Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A teacher on Dave's ESL Cafe posts about an illegal cab driver who forced her into his car and assaulted her in Seoul last Thursday. The post and the responses brings up a number of familiar points of discussion: police inactivity, overdrinking in Seoul, and unsafe taxi drivers legal and otherwise.


S said...

It's distressing to be in a country where the police just don't care if you are kidnapped or your apartment is broken into with the purpose of raping you.

It's also distressing that so many people in that thread immediately say, well, that's why women shouldn't drink. Lots of women here can tell you stories about being sober, conservatively dressed, walking around in broad daylight and being physically and verbally harassed by Korean men, because they know they can get away with it.

Being different in Korea is a lot like wearing a "Kick Me" sign on your back; being female just makes it worse. Even when you avoid situations that would damage your credibility, the danger is always there that some ajosshi is going to grab you on your way home or break into your apartment, and there's nothing that you can do about it except kick him in the balls and run as fast as you can.

arvinsign said...


check the crime rates in other countries even from where you came from, and you will feel safer in Korea.

lisag_nz said...

All due respect arvinsigm, but I find that a surprisingly lazy argument. Just because it happens in higher rates in other countries doesn't make it acceptable in Korea.

Besides, crime rates don't necessarily equate to real-life experiences, particularly when harassment, which might not reach the level of a reportable crime, is concerned.

I've lived in Korea and now live in New Orleans, which has a notoriously high crime rate. I know where I got harassed more.

S said...

In Canada, I've gone to the police for help when my house was broken into, and I've called them on my neighbour when he was beating up his girlfriend. In both cases, the police responded quickly and professionally.

I'm aware that there is crime everywhere, but there is certainly more crime when there is no deterrent. The general crime rate in Korea may be low, but we're not the general population.

arvinsign said...

@ liza

i agree, statistics doesn't equate to real life experiences. But personal experiences of one or 10 or a 100 people who has access to internet to tell the tales (mostly context or situation dependent) is nothing compared to a birds eye view of a country's situation as far as safety on the streets is concerned.

Mike said...

I have to disagree arvinsign. Having a bird's eye view is often the best way to miss what is actually happening on the ground. Generals have no idea how many bullets are flying at their troops, even if they can tell you the number of reports of being fired on.

It's the same here. I see it DAILY. Women are grabbed, oggled, shoved, stared at, verbally assaulted... foreign women seem to be a bigger target too!

In Korea I flash my money around and walk down alleys at 4am. I'd never do those things in Chicago. But my female friends are afraid to take a bus and dine alone here, among other things, and they'd never feel that way in Chicago.

arvinsign said...

Fair enough Mike. You have the point there. But maybe one point i missed emphasizing though is about the degree or gravity of crimes. Im not comparing Korea only to US or Canada, what im saying is more of a global comparison how safe it is here as compared to the rest of the world.

Talking about the numbers, yeah i heard constantly that women here are being stared at, verbally assaulted but not so much on rapes or any form of physical assault. Too many under-reported cases, yes its possible.

Im quite confident its not as high as compared to the West or worst in the Middle East and Africa. Relatively, its safe here, even for women. And i feel like some people are too much exaggerating on their description of how unsafe Korea is, or how futile the police force is in here as if they are living or came from a perfect world.

A hundred or a thousand cases of women being stared at, verbally assaulted, oggled, grabbed from behind is nothing compared to a single case of rape or rape with murder which is very common in many countries.

Hbanana said...

@arvinsign--Good arguments, but I think you're missing the main point which is that the Korean police rarely give a sh** when women are assaulted, especially foreign women. It's great that Korea is *generally* safer than the world at large, but it doesn't take away from what happened in this case and in other cases (both reported and unreported).

S said...

@ arvinsign

Being grabbed or yelled at is not nothing. Having less rape and murder in the streets than, for example, the Congo does not make me safe here.

I've been followed home. It's creepy and dangerous. I've had scary encounters that other Koreans noticed and ignored, leaving me trying to deal with it myself. I don't walk around my neighbourhood without my husband anymore, and I'm moving this summer to a safer apartment, but I still don't feel safe. I realize that you think I should, but that's just not my reality here, and I don't think (from your avatar) that you have first hand knowledge of being a foreign woman in Korea. I'm not sure what statistics you're looking at (I didn't find any international stats in a quick googling) but rape statistics are deeply unreliable by nature, especially in cultures that discourage reporting.

Please don't think I don't like it here. I try to balance my bad experiences with all my good experiences here and on the whole I genuinely like living and working here. I'm studying Korean and I plan to stay here for several years. I am, however, aware than I am not always safe here - and that knowledge is much better protection than thinking no harm can come to me.

S said...

Ooh, statistics: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_rap_percap-crime-rapes-per-capita

According to this page, South Korea is 16th in reported rapes worldwide. (As I noted above, all rape statistics have a wide margin of error, especially in cultures that discourage reporting.)

Emma said...

While the crime rates may be lower, it doesn't change the fact that rapists and the like have gotten off fairly easy in the recent past and continue on to pillage. While these are mostly just cases involving Koreans, there are cases involving foreign women as well.

As for personal experience, I've heard my friends talk about men getting off with probation for putting women in hospitals from beatings, and I myself have been attacked while walking home, oogled, told I was a 'sexual looking girl' while standing on the subway platform on my way to work (in a wool coat and baggy jeans, mind you), followed to my office (twice, two different occasions), etc.

While I can't say that the US is safer than Korea, I can say that nothing like this ever happened to me while I was living in Oklahoma or southern Florida. I suppose it depends on where you go, but definitely, Korea is not a very safe place for women, especially at night.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

Stats of low crime rates don't really mean anything here when police are known for not charging people who SHOULD be charged and prosecuted.

A former co-worker had his head bashed in with a pipe in a pre-meditated attempted murder by someone he knew... police not only did nothing, they went out of their way to make sure it looked like HE was the one at fault, and made sure the hospital knew this (thereby rendering his insurance void, forcing him to pay out of pocket for the staples in his head)

Korea IS a safer country... as long as you are Korean and male.

Puffin Watch said...

"check the crime rates in other countries even from where you came from, and you will feel safer in Korea."

The real meaningful comparison would be crime rates in your demographic class. For example, if you live in a city with a high murder rate but the murders are primarily drug deals shooting each other, you probably don't have to live in fear.

What's the crime rate in Seoul against young white females vs the crime rate against young white females in Toronto? Yes, we only have anecdotes. However, being white and female in Seoul makes you highly visible to predators. That tends to increase your chances of being a victim of sexual assault.

Frankly, arvisign, your statement is meaningless, as is your point.

"Korea IS a safer country... as long as you are Korean and male."

Well said.

Puffin Watch said...

||According to this page, South Korea is 16th in reported rapes worldwide. (As I noted above, all rape statistics have a wide margin of error, especially in cultures that discourage reporting.)||

Indeed, S. It's a matter of definition, the willingness of victims to report it, and the willingness of cops to lay charges.

Canada is very high in those stats. Does that mean a woman is less likely to be raped in Korea? Or does that mean a woman is more likely to report her husband or a family is more likely to turn in a relative for raping a member of the family. A woman is more likely to report sexual assault by her boss at work. Etc.

Brian said...

For what it's worth I always felt safer in Korea than I do/did in the US. Maybe being a white male has something to do with it, but I know that I've never been afraid to walk around large cities in Korea alone at night, whereas even in a "most-livable" city like Pittsburgh there are plenty of neighborhoods where doing so would get me robbed or killed.

That said, I've always qualified my feeling of safety with a statement like "Korea is a safe country, until something happens to you." That is, and this doesn't sound that great, you can generally have a very safe experience in Korea---male or female, Korean or foreign---but if something does happen, you have to understand nothing will come of it.

Now, we can give examples of bad policwork from all over the world, and the US is no exception. You might even put the US and South Korea on two different extremes: in South Korea the police hardly do anything, where as in the US they're pushy and obsessed with power and authority.

But, we all have stories or personal experiences to remind us that you really can't count on the police for anything in Korea. We've read in the newspapers and on blogs that this frustration isn't exclusive to foreigners. There are several examples on this blog: remember a couple years ago when a young girl was beaten by an old man in an elevator, on tape, and the police didn't move a muscle until the president of the country paid a visit?

Chickjin said...

On some level, the "feeling" of safety is completely subjective. Who you think may or may not attack you can depend on your own and the surrounding area's class, race, gender, pop. density. I've always felt safe in cities- and lived in the heart of a few- Philly, Boston, and Seattle.

Some of us can't go into small towns for fear of the, "what doya think you're doing here,____(fill in racial slur)"

As was said by several posters above, you can claim Korea is safer than the U.S. or Canada, all you want, but that don't make it true for everyone, despite quoting "statistics".

Personal experience, I've been groped, grabbed, and sexually harassed more here than any other place I've lived. And not exclusively when drinking or dressing "provocatively". Stories from my peer group (expats) follow similarly, and include assault incidences.

While rape and assault statistics cannot be trusted because of various societal/familial pressures not to consider or report these incidences, we can look at other statistics to see how much women are valued, how much power they have, in our country of residence- employment statistics, for instance.

Its not a far jump to see that a society which devalues women is not "safe", either for women or children. Oh, to be born an adjossi...