With shades of the infamous Na-young case, an appeals court in Seoul has issued a decision that may join the ranks of unfathomable judicial decisions in Korea.
Original article in Korean is at this link. (This translation corrects an apparent typo in paragraph 6.)
Four men in their twenties who were sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of sexually assaulting a 12-year old middle school student have been sentenced to probation by an appeals court. Prosecutors criticized the ruling, saying that “this court’s decision is incredibly tolerant of gang rape.”
On Wednesday the ninth criminal division of the Seoul High Court (Judge Choi Sang-yeol presiding) sentenced 20-year-old Mr. B and three other young men, all convicted of sexually assaulting 12-year-old middle school student A over a period of hours, to three years in prison and four years of probation. This is a lesser punishment than that imposed by the trial court, which sentenced them to six years in prison and ten years of offender registry.
The judge wrote in the opinion that “viewing the situation as a whole there is no evidence that the victim lacked the ability to resist… The trial court misunderstood the facts.” The opinion continued that “as Mr. B and the others acknowledged their crime, regret their error, have reached an agreement with the victim, and do not want to be punished, and as the defendants are young and this was their first crime, having no prior offenses rising to the level of a fine or higher, so we find this to be an appropriate sentence.”
In August of 2010 Mr. B and his friends received a call from one of their girlfriends (a student) saying that she was exhausted from drinking alcohol, then followed her to a motel and met A, who was with her.
They then went to another hotel, where they repeatedly sexually assaulted the intoxicated A over a period of three hours.
They were not subject to the law on sexual violence criminalizing rape of those 13 years of age or younger. The judge wrote that “Mr. B, unable to tell that A was only 12, committed his acts because he did not think she was 12.”
Prosecutors responded that “gang rape must subject to harsher legal penalty than ordinary sexual assault, so it is difficult to understand the appeals court’s sentence of probation.”
The trial court judge who issued the original, severe sentence said that “because they confessed that the victim was so intoxicated that she could not resist and knew that she was too intoxicated to do anything, I recognized that it was a forcible sexual assault.”
However, the appeals court judge said of the reason for overturning the trial court that “from their lustful attitude, it had been six hours since A had become intoxicated and arrived at the motel on the back seat of the motorcycle of her male assailant, so we sentence them to probation.” The court found that A had not been so intoxicated as to be unable to resist, and that she meekly accompanied Mr. B and the others to the hotel.