(Yonhap Feature) S. Korean women scramble for ‘safe breakup’ after series of femicides by ex-boyfriends


A 27-year-old woman, who asked to be identified only by her surname Lee, said she did not see it coming when her boyfriend, whom she had planned to marry, started obsessing over her ever since they started living together.

“Every time I was typing on my phone, he thought I was texting other boys, and he wouldn’t even let me buy coffee by myself, saying it was dangerous,” she said.

Lee eventually told him she wanted to end the relationship, but she couldn’t escape the violence that left her eye and chin purple.

For South Korean women, the term “safe breakup” is a renowned concept at a time when stories of dating violence, stalking or killings by their once-intimate partners are on the rise.

“Seriously ask your boyfriend to pay off your debts for you,” one comment read on an online community discussing tips on how to end a relationship safely without getting threats.

Park Ga-eun, a 24-year-old designer in Seoul, said that people close to her, including herself, tend to be careful not to reveal their home
addresses to their dating partners.

“It’s just to make sure they don’t take out the anger on our families in case we want to break up,” she said.

A safe breakup, which refers to ending a relationship safely without stalking, violence or threats, rose to the spotlight after a recent series of gruesome intimate killings against women that sent a shock wave through the nation.

Earlier this month, a 25-year-old medical school student, identified by his surname Choi, was arrested on charges of stabbing his girlfriend to death on the rooftop of a building in southern Seoul on March 6.

Choi, who has admitted to having premeditated the murder, reportedly told police he had committed the crime after his girlfriend told him she wanted to break up.

In another high-profile case in December, a South Korean man in his 50s, who holds a U.S. attorney license, allegedly bludgeoned his wife with a blunt weapon and choked her to death at his residence in Seoul.

The couple, who have two children, were known to be undergoin
g a divorce trial while living apart, and the crime took place when the wife was visiting her husband’s house to retrieve a bag belonging to her daughter.

Experts say the recent string of violence targeting women is deeply rooted in the prevailing perception that equates men’s will to control or possess women as a sign of “manliness and masculinity.”

“Men kill women after a breakup, when they should be going through heartaches, singing sad songs or drinking, like how normal people go through a breakup,” said Heo Min-sook, a research officer at the National Assembly Research Service with her expertise in women’s studies.

In South Korea, at least 138 women were killed by their male partners last year, and some 311 others survived attempted murder by their intimate counterparts, according to media reports gathered by the Korea Women’s Hot Line.

The number of people detained on charges of dating violence has also been consistently on the rise, recording 13,939 last year, a 55.7 percent leap compared with 2020
, data from the National Police Agency showed.

“This means they don’t respect their partners as equal human beings, but as their possession, subjects of their control and domination,” Heo said, adding this leads certain men to identify the breakup as losing their grip on their partners and hence leads them to seek ways to “punish” them for it.

The tendency to regard such violence as a private matter between two individuals adds to the problem, said Park Ye-rim, who works at the counseling center for the Korea Women’s Hot Line to consult victims of gender-based violence.

Park also criticized structural sexism, which blames women for what happened and eggs them on to find fault in themselves for the violence.

“Some victims call and ask if they can still receive advice when there was no evident violence involved, saying they just had a brief dispute,” Park said, adding abusive language or trying to control the victim’s behavior is also a type of violence.

Over half of the calls received by the Korea Women’s
Hot Line last year involved violence from their former or current lovers and spouses, according to Park.

Currently, dating violence is punished as assault or blackmail, crimes that cannot be punished against the victim’s will.

Some lawmakers have pushed for the revision of a law on domestic violence to include dating violence, but many experts are skeptical of its prospects, saying the existing law itself is too outdated and needs improvement, says Min Go-eun, a human rights director at the Korean Women Lawyers Association.

The current law comes with loopholes that allow perpetrators to get away with the crime without leaving a criminal record or clear their charges by taking treatment programs, she said.

“There are clauses in the law that stipulate that the victim’s say in whether to punish the perpetrator or not should be respected in the face of an indictment or court judgment,” Min explained.

“Unless the victim files for divorce, the fine penalty or punishment on the perpetrator puts an equal burden
on the part of the victim,” she said, adding it leads many victims to drop the case or refrain from seeking tough punishment.

Also, unlike stalking crimes, which are now punishable without the victim’s consent, domestic violence has yet to undergo the same changes.

Meanwhile, a new bill designed to punish perpetrators of dating violence and protect victims has yet to pass through the National Assembly due to conflicting views on how to define a “dating relationship” and to what extent government authority should intervene in violence occurring in a domestic setting, according to Min.

However, even if a relevant law is passed, legal measures alone are not the magic wand to solve the problem, experts warned.

“No matter how strongly we punish the offender, we can’t be sure that it will prevent the crime,” said Min, emphasizing efforts to change our social perceptions through persistent education to teach kids from early on of the appropriate gender roles and relationships.

“Social perception on the issue ne
eds to change first, which will lead to a cycle that raises awareness on such issues and policy can follow through,” Park agreed.

Referring to the newly coined term safe breakup, Park said it is unfortunate that people are left to come up with ways to protect themselves on their own.

“I think it reflects the distrust the women in our society have about the government keeping them safe from such violence.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

Popera singer Kim Ho-joong admits to drunk driving


Popera singer Kim Ho-joong on Sunday admitted to driving under the influence as he has come under police probe for allegedly ramming into a taxi and fleeing the scene in Seoul earlier this month.

The 33-year-old popular singer, who rose to stardom after appearing on the audition show “Mr. Trot,” is suspected of crashing into a parked taxi with his vehicle late at night on May 9 in Seoul’s southern Gangnam district and leaving the scene without taking after-accident measures.

Police suspected the singer was driving intoxicated, but his agency, Think Entertainment, flatly denied the allegation, claiming that the accident occurred due to unskilled driving.

“I drove intoxicated,” Kim said in a written apology released through his agency Sunday.

“I deeply regret that and reflect on myself. I will cooperate fully with the police investigation,” Kim said, apologizing to his fans for “hurting and disappointing” them.

Hours after the crash, Kim’s manager lied to police that he was behind the wheel at the time of
the accident, but Kim eventually acknowledged his responsibility the next day during police questioning.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

(LEAD) Gov’t calls on universities to finalize medical school quota for 2025


The government on Sunday called on universities to quickly revise their regulations to reflect an increased medical school quota for next year, in light of a court ruling that paved the way for the hike.

The comments made by Jang Sang-yoon, senior presidential secretary for social policy, came three days after the Seoul High Court rejected an injunction sought by the doctors’ community to halt the government’s plan to raise the nationwide medical school admission quota by 2,000.

“Taking note of this court ruling, we are relieved that uncertainty has been resolved for students and their parents who have been preparing for their university entrance anxiously,” Jang said in a media briefing. “The government will look to swiftly wrap up the necessary process for the 2025 academic year. I would ask each university to do the best to ensure there won’t be issues with admissions for 2025.”

Trainee doctors, medical professors and students wanted to suspend the government’s plan to increase the medical school quota
. However, the Seoul High Court upheld an earlier decision by a lower court, on the grounds that the petitioners had no specific interests compromised by the quota hike and hence were ineligible for an injunction.

Jang said the latest court ruling recognized the legitimacy of the government’s push to raise the medical school quota by illustrating the urgency of the need for the move and reaffirming the government’s continuous research into the plan.

“Now that the matter of the medical school quota has been settled, I would ask trainee doctors to return to work, even if they may not be satisfied with some things, and to actively voice their opinions,” Jang added. “The door to dialogue with the government is always open. I’d like to suggest a meeting without any unrealistic preconditions, such as going back to square one.”

The medical community has said it would appeal the Seoul High Court’s ruling to the Supreme Court and demand swift deliberation, considering the gravity of the situation.

In March, the go
vernment allocated 2,000 additional medical school admission seats to universities, many of them to schools outside the greater Seoul area, despite trainee doctors’ collective action to walk off their duties at major hospitals in protest.

About 20 legal actions have been taken by the doctors’ community and medical students to halt the quota hike, but no court rulings have been made so far in favor of them.

An association of medical professors previously warned that it would initiate a one-week suspension of medical services and opt out of services one day every week if the court rejected the injunction.

A senior presidential official told reporters Sunday that the possible suspension of striking doctors’ licenses and other administrative steps “depends on whether the doctors change their course.”

Under current regulations, the junior doctors are supposed to return to work by May 20 if they want to take a test to become fellow doctors, as suspension of training for more than three months would make them di
squalified for the test.

But exceptions are allowed if they have “inevitable” reasons.

“The government is finalizing the timing, methods and other details regarding administrative steps against striking doctors,” the official said, urging them to end the strike.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

Gov’t calls on universities to finalize medical school quota for 2025


The government on Sunday called on universities to quickly revise their regulations to reflect an increased medical school quota for next year, in light of a court ruling that paved the way for the hike.

The comments made by Jang Sang-yoon, senior presidential secretary for social policy, came three days after the Seoul High Court rejected an injunction sought by the doctors’ community to halt the government’s plan to raise the nationwide medical school admission quota by 2,000.

“Taking note of this court ruling, we are relieved that uncertainty has been resolved for students and their parents who have been preparing for their university entrance anxiously,” Jang said in a media briefing. “The government will look to swiftly wrap up the necessary process for the 2025 academic year. I would ask each university to do the best to ensure there won’t be issues with admissions for 2025.”

Trainee doctors, medical professors and students wanted to suspend the government’s plan to increase the medical school quota
. However, the Seoul High Court upheld an earlier decision by a lower court, on the grounds that the petitioners had no specific interests compromised by the quota hike and hence were ineligible for an injunction.

Jang said the latest court ruling recognized the legitimacy of the government’s push to raise the medical school quota by illustrating the urgency of the need for the move and reaffirming the government’s continuous research into the plan.

“Now that the matter of the medical school quota has been settled, I would ask trainee doctors to return to work, even if they may not be satisfied with some things, and to actively voice their opinions,” Jang added. “The door to dialogue with the government is always open. I’d like to suggest a meeting without any unrealistic preconditions, such as going back to square one.”

The medical community has said it would appeal the Seoul High Court’s ruling to the Supreme Court and demand swift deliberation, considering the gravity of the situation.

In March, the go
vernment allocated 2,000 additional medical school admission seats to universities, many of them to schools outside the greater Seoul area, despite trainee doctors’ collective action to walk off their duties at major hospitals in protest.

About 20 legal actions have been taken by the doctors’ community and medical students to halt the quota hike, but no court rulings have been made so far in favor of them.

An association of medical professors previously warned that it would initiate a one-week suspension of medical services and opt out of services one day every week if the court rejected the injunction.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

(LEAD) FSS chief highlights ‘soundness’ of Korean capital market in meeting with global investors


The head of South Korea’s financial regulator has called on global investors to invest more in the South Korean market, highlighting the strong fundamentals of the country’s financial market and ongoing efforts to further advance them, the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) said Sunday.

FSS Gov. Lee Bok-hyun made the call in a rare investor relations (IR) event in New York on Thursday (local time), jointly with the Korea Exchange, the country’s bourse operator.

In his remarks, the FSS chief insisted that South Korea’s financial industry “has sufficient loss-absorbing capacity to respond to potential risks,” according to the financial regulator.

“Korea is eager to improve economic fundamentals through a full-fledged restructuring on the back of the soundness” of its financial industry, he added.

Lee’s trip to New York follows the launch of the government-led “corporate value-up program” in late February, which aims to boost the value of local businesses and remove the so-called Korea discount, where loca
l shares are traded at prices lower than their fundamentals.

Lee said Seoul’s policy efforts would “contribute to making Korea a more attractive investment destination and also to creating synergy between foreign financial institutions entering Korea and Korean companies expanding overseas.”

Harvey Schwartz, CEO of Carlyle Group, expressed his gratitude for South Korea’s efforts to communicate with global investors through the event, attended by some 240 representatives from various global financial institutions, including Morgan Stanley and Blackstone.

Lee also held separate meetings with representatives from Carlyle Group, Morgan Stanley and Blackstone to “promote Korea’s efforts to develop the capital market and listen to their valuable opinions,” the FSS said in a press release.

“Also, Gov. Lee reassured that the FSS will continuously work hard to improve investment conditions in Korea to stimulate foreign buying and global firms’ expansion into Korea as well,” it added.

The FSS said it expects the I
R event to contribute to raising global awareness about South Korea’s financial industry, noting that it sought to show how stable the country’s financial markets are and what the country is doing to further advance its markets.

Following the event, the FSS chief told reporters the agency is working to create a computer system for short stock selling, though there are some technical and legal issues to be addressed.

“My personal hope or plan is to partially resume short stock selling in June,” he said.

The FSS imposed a temporary ban on short selling in November last year as part of efforts to crack down on illegal short selling by global investment banks. The measure is set to remain in place through the end of June.

Meanwhile, Lee held a meeting Friday (local time) with members of the Korea Finance Society on Wall Street and asked them to help promote South Korea’s ongoing efforts to develop its financial market and to act as a “bridge between the U.S. and Korea,” the FSS said.

Source: Yonhap News Age
ncy

Yoon credits closer S. Korea-U.S. ties with helping Buddhist relics return home


With rare 14th-century Buddhist relics having come home from an American museum, President Yoon Suk Yeol on Sunday credited tighter Seoul-Washington ties with making the return possible.

The celebration of the return of the relics, which are the remains of Buddhist monks from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), took place in Yangju, some 30 kilometers north of Seoul, with some 4,000 attendees on hand.

Called “sarira,” these remains had been housed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for 85 years after apparently being taken out of Korea illegally during the 1910-1945 Japanese colonial period. The remains are believed to originate from Hoeam Temple in Yangju, and Sunday’s ceremony took place on the lot where the temple once stood.

In February, the Boston museum agreed to return the remains to the Jogye Order, the largest Buddhist sect in South Korea.

Then a delegation of the Jogye Order collected the relics during a Buddhist transfer ceremony held in Boston on April 16. They were unveiled to the media in South
Korea three days later.

In his congratulatory address, Yoon said Sunday was a “joyous occasion” for the Korean Buddhist community and the Korean people alike.

“These relics are precious national heritage that represents the legitimacy and doctrines of Korean Buddhism, and it has been a long and arduous process to bring them home,” Yoon said. “As South Korea and the United States became closer, it led to the resolution of this issue.”

Yoon said the perseverance and hard work by both the Korean people and the government also played a part, with Buddha offering divine protection along the way.

“Such protection from Buddha wouldn’t have come without prayers and devotion from our people,” Yoon added. “Going forward, I will not evade difficult tasks in running the government, no matter how challenging they may be. I will continue to work hard for the people.”

First lady Kim Keon Hee accompanied Yoon at the ceremony, her first appearance in a public event since December. Kim did attend an official luncheon with
visiting Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet and his wife, Pech Chanmony, last week.

Ven. Jinwoo, leader of the Jogye sect, thanked Kim for attending and asked for her continued support for Buddhism in South Korea.

According to Yoon’s office, the Jogye Order asked for Kim’s presence because she’d played an integral role in bringing the remains home.

Source: Yonhap News Agency