A recent drama based on the true story of popular Korean singer L's encounter with a stalker was recently aired on TV, once again calling attention to the social issue of 'stalking.' The word 'stalking' (the act of tailing and harassing someone you are interested in) was coined only a few years ago, but it has already become a well-used term in the mass media.
Publicized cases usually involve celebrities, but just about anyone can become a victim, regardless of fame or popularity. According to a survey conducted in 1998 by the Social and Mental Health Institute of company S, 30%, or 400, of the 1,327 women surveyed answered that they had been victims of stalking. It is estimated that about 10% of Korean women in their twenties have been victimized.
The damages of this social phenomenon is much more serious than you think. Most of the victims complain of extreme anguish, saying that "you will never know how it feels unless you become a victim yourself." And because stalking usually continues for several months or even years, the prolonged ordeal wreaks havoc on the victims' lives.
"The victims know very little about the stalker, but the stalker knows everything about the victim."
Counsellor Ha Eun Joo of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center says that "at the heart of stalking lies terror." For victims who receive regular death threats for months or years at a time, it is impossible to lead a normal life. They become frightened when they spot anyone who remotely resembles the stalker, and some even develop a fear of men in general. Just the sound of a ringing telephone sets them trembling, making normal daily activities impossible. Their entire lives are affected, from schooling to finding jobs or spouses.
Despite the severity of stalking-caused damages, no specific measures seem to be in place to eradicate the crime. Criminologists define stalking as "a unilateral violence that is devoid of common sense." It is not surprising that victims are unable to deal with the threats posed by stalkers on their own. Another thing that further alienates and endangers victims is the warped sympathy some people feel for the wrongdoer, whom they think are driven to stalking out of true love.
Also, even if the victim seeks legal assistance, there are no applicable laws in Korea to bring stalkers to justice. Unless the stalker has gone as far as kidnapping or physical violence, the only thing the victim can do is sue the stalker for petty crimes. So even the legal system does not guarantee the victim's safety.
In May 1999, the 'Special Bill on the Punishment of Stalkers' was submitted for deliberation at the National Assembly. But the bill died with the end of the session, bringing public discussion on the issue to a standstill as the mass media turned its attention away from it.
Stalking is a social crime that completely destroys the lives of not only the victims but their families. Criminologists recommend legislation to punish the crime in order to prevent what starts out as shadowing from turning into serious crimes such as enforced confinement, rape or murder.