the translator got to actually translate, period--tell me that's not backwards?) Thus he got his just rewards.

Which leads me to my 2nd miff: That nowhere does it state in this article how The Ministry of Gender Equality in Korea will actually address the domestic violence issue, aside from, and I quote,

"...An official said that the ministry would work out measures to preventdomestic violence. "

Followed by,

"...Equal status between husbands and wives is important to get rid of violencein male-oriented families,'' he said. "

Frankly, I am appauled at this. How does The Ministry of Gender Equality actually think they will solve the domestic violence problem here in Korea, with 'working out measures to prevent domestic violence' and merely stating that 'equal status is important between husbands and wives to get rid of violence'??? I honestly wonder if this article was actually printed in Korean for Korean men and women to read. I also wonder about the opinion of the Korean male/female reader of the article. My hunch to their reaction on the matter? Zip.


So not only will women continue to be violated, because they believe nothing will come of reporting their domestic violence incidents, but I highly doubt that The Ministry of Gender Equality will even get back to 'working out measures to prevent domestic violence.' Ha.

The fact of this matter, is that women MUST take a stand on domestic violence in Korea. Creating equality between men and women, particularly on this crucial matter, will only resolute if and only if women regard themselves as worthy of rights, to not be violated and abused, in any shape, way or form. They must discontinue the thought that it's normal, common among Korean families, apart of tradition, and something that is just done; they must stop themselves from believing that reporting the incidence will do nothing. It's almost like believing that your vote doesn't count: I can tell you how many people, my mother included, who have said, "oh, my vote won't count in the next election." Just think about the countless thousands of people of who think the very same way. Before you know it, you have a hurd of people that could move or sway a vote; and all along, they thought only of themselves, and how little of a difference they could make.

Likewise, Korean women (and any female suffering from any form of domestic violence) must believe, if not for themselves, than they must take a stand and be the voice for the thousands of women who have no voice, and who are beaten, abused, and violated daily, by their husbands and significant others. And I am only addressing one side of domestic violence. History does not have to repeat itself. The cycle can be broken. Just because you were violated by your mother or father, does not mean you have to--or have the right--to violate your children or your significant other.

There has to be a solution for this. And the only way that equality will prevail between men and women in Korea and elsewhere around the world, is if women take a stand and demand the rights that are due them. It's the only answer. And it's the only way that the various forms of oppression throughout history, and the inequality of race, color, sex and/or beliefs, have ever transcended tradition and laws set forth by our founding fathers and anscestors around the world: because one person becomes the voice for a great many, acknowledging civil liberties in its most basic, humanistic form.

There, I've said my peace. Now use your voice.

~ Chelsea

Food for thought:

Check out this link of a discussion on domestic violence in Korea.

(Out of date) Stats on domestic violence in Korea. Rather interesting.

Comments are definitely welcome!


Juan said...

Wow, a most dreadful situation.

That little Korean punk better not do that if I am there. I might have to have a word on it with him.

It might be a foolish thing to do, or immature, but I definitely couldn't stand anything of the sort if I had been there. I wasn't raised to look the other way.

Chelsea said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chelsea said...

Hey you! Well thank you for making such a bold statement--I just wish I would have looked at all the signs, and had not gone through this stupid ordeal in the first place. This issue is a huge problem in Korea, and I wish other people--and Korean natives, would see it as I have seen it.

Much love to you; thanks for the protection offer! But I highly doubt there will ever be any communication flow from either my part (or yours) concerning 'the punk.' As far as I'm concerned, this chapter has ended--and I shall remain a standing advocate to support other women and initiatives to combat domestic violence...either here or elsewhere! :)

Juan said...

When I mean 'punk' I meant that neighbour of yours. You see, here in Higueral we had a similar case with our neighbour. He used to get drunk and hit his wife, most of the time just a slap... after one perticularly loud day he had actually hit her pretty hard, and my dad and a coupple of the neighbourhood guys decided to intervene... and I don't think it's happened since. A lot of the time beating the offender isn't necessary: Just them knowing that what they are doing is now public knowledge makes them realize how stupid they are. Sometimes...

Chelsea said...

Ahh.. right. Well, I wouldn't say 'punk' per se. I've never seen the husband. Nor the kid or who lives across the building from me. Well, that sort of thing would be awesome if it happened here: I've heard of even the WOMEN who are being beaten actually defending their significant others for doing so. Lame, eh? Righhhttt.