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Seoul City to open shelters for stalking victims

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Jeon Joo-hwan, a former subway worker who murdered his female ex-colleague at Sindang Station in Seoul on Sept. 14, leaves Namdaemun Police Station on Sept. 21 to head to the prosecutors' office. Joint Press Corps.
Jeon Joo-hwan, a former subway worker who murdered his female ex-colleague at Sindang Station in Seoul on Sept. 14, leaves Namdaemun Police Station on Sept. 21 to head to the prosecutors' office. Joint Press Corps.

By Ko Dong-hwan

The recent stalking murder of a female employee at Seoul's Sindang Station has sent shockwaves throughout Korean society, focusing the public's attention on the problem of women continuing to be targeted and even murdered by stalkers, as existing protective measures by police are proven ineffective in many cases.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon on Monday visited the office of 1366 Seoul Center, a hotline call center for women suffering from various forms of violence and stalking, and listened to the voices of the employees there regarding the offenses and how victims are being treated.

The Gender Equality Policy Division under the city government's Women and Family Policy Office on Monday announced its initiatives for preventing further stalking incidents.

First, the authority will introduce three new shelters next month for stalking victims in the city ― two reserved for as many as 10 women and one for four men. The shelters, for the first time in the country, not only provide protection and psychological therapy to the victims, but also allow them to maintain their daily lives. At present, facilities designed to protect stalking victims limit them from resuming their daily routines in order to minimize the risks of exposing their whereabouts to stalkers.

Starting next year, the city will also launch a one-stop service for the victims, providing psychological therapy, legal support, medical treatment and protection. Currently, victims have to apply for each service separately. The one-stop service will be provided starting in 2024 by the city's new independent comprehensive support center dedicated to stalking victims.

Seoul Metro CEO Kim Sang-bum bows to the public after visiting a women's restroom at Sindang Station on Seoul Metro lines 2 and 6, Sept. 24, where a female subway worker was killed by a stalker on Sept. 14. Kim was criticized for not having prevented the crime in advance. Yonhap
Seoul Metro CEO Kim Sang-bum bows to the public after visiting a women's restroom at Sindang Station on Seoul Metro lines 2 and 6, Sept. 24, where a female subway worker was killed by a stalker on Sept. 14. Kim was criticized for not having prevented the crime in advance. Yonhap

Another measure starting this year prompts the city government and Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency to provide three home security appliances ― a smart doorbell, home security camera and door opening sensor ― to 500 stalking victims currently under police monitoring.

To raise public awareness of stalking crimes, the city government plans to publish a guidebook advising what actions should be taken to avoid stalkers, expand education programs and introduce online chatrooms for consultation and information-sharing for stalking victims. The city authority said that the online measures will be particularly effective considering that most stalking victims are in their 20s and early 30s and are familiar with online communication methods.

The city government added that it will start regularly surveying the public every three years from 2023 to assess how the crime affects society.

"From the future support center to shelters, our latest anti-stalking drives will be all about forming a joint cooperation network and strengthening a dragnet involving the city government and the police force," said Kim Seon-soon, chief of the city's Gender Equality Policy Division. "We will empower our city's support system for the victims by regularly monitoring potential victims and introducing management and treatment facilities for victims following the incidents."

After introducing new laws in April last year to punish stalking crimes and introducing follow-up regulations by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, the city government has been offering stalking victims consultations, medical and legal services with existing agencies and shelters that used to handle victims of domestic and sexual violence. But the absence of support centers specifically for stalking victims proved that there are definite systemic needs for those suffering from continuous harassment and stalking.


Ko Dong-hwan aoshima11@koreatimes.co.kr


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