Min Ye-jin (pseudonym) was attacked on her way home on May 22, 2022. Her assailant kicked her in the head, at which point she lost consciousness for two days. Here, she speaks to the Hankyoreh on March 3 at a café in Seoul’s Yeoksam neighborhood about her experience as a victim of a publicized crime.
She was able to piece together her story from media reports. The media made her aware of the fact that her assailant was arrested after being on the run for three days, the fact that he told police that he did it because “he felt like she was giving me the evil eye,” and the fact that his charge was changed from bodily harm to attempted murder.
There were also facts that weren’t confirmed for her until the trial, which took place two months after the incident, such as the fact that she may have been sexually assaulted by her assailant, and that her attacker later submitted a letter of apology to the court.
“Shouldn’t I have been the first to hear about all of this?” Min Ye-jin (pseudonym) asked in disbelief while speaking with the Hankyoreh at a café in Seoul on March 3.
Min, 27, is the victim of the “Busan roundhouse kick” incident that occurred on May 22, 2022. On that day, a 32-year-old man followed Min, who was returning home after an outing, all the way to her apartment building’s elevator. He then hit her in the back of her head with a roundhouse kick and kept assaulting her after she collapsed on the ground.
Min regained consciousness two days later. She suffered a traumatic intracranial hemorrhage that required more than 16 weeks of treatment and left her permanently paralyzed from the ankles down. But even more distressing than the physical suffering she endured was the way she was excluded from the investigation and trial process.“I don’t remember what happened to me”
Perpetrators of crimes are advised of their Miranda rights immediately prior to their arrest. “You have the right to an attorney, you have the opportunity to defend yourself, you have the right to refuse to make incriminating statements, and you have the right to apply to the court for the review of the legality of your case.” However, no one tells victims what they can do, even though they too must endure the painful process of investigation, prosecution, trial and restitution.
This is due to the “state prosecution” principle, which declares that individuals have no right to sue and that criminal proceedings can only be initiated by the prosecution service, a state agency. Of course, even under this doctrine, law enforcement agencies can still work with victims. That is not what happened to Min.
The most outrageous aspect is that Min did not even find out what state she was found in until after the trial, which took place two months after the incident. Despite her family and friends’ concerns that it would only traumatize her, Min sat in the courtroom because she wanted to know what had happened to her that day.
During the trial, she learned that the man moved her out of the CCTV’s blind spot and spent eight unaccounted-for minutes somewhere. She found out that her pants were unzipped when she was found and that her underwear had been removed and had been hanging on her right calf. Min was confused.
“I don’t have any memory of the incident, so how was I supposed to know if or how I was sexually assaulted? I mean, who wants to admit to being a victim of a sexual offense? I hope that it didn’t happen, but I feel like too much time has passed for me to get sufficient evidence.”
Min was not given the opportunity to appoint a public defender to represent her in the criminal trial. According to the Ministry of Justice’s enforcement decree, the Rules on the Selection of Public Defenders by Prosecutors, a victim may only appoint a public defender in cases of sexual assault, child abuse, abuse of disabled people, and human trafficking. Attempted murder charges do not qualify.
Min was not even allowed to see the investigation records and evidence during the criminal trial. She was only able to access the records after she hired her own lawyer and became a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit for damages against her attacker. It wasn’t until five months after the incident that she obtained the original CCTV recording.
“I’m a victim, yet they say that victims are not a party to the trial. There are no lawyers for the victims, and prosecutors have to be neutral since they have to decide what is right and wrong. So of course, I feel like I have no one on my side.”No forgiveness from the victim, but apology accepted by the court
Min felt helpless after learning that the perpetrator submitted a letter of apology during the trial, which the first instance court took into account. The court sentenced him to 12 years in prison, eight years less than the prosecution’s request. It wasn’t until she searched for the case on the court’s website that she learned that her attacker, who has not apologized to her directly, had submitted such a letter to the court.
“I wondered who he was apologizing to, when I haven’t even forgiven him yet. I wanted to see what he wrote, but I don’t have the right to see it.”
It has been more than 10 months since the incident, but Min still only sleeps about two hours a night, even with the help of sleeping pills. When she is outside walking on the street, she gets so anxious that she has to walk quickly and constantly checks over her shoulder.
She has returned to work, but her attention span has suffered greatly. When she gets online, she finds herself looking up “witness protection programs” and “electronic tagging bracelets” every day.
Many victims of crime are fated to a daily life that alternates between anxiety and anger, frustration and pain. But the hardest part is the absence of dignity that occurs after the incident.
“Since the victim keeps questioning everything, they are unable to forget it. It makes you feel like your entire existence has been wiped away. Why should the victim feel so small, when the perpetrator seems to be able to retain their dignity?”
By Kim Ji-eun, staff reporter
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