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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Tragic Child Abuse Case in Guyeong-li

Today at lunch, my friend recounted to me a story she’d heard in the news. An 8-year old girl in Guyeong-li (a suburb of Ulsan, just outside of Mugeodong) had been beaten to death by her step-mother. Apparently the girl was about to go on her first school outing and had asked for some kimbap (a typical picnic food). When her step-mother had refused to make some for her, the girl stole 2,000 won to buy some at a local shop. Autopsy results show 16 broken ribs, and the reports are the little girl was beaten for 2 hours. The investigation has revealed an ongoing abusive relationship, and left the neighbourhood reeling at the news.

This tragedy brings to light an issue here that is very often overlooked, or kept quiet within families. There has been a push in many Western countries in recent years to bring domestic violence out from behind locked doors and into national focus, but like many cases at home, here it has very much remained “none-of-your-business”.

My first year teaching here, one of my middle-school students arrived one day with circular marks on her hands. I asked her what happened, and she lightly said, “Oh, I got a bad mark on my math test, so my father burned me with his cigarette.” I was horrified, and went immediately to a co-worker to ask what we should do, who we should report it to. I was told nicely to not worry about it. That this kind of thing happens, and it was none of my business. “Don’t interfere,” I was told. I was at a loss as to what to do at that point, and not knowing Korean law or procedures, I told the student that if she ever needed to talk, I was there for her, and I would help her – but beyond that, I felt helpless.

A few years later, my housemates and I overheard a horrible fight between a mother and her adult daughter in which it was clear someone was being beaten. Again I asked a Korean friend for advice, and again I was told to stay out of it. I was told (though I now doubt how true it was) that the police wouldn’t bother with a fight between parents and children.

Well, now I can pass along a number that you can contact if you are in a similar situation to what I was in – the Dong-a Ilbo story on the death of the little girl in Guyeong-li had this number at the bottom – Child abuse reporting number is 1577-1391. I don’t know what the English abilities are, but if in doubt, try to get a Korean friend or co-worker to help you out. Child abuse is illegal, and the police will investigate the situation. If a kid tells you they’re in trouble at home, you can call that number to report it.  If you hear an assault in progress, call the police at 112 (119 is Fire and Ambulance, though they will send police ’round if you call them – it just may take a little longer). They have a translator on call who can help you if your Korean is not ready for phone calls.