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The Peninsula

Technology over Systemic Change

Published February 20, 2022
Author: Korea View

What Happened:

  • On February 15, a woman was killed by her ex-boyfriend despite utilizing an emergency smartwatch provided by the police to potential victims of stalking and other serious crimes.
  • The police plan to expand the use of these smartwatches across the country on February 22, despite multiple instances in which the watches have failed.
  • Between January 2016 and November 2021, 36% of the recorded cases of femicide were committed by intimate partners who had a legal record of abusing their victims previously.

Implication: The South Korean government often attempts to seek technological solutions to various social issues rather than acknowledging the underlying roots of the problem. Although laws increasingly acknowledge threats to women, police rely on smartwatches that track the location of victims of potential crimes instead of proactively creating protections. This technology has proven insufficient in protecting victims. In a comparable instance, a pilot program proposes to “treat” the declining mental health of the elderly population with robot counselors rather than addressing underlying socio-economic issues.

Context: Within the past few years, the South Korean government has emphasized its technological sophistication and presented itself as a global innovation leader. The country’s successful application of mobile data to address the spread of COVID-19 further burnished this profile. But aside from these instances, the South Korean government’s attempt to push technological solutions onto broader issues have had mixed results. Notably, the effort to address the littering problem in a lower-income area through technological innovations proved unsuccessful.

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.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Kayla Harris, David Lee, Sarah Marshall, and Mai Anna Pressley. Picture from the flickr account of gunman47

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