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The Peninsula

Seoul’s Municipal Government Focuses on Women’s Safety

Published June 20, 2019
Author: Yong Kwon
Category: South Korea

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • More than 300 incidences of break-ins have been reported for three consecutive years since 2015. Many of these crimes have targeted women living alone.
  • In an effort to bolster safety, the Seoul metropolitan government will provide a portable emergency bell, door latch, door sensor, and security camera for women living alone.
  • Women who do not own their own home and currently reside in low-rent housing are entitled to apply for the devices.
  • Seoul metropolitan government will implement this measure first as a pilot run in Gwanak and Yangcheon districts which are areas of high crime rates.

Implications: In response to gender-based crimes, the Seoul municipal government has taken preliminary steps with the distribution of safety equipment. However, questions remain on how the government will address widespread gender violence that has come to light as a result of the #MeToo movement. Police data from November 2018 showed a 75% jump in the number of household abuse cases reported to authorities over the past four years. Despite the increase in reports, real legal protection come short of the government’s rhetoric. The rate of arrests for domestic violence has averaged about 13% of cases over the past five years.

Context: The #MeToo movement has contributed to a growing awareness of gender violence in South Korea. Despite conservative mores that made societal discussions around gender taboo in the past, revelations around systematic abuse of female athletes and sex crimes committed by celebrities have forced the issue to the forefront in recent months. The government has taken steps to crack down on gender-based crimes. For instance, heavier punishments have been imposed for perpetrators of sex crimes involving spycams. These case-by-case responses (including the safety systems), however, do not yet address what many observers see as the heart of the issue: gender discrimination.

Korea View is edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Yea Ji Nam, Yusong Cha, Steven Lim, Haeju Lee, Stephen Eun, and Emily Gibson.

Picture by d’n’c from Wikimedia Commons

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