Does taking a picture of the legs of a woman in a miniskirt constitute sexual harassment or not? The nation’s top court said, ``No.’’
The Supreme Court acquitted a man of charges that he sexually harassed a young woman by taking a picture of her legs on the subway last December.
I'm just having fun, and have nothing against the blog. I hardly ever visit it because I don't care about what passes for fashion here, but I should spend more time taking advantage of their bilingual columns. Anyway, the real story here isn't taking pictures of pouty, curveless women with bored faces and no backside. The story is one of privacy, permission, and photography. The KT article concludes:
Women rights advocates criticized the ruling. ``No matter which part of the body the man photographed, it is an infringement of human rights if he took the picture without her permission,’’ said Kim Eun-kyung, a director of Korea Women’s Associations United.
``It is regrettable that recent court rulings are lenient to violators of women rights,’’ she added.
The Metropolitician---one of the contributors to FMS, if I'm not mistaken---has a long blog entry on "Korean Photo Paranoia," inspired by a recent news story at the time. From the Hankyoreh on January 12, 2007:
The man, identified as Jo, took a photo with his cell phone camera of a 50-year-old female sitting across him, identified as Choi. Choi then snatched the phone and stopped the bus. She reported the incident to the police and Jo was taken to a police station in Yongsan.
Jo claimed that he just had taken a picture of the upper half of Choi’s body, and had not focused on any specific section of her anatomy. The police investigated Jo for violating a law on sexual violence, but ended up sending the case to the prosecution for lack of evidence. The prosecution found that there were no photos of Choi stored in Jo’s camera, and also could not prove that Jo’s photos had focused on any particular body parts. Jo was cleared of the charges.
However, an official of the National Police Agency warned, "People who take photos of other persons without their permission can be brought to court. It is the same case for those who spread photos [of other people] through the Internet, even if they have taken the pictures with permission. People should not take photos of other persons in public places," advised the official.
The Metropolitician has a few examples of Koreans being displeased with their photo being taken whle they are in public places. He also has a few points gleaned and translated from a photojournalism textbook. An excerpt:
1) According to the 10th and 16th articles of the Korean Constitution, which defines a "right to happiness" and "right to privacy," respectively, as this is expressed in concrete terms in article 32, clause 4 of criminal law, a person entrusted with a picture of someone can't use or reproduce it without one's wishes or according to commercial whims, but "because there are no stipulations for punishments, one can only seek compensatory damages according to clause 750 of civil law," for which you have to show clear and concrete damages to one's person or reputation. That means, you gotta have lost a job, gotten a divorce, or something else o which you can put a dollar (or won) sign.
2) According to the book, since there are almost no actual precedents for seeking damages to "chosangkweon" alone – most of the cases shown in the book that set significant legal precedents were all cases in which individuals' images were used without their permission for commercial purposes – it is "little more than an academic issue."
Well, since the advent of the Internet, "dog poop girl," and the woman in Hongdae who posed in a picture with two white boys and was essentially cyberstalked and threatened, Koreans are worried about their faces in pictures more than ever before.
The funny thing is, pretty much any case that most people chalk up to violations of one's "right to their image" are actually clear violations of their "right to happiness" and/or their "right to privacy." In the case of the woman whose image of her and her poopy pooch were passed all over the Net – along with her home address, telephone number, school, and major – her rights were clearly violated. The same is true of the woman who dared appear in a photograph with foreign vermin.
Teachers certainly know how students feel . . . they'll mug for each other's cell phones, but will often cover each other's faces when a teacher tries to snap a photo. Even a lot of the girls have obscured their faces in their class pictures.
Anyway, not sure if Koreans are as thoughtful about right to privacy when it comes to foreigners and those photos. (I'll leave it up to others to debate whether foreigners actually have that constitutional right in this country.) I do know of some bizarre examples. Most of us know somebody who has unwittingly appeared in an advertisement for their hagwon, whether on a flyer, on a website, or on a giant billboard. Me and some coworkers ended up in an advertisement for a 삼계탕 restaurant a few years back. And a woman in Mokpo was sleeping on a ferry to Jeju one time, and when she woke up she found a Korean couple standing over them putting away their camera.
I guess I'm a little paranoid about having my photo taken by strangers, because I never know where it'll end up. My weirdest experience was last fall at the Chungjangno Festival in Gwangju. There were a few tents set up in a parking lot, displaying old photographs of downtown Gwangju. Because I don't know where else to find old photos of this area, I started snapping a few photographs of the ones hanging there. After I took a shot, I turned to my left to see a Korean guy a few feet away with a huge-lensed camera pointed straight at me. When I turned to him he turned away. I went to another display, took a photo, and when I looked to my side he was there again, taking my photo from a few feet away. I went to another picture and looked over my shoulder to find him turning his camera away from me again. After I snapped another shot I found him again in my face with the camera, so I went over and chased him out of the tent. When I caught up to him I asked him who he was, and he told me he was putting together an art project for his university class. I'm not sure if what he was doing would be considered legal, but I do know it was highly annoying, and I suspect he wouldn't have photographed me had I not been a foreigner showing an interest in Gwangju. It was a street festival after all, and there were thousands of other