|A sign reading "Women Friendly Seoul" is displayed on the wall near a restroom in Seoul Metro's Sindang Station, Friday, where a female subway worker had been killed two days earlier by a male ex-colleague who was accused of stalking and harassing the victim. Yonhap|
Yoon vows to enhance protection for stalking victims
By Lee Hyo-jin
A murder case of a female subway worker by a male ex-colleague, which was committed one day before he was to be sentenced on charges of stalking the victim, has triggered public fury over the government's poor response to repeated stalking murders.
The 31-year-old former Seoul Metro employee, identified only by his surname Jeon, allegedly stabbed the 28-year-old woman multiple times with a weapon in a restroom at Sindang Station on Seoul Metro lines 2 and 6, around 9 p.m., Wednesday. The victim was immediately taken to a nearby hospital, but was pronounced dead after two hours.
Wearing a disposable sanitary cap, Jeon waited for over an hour in the subway station for the victim to show up and followed her as she entered the women's room to patrol the facility. He later told police that the act was premeditated and he had prepared the weapon in advance.
The two used to be colleagues after joining the city's metro operator in 2018, until Jeon was forced to quit in Oct.13, 2021, after facing allegations of stalking, harassment and voyeurism against the victim.
The woman filed a police report against Jeon on Oct. 7, 2021. But a court ended up rejecting a request for an arrest warrant, citing a low risk of him fleeing or destroying evidence.
However, Jeon continued harassing the victim even as the police investigation was ongoing, forcing the woman to file another complaint on Jan. 27 of this year.
The tragic incident came just one day before Jeon's sentencing hearing. Prosecutors had sought a nine-year prison term for Jeon.
This is not the first time Korea has seen stalking crimes result in the death of the victim.
In November 2021, a woman in her 20s was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Kim Byung-chan, in Jung District, Seoul, after he had been stalking her for several months following their breakup. In March of that year, Kim Tae-hyun brutally killed a woman whom he had stalked, along with her mother and younger sister who were present at the time.
Public anger is mounting over the government's repeated failures to prevent stalking murders despite the legislation of an anti-stalking bill last October.
|Jeon, a murder suspect accused of stabbing his ex-colleague to death, arrives at the Seoul Central District Court to attend an arrest warrant hearing, Friday. Yonhap|
Lee Woong-hyuk, a professor of police science at Konkuk University, viewed that the latest murder was potentially preventable, had the law enforcement authorities and court taken more active steps to separate the victim and the perpetrator.
"The court should have issued the arrest warrant. Even though there was a low risk of Jeon fleeing, the judge should have taken into consideration the possible harm the suspect could inflict on the victim. The police, for their part, could have used other measures stipulated in the anti-stalking bill to physically detain him for at least a month," he told The Korea Times, Friday.
"Stalking murders show similar patterns and thus can be prevented with preemptive response measures. However, the problem is that the authorities do not seem to understand the seriousness of the matter. Stalking is a serious crime which often escalates into physical violence and heinous offenses."
President Yoon Suk-yeol vowed that his administration will enhance protection measures to stem stalking crimes.
"The news (on the murder of the subway worker) is shocking the public," he told reporters, Friday. "Even though a bill aimed at preventing stalking crimes was enacted last year, many people are pointing out that it is insufficient to protect the victims. I will order the Ministry of Justice to introduce additional measures so that such crimes will never gain a foothold again."
For his part, Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon visited Sindang Station on Thursday evening. During the unscheduled visit, he told reporters that he "feels deep responsibility to have failed to protect" the victim.
|Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon speaks during a briefing at Gwacheon Government Complex in Gyeonggi Province, Thursday. Yonhap|
His ministry announced that it will make revisions to the anti-stalking bill in an effort to rectify loopholes in the current system.
Under the bill, those accused of stalking can be sentenced to up to three years in prison or fined up to 30 million won. Also, stalking with a dangerous weapon is punishable by up to five years in prison or up to 50 million won in fines.
However, civic groups have been criticizing the law as ineffective in addressing the core nature of stalking crimes that affect the daily lives of the victims and those around them.
In particular, they pointed out that stalking crimes are unpunishable upon the victim's objection. Considering that a lot of victims give up seeking penalization in fear of retaliation by the offenders, many perpetrators avoid criminal punishment after reaching settlements with the victim.