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Yoon seeks ways to reveal more identities of offenders in crimes against women

June 12, 2023 - 15:27 By Son Ji-hyoung
A victim (right) who survived a man's attempted rape and murder shows up in front of camera after a Busan High Court ruling on Monday that handed down a 20-year jail term to the offender. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol on Monday ordered the Ministry of Justice to prepare a legislation to disclose the identities of more offenders targeting women, in a bid to appease public anger toward hideous crimes where women fall victim.

According to a presidential spokesperson, Yoon ordered the government to do so "to swiftly address legal grey area" regarding the legitimacy over the disclosure of not only suspects but also defendants in courts, at a closed-door meeting of Yoon and his aides.

On the same day, the Busan appellate court at around 2:30 p.m. ordered the 10-year disclosure of the identity of an offender on charges of throwing a roundhouse kick to the head of a woman in her 20s -- a stranger to him -- knocking her unconscious and raping her in 2022. The disclosure order, however, will not be in effect immediately if the defendant takes the case to the Supreme Court.

The court also handed down a heavier punishment of a 20-year jail term to the man for attempted rape and murder, than a district court ruling of 12-year imprisonment for attempted murder.

The heavier punishment was sought after evidence of sexual assault was presented at the appellate court. Unlike in the appeals court, the rape allegation was not acknowledged by the lower court because the victim was dragged out of a surveillance camera's view after she collapsed and no other evidence existed.

The Korean law states that a criminal offender's identity should be revealed under extenuating circumstances, but details over the timing and procedure to do so are not specified.

All of the revelations of 32 suspects' identities from January 2010 to September 2020 took place before the court proceedings, according to a report by the National Assembly Research Institute in March.

This photo shows a man exerting violence against a woman in Busan in May 2022. (A screen grab courtesy of JTBC)

Public fear has been growing over the possibility of anyone becoming a random target of the offender -- whose identity was not revealed before the court proceedings as the case gained little media attention immediately after his arrest -- with some people demanding more information about him.

The victim claimed in a media interview that the offender was seeking to take revenge on the victim herself as soon as he finishes his jail term in Busan by collecting information about the victim such as her home address. The Justice Ministry on Wednesday said it was looking into the media report allegations, and pledged to take punitive actions if necessary.

What upped the ante was the unauthorized revelation of the assailant's identity by a YouTuber who goes by the name Caracula Detective. On June 2, the YouTuber's video revealed his photo, name, age and past criminal records.

The video also contained an interview with the victim, who said both the police and the prosecution rejected her request to reveal the assailant's identity, although she felt the need to prevent similar crimes from being repeated once the offender is released from jail.

A politician’s unauthorized disclosure of the offender's identity followed. Rep. Kim Min-seok of the Gangseo-gu district council in Seoul on Friday disclosed the Busan offender's identity on social media, inducing the offender to accuse the legislator of unauthorized identity revelation.

Revealing someone's identity in relation to a suspected crime is considered a criminal breach of personal information protection law in Korea, whose Constitution supports the presumption of innocence. Those who breach this law may face an imprisonment for up to three years.

However, such activities of Caracula Detective and Kim appear to have gained a public support. A poll of 5,000 respondents by Real Research Korea conducted on June 5-9 showed 55.2 percent were in favor of the unauthorized disclosure.