Thursday, June 19, 2008

Justice for the Miryang victims?

A Joongang Ilbo article from Tuesday titled "Court orders state to pay for ID leak of rape victims" tells us that
The nation’s highest court ordered the state to compensate victims of a high profile 2004 gang rape case for violating their human rights and leaking their identities to the media. Upholding a lower court ruling, the Supreme Court yesterday ruled in favor of two sisters and their mother.
To understand what led to this, you'd have to go back to December, 2004. As a Joongang Ilbo article from December 12, 2004 titled "Outrage sparked by serial rape case" relates:
The case was revealed to the public last week after police raided an Internet cafe in Milyang, Gyeongsang province. They were leading an undercover investigation after a family from Ulsan, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Milyang, reported that their daughters had been repeatedly raped and robbed for over a year by a group of high school boys.

After police rounded up 41 boys from three different high schools in the Milyang region, they found out that the boys had been molesting and threatening five teenage girls, including the two middle school-aged daughters of the parent who reported the case.

(From here)

Police said a 14-year-old girl had been raped as many as 10 times by three to 24 high school boys. The boys reportedly blackmailed her to keep quiet unless she wanted pictures of her rape to be spread around her school. Then she was ordered to bring her younger sister and older cousin, aged 13 and 16, to Milyang. The boys told police that there were two more victims, but police said they are still trying to find out who the remaining victims are.
A Korea Times article from the time explained how the boys met her and then blackmailed her:
The boys allegedly met one of the victims, identified as Choi, 14, through chatting on cell phones, and sexually assaulted her when she visited them in Miryang in January. They then threatened to upload the scene of the assault on the Internet, and lured Choi’s sister and a cousin then raped them as well.
To elaborate, this Kyunghyang Sinmun article from the time says that Choi called the wrong number one day in January 2004 and talked to a high school student in Miryang who eventually invited her to come visit. When she did, she was beaten unconscious and dragged to a yeoinsuk (inn) where 10 high school students raped her. They recorded the assault with a cell phone camera and told her they would upload it and share it and her life would be over. By September 2004 she had returned 9 times, with 4-5 boys raping her each time. She brought her 16 year old cousin with her in January, and her 13 year old sister in July.

A Donga Ilbo article, "Police Once Again Hurt Victimized Middle School Girls," looked at the reasons the state will have to compensate the girls.
In the criminal case office room of South Ulsan police station during the afternoon of December 7, 10 boys accused of sexual assault were standing side-by-side in a single line.

A few minutes later, the police detectives brought in victim A with them and told her to point out their assailants. “A” pointed out few of the assailants with hesitation. Even though the alleged assailants were face-back to her, “A” couldn’t lift her head because she was too scared and shocked that she was standing in front of them again.

During the investigation of most criminal cases, and undoubtedly sexual assault cases, it is a standard procedure to make sure that the faces of the victims or the witnesses are not exposed. However, ignoring such procedures, the police exposed the victims to the assailants in the office where the suspects were interrogated.

Prior to this, “A” was beseiged by “H” (22) and other family members of the assailants as she was heading to the police station, receiving threats such as, “Let’s see if you can sleep well after reporting to the police. Watch out.”

A police related official explained, “The room to winnow the assailants is too small for more than one assailant to go in, so we have asked beforehand for the victim to point out the assailants.”

Meanwhile, it has been found that on the same day, Kim (39), a police senior patrolman of South Ulsan police station, insulted “A” in his office, saying, “My hometown is Miryang, and you girls have brought disgrace on the city.’’ The South Ulsan police station is planning to submit Kim to grave disciplinary punishment.
A post at the Marmot's Hole at the time describes what the officer actually said:

“Weren’t you girls waving your asses around and [kept] going there because you liked it? My hometown is Miryang, and you’ve destroyed the reputation of the town.”

The Donga Ilbo article continues:

Also, even though “A” requested a female police officer, saying, “Let me be questioned by a female police officer,” after the first or second questioning, it has been revealed that the male police officers questioned her because “there are too many alleged suspects and there aren’t any professional investigators among the female police officers.”

Perhaps this is a professional investigator? (from here)
On the arrest report announced on December 7 and the materials handed out to reporters, the police have stated that “A” (14,•Middle School Three) and her little sister (13,•Middle School Two) were sexually assaulted twice in July and September in Changwon and Miryang. However, both the victims and the assailants conceded that the little sister was not sexually assaulted but only hit with a blunt weapon.[...]

In the beginning, the police said, “Among the 41 boys caught, we have arrested 17 boys who directly participated in the sexual assault and we are still tracking down the 75 people who have not yet been brought in for questioning.” However, the police only arrested a total of 12 people, three people on December 8 and nine people on December 11, booking 29 others without detention. On Sunday, six days after gathering the accused high school boys, the police closed the investigation, saying, “No additional criminal acts have been revealed.”

Furthermore, the police have posted a statement of apology on their homepage, stating that “ignoring the demand for a female police officer to question the victims and for a police officer to insult the victims was indeed a wrongful act.”
The apology was likely a response to the outrage by netizens. As the 2004 Joongang Ilbo article noted,
the case sparked a demonstration in Gwanghwamun Saturday by 150 persons who decried officials handling the case.

“Police should protect the victims, not abuse them,” yelled one furious protester.
Others were angry that the victims were left unprotected while they and their families were threatened by the boys’ families.
"Rape is dismissed with a caution???"
(From here, where more photos can be found.)


Not mentioned in the English language articles (but described by the Marmot) was the fact that quite a few netizens had found pictures and homepages of the rapists and posted their photos, email addresses and phone numbers and urged other netizens to harass them:


The problem was that quite a few of the photos and names were wrong. The Joongang Ilbo was quick to blame internet porn
This case is a stark example of how diseased our society has become. There is no denying that the disintegration of our home and school education has reached a dangerous level. Adult entertainment industries that have invaded districts and the porn sites on the Internet are drawing our adolescents into sexual crimes. Such an environment is afflicting the moral conscience of our youths.
The Hankyoreh criticized social attitudes:
Citizens are feeling rage at police handling of a major rape case in Miryang. Approximately 40 high school boys took turns raping five middle school girls over the course of a year, and that was shocking enough. The next shock came and turned into rage for the families of the victims and the general public when the police applied for arrest warrants on only three of the boys and "dismissed with caution" (hunbang) the rest.

The police have belatedly announced they will change the investigating team and engage in a rigorous investigation into the actions of the other boys. Most of the perpetrators may be students, but when you think of the unspeakable mental and physical pain inflicted on the girls there must be commensurate punishment.

The case is a demonstration of how twisted the culture of sex is in our society and of the current state of women's rights. The perpetrators held the victims captive in a continuous cycle of sexual violence by threatening them with physical violence and disclosure of videos of what happened. The girls were experiencing terrible suffering and yet did not report what was going on for fear of reprisals and what others would think. It is a tragedy that originated in our society's low level of human rights awareness and a culture of sex that allows tolerance for men while being strict towards women. It was apparent in the way the case was handled as well.
The two sisters who were victimized and their mother filed a claim against the government, which was ruled on in mid-August, 2007, as reported by the Korea Times and the Joongang Ilbo:
The Seoul High Court ruled yesterday that the government must pay 30 million won ($31,560) each to the two teenage sisters, and 10 million won to their mother. They had filed the complaint against the government asking for compensation for the police officers’ illegal investigation procedures and insults made by the officials about the girls.

“It is evident that the victims felt humiliated and insulted by the police officials’ remarks,” said the court ruling. “Making the victims point out a person who sexually assaulted them among 41 suspects lined up in front of them in an open police office also violated police regulations designed to protect the human rights of victims.”
In December 2004, the story of the sisters, now 16 and 18, who were sexually assaulted by 41 high school boys for about a year in Milyang, South Gyeongsang, shocked Korean society. A police official at Ulsan Nambu police precinct asked the victims, “Did you try to entice the guys? You ruined the reputation of Milyang. The boys who would lead the city were all arrested. What are you going to do?” according to the ruling. “I am afraid that my daughter will be like you,” the official also said.

Some police officials went to a karaoke and revealed the names of the victims to hostesses there. “When the victims are teenagers, it is even more necessary to protect them and if the victims directly confront the suspects, the victims can suffer greater damage, such as revenge and more,” said the ruling.

No suspect in the case was convicted of criminal charges and only five were sent to a juvenile correctional center.
No criminal charges? Well, we wouldn't want to ruin these gang rapists' futures by convicting them of anything, now would we? On top of tis, the ruling was obviously appealed, as it was only this week that the supreme court ruled on the case.
“By making the victims identify their attackers in an open area, the police failed to protect the rights of the victims and caused them to suffer humiliation,” the Supreme Court said yesterday in the ruling. “Such an act can never be justified even with the stated claim by the police that they did so to expedite the probe.”

Initially a district court ruled only that police improperly leaked the victims’ identities and set compensation at 15 million won in total. An appeals court said the state was responsible for broader rights violation by forcing the minors to identify their attackers face to face.

Upholding that ruling, the Supreme Court said the state must pay each sister 30 million won and their mother 10 million won. The court said another factor in its ruling were comments made by a police officer that the girls had hurt Milyang’s reputation.
It's not really a whole lot for their trouble, is it? Hopefully it brings the victims some sense of closure - the justice system certainly didn't provide it by punishing their attackers.

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