Petition Started to Change South Korea’s Self Defense Laws

Here is another reminder that in South Korea you do not have the same right to self defense as most people would expect back in the United States or other countries:

US soldier assaulted by “concerned citizens” during the 2004 Shinchon stabbing incident.

Korea has a “stand-your-ground law” that allows people to use force to protect themselves or others against threats.

But many believe the law is nothing but a name because of its lack of flexibility for defenders.

Under the law, people are allowed to use force to “prevent unjust infringement of one’s or another person’s legal interest,” as long as there are reasonable grounds for that act and the degree of force does not go beyond reasonable bounds. But the law, as precedents and police guidelines show, deems using weapons and inflicting injuries on the attacker that would take more than three weeks to recover from unreasonable ― a standard many find almost impossible to meet in reality.

If both sides sustain injuries, police almost always press assault charges on both, regardless of how the fight started and how serious each person is hurt, urging them to settle and drop allegations.

“Police do not want to give an impression that they are taking sides with anyone,” Kwak Dae-kyung, professor at the police administration department of Dongguk University, told The Korea Times. “This is why police are cautious about making a conclusion that one of them did so for self-protection.”

Also, there are too many petty altercations for police to handle. “It just takes too much time and effort to find out exactly what happened with physical evidence for every single case,” he said. “Thus, police try to conclude the case quickly for everyone involved by convincing them to settle.”

Some people refuse to settle and bring the case to court. But the court rarely recognizes self-defense claims.

“The court interprets the law very narrowly, which is the key of the issue,” lawyer Kim Yong-min said. “As long as the court’s current interpretation stands, there are few things police and prosecutors can do to change it.”

According to the law, which states that the defense act should not exceed reasonable limits, the person should not use greater force than that inflicted on him or her, which Kim thinks is the most nonsensical part of the law.  (……..)

But change may be coming here. Over the past few months, dozens of petitions were posted on the Cheong Wa Dae website to urge the government and the National Assembly to revise the self-defense law.  [Korea Herald]

You can read much more at the link, but there are numerous examples over the years of victims of criminal activities being convicted by a Korean court for defending themselves.  The self defense law is even worse for foreigners when the Korean assailant can just lie and the police will likely blame the foreigner for the altercation.

Here are a few examples involving USFK servicemembers:

This all validates my long held advice that foreigners need to swallow their pride and walk away from confrontations with Koreans.  This is because the odds are high that the police will side with the Korean if the foreigner fights back.  Probably the most ironic thing about Korean self defense law is that if you are being raped and don’t fight back enough they will let the rapist go free.

Further Reading:

Do You Have A Right To Self Defense In South Korea?



I am a US military veteran that has served all over the world to include in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea. I have been blogging about Korea, Northeast Asia, and the US military for over 10 years.

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