For the next three weeks, we chose the topic of ‘sexual violence’ as it has been an important topic within the Korean society. Korea has only acknowledged sexual violence as part of criminal offence on 1994. Ever since, there has been much conversations on what exactly is sexual violence and what is not. Tacit violence in everyday lives including the workplace and nightclubs have been slowly brought to the discussion table. On November 2018, what seemed like a simple assault case in a club called ‘burning sun’ shed light to a bigger system, what is now called the ‘rape cartel’.
Sexual violence is defined in various ways, but the Korean Easy to find, Practical Law website defines as narrow as ‘the physical force that harms others in a physical and psychological way by sexual means’ (Korean Legal Information Center). But the more recent definition includes all kinds of physical and psychological violence including verbal harassment, sexual message, video and pictures taken against one’s will. Also, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family emphasizes that just because an action is not punishable by law, it does not always mean the action is not a violence. (Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, 2018)
Figure 1. Categories of punishable sexual violence
Digital Sexual Violence has been a serious issue in the Korean society in recent years. Types of such crime diverged from revenge porns to putting micro cameras in public bathrooms. The violence was not acknowledged nor punished until recent, however through strong demands and continued demonstrations the law is finally starting to catch up the general awareness.
Figure 2. Reported number of sexual violence from 2013 to 2017 (Korean National Police Agency,2019)
Figure 2 shows that the number of sexual violence reported has been increasing steadily from 2014, although we the figure itself does not indicate whether the actual number of the crime committed has increased. According to the statistics accessed from the Statistics Korea, collected by the police force, 98% of offenders from 2013 to 2017 is male, while 86% of the victims are female. 12% (16,361 persons) of the victims were male, mostly harassed by same sex perpetrators.
The Burning Sun Gate
There are five key words to the ‘burning sun case’ which is now called as a gate, as what was considered as an assault case led to so many other serious crimes; Police corruption, tax evasion, illegal drug use, sexual crime and Yuri Holdings. Looking deeper to the sexual crimes within the night club, the profit-making structure of the Burning Sun more than shocking. The more devastating part is that it is safe to conclude that the Burning sun is not the only club in Korea that has such system.
Figure 3. Profit structure of the Burning Sun. MD stands for merchandiser.
As shown in the figure, MDs (staffs) putting illegal drugs called mul-ppong, a chemical substance named Gamma-hydroxybutyrate(GHB) has been confirmed during the investigation. (Lee, 2019) From the Kakao chats of Seung-ri, a member of Korean Idol group Bigbang and also a board member of the club Burning sun, MDs have been putting GHB into its female customers drinks to make them pass out and provide them to male VIPs. The biggest problem of GHB is that it is dissolved in water and alcohol, so that it leaves no trace in the body. It takes about 12 hours to be fully dissolved and let out through urine, so if the victim ever went to the toilet after taking the substance, it is impossible to find a proof that she has been drugged. Police bribery kicks in to the scene as well. There have been 122 police reports on the club Burning Sun after its opening last year, but the police never arrested any staff members or initiate an investigation. It turned that officers from Yeoksam police patrol unit, which is in charge of the area where the club is located, was bribed. Seven police officers were charged with bribery, and further investigation is currently ongoing with the focus on higher powered officers in the police force. In conclusion, in the what is now called a ‘rape cartel’, all parties except for the victims who went to the club benefits either monetarily or sexually.
Korean Legal Information Center. (n.d.). 성폭력의 범위. Retrieved from easylaw.go.kr: http://easylaw.go.kr/CSP/CnpClsMain.laf?popMenu=ov&csmSeq=687&ccfNo=1&cciNo=1&cnpClsNo=1
Korean National Police Agency (2019). 범죄 발생 및 검거 현황_전국. Retrieved from http://kostat.go.kr
Ministry of Gender Equality ad Family (2018). 직장 내 성희롱∙성폭력 처리 매뉴얼. Retrieved from www.mogef.go.kr: http://www.mogef.go.kr/mp/pcd/mp_pcd_s001d.do;jsessionid=uqhQwcejq7MpqF89XvFZHTIK.mogef21?mid=plc540&div1=tab1&&bbtSn=18