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[Opinion]Sexual Harassmen

Posted July. 14, 2003 21:59,   


Only about a decade ago, the Korean society had a vague idea about sexual harassment. Managers often asked female workers to make coffee and there were explicit jokes going around in office for relaxation. An old man whose family moved to a Western country was once involved in a court case after touching a little boy `in an inappropriate way.` Things have changed, however. A word or an act that provokes a sexual innuendo could lead to a lawsuit. Asking for coffee is now a thing of the past. A school principal in a primary school in South Chungcheong Province killed himself after being criticized harshly for asking a female teacher to make coffee.

Women account for 97% of victims of sexual crimes in this country. According to Gwn Ju-hee, director at the Korea Sexual Crime Prevention Center, however, there are a number of men who choose not to report the crime to keep their faces. So it is hard to estimate the number of male victims, Gwan explains. The center held a cyber debate on `sexual crimes in the military` in 2001, where a large number of participants engaged in heated discussions. This indicates that the problem of sexual crimes against men has been festering inside while the society turned a blind eye. The equal employment opportunity law covers not only sexual crimes committed by men against women, but also men vs. men. It seems, however, that the public hardly aware of this fact.

With a series of sexual crimes in the military making headlines, many parents are now worrying about their sons presently serving in the military. A young solider, who was on his leave, threw himself off from the top of an apartment building, and a high-ranking officer was arrested for repeatedly sexually-harassing his men on duty. It is said that seniors in the military used to arrange beds for good-looking newcomers beside his to `play with them.` It is sorry that the old practice seems to still exist. In the military environment, where obedience to seniors is seen as essential, this kind of abuse could thrive.

Sexual harassment in the military must be rooted out, in particular, given that every young man in this country is required to serve for the country. With some draft dodgers choosing to cover their bodies with tattoos in a desperate attempt, the news on sexual crimes will only lead to a growing number of draft dodgers. It will also throw the damper on morale of men in uniform. Instead of making fuss about crafting preventive measures, the authorities must first look into what is happening in the military. The fact that the Ministry of Defense has no data regarding sexual harassment cases proves how unconcerned the authorities have been about this matter. Harmful germs living in shade must be killed by strong sunlight.

Song Moon-hong, Editorial Writer, songmh@donga.com