[Update: There are English language articles in the Korea Herald and Joongang Ilbo, with the latter stating the teacher has been fired.]
[Update below - I found the MBC news piece.]
I was out last night with friends and half-noticed a news item on the TV which showed what I realized too slowly was a list of ages of consent around the world, with Canada at the top (16/14) and then getting lower in age until Korea - but the list disappeared just as I was about to read the age next to Korea. Being at the bottom of the list, I assumed it was 13, which is what has been stated before (see here, and an in-depth look at the Grand Narrative here). I mentioned this to the Korean friend I was with and he told me a case about a married school teacher in Hwagok-dong having sex with her middle school student was all over the internet. It slipped my mind until now, but sure enough, it's in the Korea Times:
A 33-year-old female middle school teacher has been found having inappropriate relationship with one of her pupils. According to Gangseo Police Station in Seoul, the contract female teacher allegedly had sex with a 15-year-old student in her car at an underground park [at Yeongdeungpo Station] last week.It goes on to say that it's causing a stir on the internet, with her personal information being spread around, and lots of photos like this are appearing in different articles:
The teacher, who has worked at the school for more than a year, is married and has two children attending elementary schools, police said.
The relationship was revealed by the student’s mother, when she saw a text message between her son and the homeroom teacher.
The mother reported it to the police, but the police said they terminated the investigation as the two had sex under mutual consent and there was therefore no legal grounds to punish the teacher.
The current law punishes only adults having sex with those aged under 13. However, the school plans to fire the teacher for the unethical relationship.
[Update: This article mentions that the teacher and student were from H Middle School in Hwagok-dong. A search using daum's map turned up two schools beginning with H, and doing a search for the one not named after the neighbourhood quickly turned up a teacher's name, Cyworld page, photos, and an assertion that she was an English teacher. I doubt she'll ever work as a teacher again (though I believe an English village in Daejeon is currently hiring.]
What's really odd is that she is not being punished for having sex with one of her own students, something that would be illegal in, say, Canada, as people in a position of authority are not allowed to have sexual relationships with anyone under their care, even if they are above the age of consent. I'll try to track down that MBC report I saw last night, as it makes clear that the age of consent has been openly announced.
So the MBC report in question is here, and opens with shots of an underground parking garage to help set the scene of the encounter. It describes what happened and stated that the police had stopped the investigation before looking at similar cases in the U.S. and Taiwan (involving female teachers and male students) that resulted in 10 year and 8 month prison sentences. It eventually moves along to this:
Sex with [someone] under 13 - Unconditional punishment
[Sex With a] teen 13 and over - if the sex is consented to, there is no punishment
The next shot shows the chart I mentioned above titled "The sex 'consent age' of various countries." Notice how 'consent age' is in quotations, as if it is a new or foreign idea. The term in Korean (성관계 승낙 나이) is practically the same as the definition mentioned by James in his post, though as he noted it appeared overwhelmingly in reference to changes in Canada's age of consent law in 2008.
The chart lists ages of consent for Canada, Germany, Australia and Poland, almost all of which contradict what can be found on Wikipedia; Canada's is 16, Germany's 14, (there's certainly nothing about a difference between genders), Australia's is 16 or 17, depending on the state, and
MBN's piece on this case also contained this:
Rape or indecent assault/molestation of minorsSo much for the "healthy sexual development of minors" who are 13 and over, I guess. It's pretty incredible that that is offered as the rationale for protecting those under 13, since a glance at my grade 6 students would make it pretty clear that most of the boys and many of the girls have barely even begun puberty.
Article 307 of the penal code:
Sex with a minor under the age of 13 will be punished even if there is consent.
This is to give the healthy sexual development of minors under the age of 13 the protection of the law.
Some things to note while I think of it: According to marriage practices of the Joseon era, girls had to be married by the age of 16 or would face a great deal of social pressure to do so, as the single braid they wore marked them as unmarried (just in case unmarried women in their thirties think things are bad today). It might be a bit much to suggest that Korean law regarding sex with minors hasn't moved beyond laws 100 years ago, but with the age of consent as low as it is, who's to say? Also, it would appear that one of the premises of this film is off-base (wherein a female teacher spends some time in jail for seducing one of her high school students). And it's nice to see New Daily taking this seriously (in regard to the photos).
Going back to the MBC piece, and the chart above, I wonder if this is the first time such a discussion of Korea's age of consent - one comparing it with others around the world - has been on the news, especially one stating that Korea's age of consent, at 13, is the "lowest in the world."
I wonder if this will be the news item that pushes changes in the law to occur, though I have to wonder what the reaction would have been had it been a male teacher and female student.