Statistics not found: figures fail to paint a clear picture of intimate partner violence

Posted on : 2021-09-07 17:36 KST Modified on : 2021-09-07 17:58 KST
A lack of comprehensive statistics monitoring fails to capture the scale of intimate partner violence women face in Korea
(Getty Image Bank)
(Getty Image Bank)
A man in his 40s was arrested on Sunday for killing his wife, with whom he was getting a divorce. The man killed his wife with a sword when she stopped by to pick up her things. Her father was reportedly present when the killing occurred.

Another man in his 40s killed his wife with a weapon then took his own life in an apartment in Paju, Gyeonggi Province on Aug. 5.

The South Korean press reported 10 cases of husbands killing their wives in August.Two cases were reported while police investigations were still underway, and two after courts reached a verdict. These crimes show that a large number of women are losing their lives to the men who are closest to them.

Just how many of these killings occur each year? The answer is unknown.

According to an annual report published by Korea Women’s Hotline titled “Analysis of Killings of Women by Men in an Intimate Relationship,” 97 women were killed in this way last year, with 45 of the killers being their current or former husbands.

Since this figure is tabulated from news reports, the actual figure is bound to be greater. Nor does it include cases of attempted murder.

Uxoricide — the killing of one’s wife or girlfriend — is the most extreme form of domestic violence faced by women. But the lack of comprehensive statistics monitoring the actual scope of these killings makes it hard to raise awareness of the problem or to institute government policies to address it.

These killings are obscured by crime statistics produced by Korea’s law enforcement agencies. While police and prosecutors’ statistics include the relationship between criminals and their victims, spouse is not among the available descriptors.

Korea’s leading statistics about criminal activity are “Crime Statistics,” published by the Korean National Police Agency, and “Analytical Statistics on Crime,” published by the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office (SPO). The two types of statistics divide the relationship between criminal and victim into the following 15 categories: government, public servant, employer, employed, coworkers, friends, romantic partners, relatives living together, other relatives, parties to a transaction, neighbors, acquaintances, strangers, other and unknown.

By excluding spouses, it is difficult to determine the relationship between criminal and victim for such major crimes as murder, robbery and rape.

Spouses do fall into the category of relatives living together. But since that category also includes parents and children, as well as more distant relatives, it’s difficult to say for certain how many spouses are being killed.

As it turns out, the perpetrators and victims in the 1,050 murders that occurred in 2019 were more likely to be relatives — 27.1 percent — than any other type of relationship, likely because the category includes spouses, children, parents and siblings.

Needless to say, this also makes it impossible to tease out gender-based violence. While domestic violence generally refers to violence that occurs between members of the same family, men were the perpetrators and women the victims in 74.8 percent of the crimes of domestic violence that occurred in 2017 and 2018, according to the Korean Women’s Development Institute.

The SPO’s “Analytical Statistics on Crime” is organized by the classification of the crime. That means that murders or assaults that occur in the context of domestic violence are categorized with regular murders and assaults.

“Spouse killings are the most extreme example of violence against women. The problem is that those killings are slipping through the cracks in our current crime statistics,” said Chang Mi-Hye, a senior research fellow at the Korean Women’s Development Institute’s Division for Gender-based Violence Research.

“Crime statistics are a primary source used in policy making. If those statistics aren’t detailed enough, it will limit our ability to develop measures for dealing with [crime],” said Roh Sung-Hoon, a professor at the Korean National Police University.

Experts agree about the need to systematically monitor statistics on intimate partner violence.

“Intimate partner violence is an important indicator used for comparing gender issues in the international community. But Korea doesn’t fit into such comparisons since it doesn’t track the statistics,” said Chang Da-hye, a researcher at the Korean Institute of Criminology and Justice.

“First of all, we need to separate spouses from the category of relatives. We should also prepare separate statistics about intimate partner violence under the Act on Preventing Violence Against Women,” Chang said.

This act, which was passed in 2018 and took effect in December 2019, instructs the Minister of Gender Equality and Family to systematically collect, calculate and promulgate statistics related to violence against women.

By Choi Yoon-ah, staff reporter

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