Korean Supreme Court Overturns Sexual Harassment Ruling

Article from Yonhap News:

Supreme Court; Saying, “Sleep over,” while grabbing an employee’s wrist is “not harassment.”


On the 2nd, thanks to Chief Justice Lee In-bok of the Supreme Court, 61-year-old Seo who was charged with workplace-related sexual harassment and subsequently fined, saw his conviction overturned and his case sent back to Chuncheon District Court. His crime was grabbing a female employee’s wrist when she had visited [his] home, and telling her to sleep over.

According to the facts presented, in June 2011, Mr. Seo, manager of a laundry plant in Jeongseon, Ganwondo, and Ms. A were in the bedroom of [his] home. She was delivering some dry cleaning when he roped her into having a drink. Ms. A, feeling uncomfortable, said she would be going home. But as soon as she spoke, Seo grabbed her right wrist and said, “sleep over.”

In the first and second trials, the court acknowledged Seo’s behavior as “exerting his power over Ms. A as a superior, amounting to sexual harassment.” He was sentenced to pay a fine of 3 million won.

The Supreme Court disagreed, overturning the decision, citing that “Seo [merely] touched the wrist, a body part that would be difficult associate with sexual humiliation or disgust.”

Comments from Naver :


When it’s just the two of them alone, grabbing her wrist and telling her to sleep over, it’s sexual harassment. How is it not, exactly? It’s only sexual harassment if he grabs her legs, makes her lay down and rips off her clothes? No, it’s already harassment if it makes the person feel uncomfortable.


I bet they all do that when hitting on women… he says not guilty kekeke


So [the judge said] telling her to sleep over is [only] verbal harassment? Wow from the very start of the year I already feel dirty.


It’s kinda funny that he lured an employee into the bedroom but… a man living alone says to sleep over… and saying that in the bedroom… does that judge know just how scared that woman probably was in that moment?


It’s the supreme court. They go to the hostess bars, get a girl and have some fun. They probably think just grabbing some girl’s wrist is no big deal. kekeke


That judge has let his everyday thoughts affect his decisions. How the hell else could he end up judging the case like this?


I bet that judge does it too… grabs women by the wrist to go sleep with them…


I guess now someone’s gotta go grab the chief justice’s daughter’s wrist and tell her to sleep over.


kekekekekekekekeke So when they were alone together in his house, he tells his female employee to sleep over, and when she says no thanks and gets up to leave, he grabs her wrist – you’re saying that’s not harassment?


Even if I’m not sure about the whole just grabbing her wrist part, the fact is that they were alone, in a bedroom, and he told her to sleep over. They’re saying that nothing happened at all… It’s so sad, that woman lost her job and wasted a lot of time.


In Korea all the judges are perverts, so they’ll only acknowledge something if you get down to their level. If it’s anything less, it’s meaningless.


There’s no way “sleep over” could be innocent. Supreme Court judge, is someone only a victim of sexual harassment if their bodies were violated?


But if it’s your daughter, it’s sexual harassment!!!

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  • Chucky3176

    I am not going to say terrible things about the older people from our parent’s generation, after all, they were the ones who were largely responsible for Korea’s economic miracle. But their older minds have not kept up with modern times. Time and time again, I see this all the time with the older people who generally grew up in Korea’s difficult periods after the wars, that strongly advocated Confucian values. Practices and thinkings that have no place in the new modern times, are still being practiced by our elderly, and these supreme court judges are one perfect example of how the older generation still cling to their old ways and their old outdated thinking. In an era when you thought you had seen the last of the primitive backwardness in Korea, the old rears their ugly heads again to reminds you that the problems are still there. This is year 2014, what the fuck are those old judges thinking??? I think this will only change with the passing away of the older generation in another 20 years or so.

    • Chucky3176

      2015, not 2014.

      • wnsk

        I think Confucians would consider touching a female’s wrist as sexual harrassment.

        • Chucky3176

          I’m not trying to blame it on Confucians, I’m blaming it on older generation’s inability to change in changing times. I guess this is not unique to Korea, but what’s pretty unique in Korea’s case is that the older generation came from the Third World. They have the burden of making changes in a single generation, so it may be a bit unfair to expect that they get with the program all of a sudden.

      • Yaminah Jamison

        Lol I generally agreed with your comment but I was like “should I be that person……….?”

    • bigmamat

      Confucian “values” make it doubly hard for a woman to say no to structural sexual harassment. You would not only be worried about the potential loss of your job something that is the lynch pin of workplace sexual harassment. You also have the added bonus of trying to navigate in a hierarchical society that demands respect and compliance with anyone older higher up in the social strata.

    • momo

      for me most dissapointing thing about korea is how closeminded many young people are, even after 20 years it will be hard, maybe 2 generations later.

    • Small twon

      I don’t think younger guys are better ,many 20 something are ..spoiled self centered adult child who cringes anything resemble difficult stuff or don’t wanna have anything to do if that doesn’t benefit them directly in short term and when they don’t get what they want (they deserve or not)….they act like little nut VP . Strangely enough 30-40 guys, generation who fought military government (old man Chun) ..
      sure they are rough bunch and drank too much but they surprise me on many occasion, they care social justice and stand for what’s right.

    • Z Kim

      This kind of behavior is not so common in the North.

    • Adrian Lowe

      yes thanks the older generation for the miracle, but that doesn’t mean they can grab a younger woman’s wrist and verbally harras them.

    • elizabeth

      Instead of flogging a dead horse, it’s probably more effective to start slamming the producers of Korean dramas. Seriously, such acts are commonly portrayed as romantic gestures in many of them. Judging from the intoxicating influence of Kpop and Kdramas on their fans, mass media and Hallyu land is probably more guilty than Confucius.

      • bigmamat

        Somehow I don’t think a 61 year old guy is the demographic for Korean drama….certainly not the kind you’re suggesting…I think Korean woman, many of them educated in the west now are starting to fight back against the systematic misogyny they find in everyday life. Good for them, it will take the broader public longer to catch up. It’s about time the younger generation decided they can have an effect on the rules.

        • elizabeth

          Precisely my point. It is not only the old who are capable of sexual harassment. But the same acts are deemed acceptable when done by the younger ones as portrayed in dramas.

          It is regarded as being liberal minded and progressive, hip and whatnot, when the aggressor is young, but archaic and patriarchal if the he/she is old.

          Much of the rap songs out there today treat women as sex objects, but hey, that’s cool.

          • bigmamat

            Well yeah…I guess you’ve seen a Korean drama….

          • elizabeth

            Well yeah, I am actually a fan of Korean dramas. Apart from the usual Prince Charming and Cinderella plots, some dramas do a pretty good job at examining/throwing light on real-life issues…

          • bigmamat

            I watch dramas too but not for any kind of insight into real life issues. I never view entertainment that way. If I’m watching a documentary then of course. I’ve always loved sci fi, horror, mysteries that kind of thing. People love to dig and pick at those kind of stories looking for holes. I just try to enjoy them for the entertainment value since that’s the ultimate goal anyway.

          • elizabeth

            Dramas, pop culture, mass media etc. do tell a lot about a society, although not fully. Korean dramas are different from Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Singaporean ones in style, themes, characterization etc. besides creative considerations.

            I watch dramas (documentaries too, when available) primarily to get to know Korea better and to listen to Korean. My favorites for entertainment at the moment are reality shows like Running Man and The Return of Superman.

          • bigmamat

            Well don’t go around on the internet using Korean dramas as a basis for your knowledge about Korean culture. You will get a lot of criticism for it, not by Koreans of course because very few of them visit the english speaking sites. Other people will really give you shit for making generalizations about the “culture” if that’s your main reference. I’m no expert on “pop culture” but you will find a lot of people on the internet think they are because they took a film course or some pop culture crib course in college. Just like all the “gender studies” experts you find out here. I haven’t watched Running Man or Return in a long time. They are ongoing and those kind of shows get boring to me pretty quickly. You want to know the reason I watch Korean dramas? I’m not going to lie. There are two reasons I watch Korean dramas. The men are pretty and most of them only last 16 to 20 episodes. I got tired of American television because I can’t follow a TV show for years and years. I just get bored. My favorite media is actually movies and always has been.

          • elizabeth

            Korean dramas and other third party media aren’t my only source of information, but they are not completely off the mark about Korean culture. Through first hand experiences and people I know, I find that sometimes, reel mimics real and vice versa. Same goes for other cultures.

            I used to follow American series. Seldom now, unless I can find reruns of older ones. Movies are too short for characters and plot to be developed in-depth. That’s why I still prefer dramas.

            Yes, some actors do give me more reason to watch dramas.

          • bigmamat

            I didn’t mean for you to think that dramas or entertainment and media output doesn’t reflect social norms only that if you talk about it people will try to prove you wrong. I think popular culture does often reflect the current social culture, unless it’s being manipulated by the media and the government. So yeah, I agree with you. I was just warning you because if you go around commenting about it you will eventually run into people who will not agree….often vehemently. lol

      • Sid Driver

        Sadly, quite a few of my Korean guy friends have advised me to just go up and grab a girls wrist to take her with me or for wherever reason. I’ve been told by these guys that ‘girls like it’, or it’s ‘just being a man’, or ‘she needs you to take the lead’.

        I didn’t have many aggressive male friends back home so I’m not sure if it’s the same, but I do see it romanticized all the time in Korean dramas. (Girl walks away. Man grabs girls wrist. Slow-mo to her turning around. Dramatic eye contact. Then either kiss or cliff-hanger.) ㅋㅋㅋ

  • This is another bad article arising from lack of legal knowledge. The opinion makes perfect sense, and there is no reason to lament “outdated thinking” or “Confucian values.”

    Under Korean law, there are two kinds of sexual harassment: criminal and civil. Criminal sexual harassment is about harassment by physical touching, while civil sexual harassment includes verbal harassment. What the Supreme Court said in this case is that grabbing wrist, in and of itself, is not *criminal* sexual harassment. The opinion makes this point very clear–that while the action may constitute civil sexual harassment, it is not a criminal one.

    • David

      When you grab a woman’s wrist, to stop her from leaving the bedroom you tricked her into entering, after pressuring her into having a drink, how can you possibly say it is not criminal? The last time looked, grabbing a wrist is pretty physical. That being said it is very possible he made the correct legal ruling (not being a judge in Korea I am not an expert) but the comments by Korean citizens certainly seem to indicate what they think the law SHOULD be and how the case SHOULD have been decided.

      • It’s not criminal because it does not violate the criminal law, which is pretty specific. It would have been criminal sexual harassment had the man groped the woman’s breasts, buttocks, or other body parts typically associated with sex.

        Comments by Korean citizens only indicate that they are ignorant of the law, as articles like Yonhap’s misinform them. The law makes sense (since over-criminalization comes with its own peril,) and the case must follow the law. That’s what having a rule of law means.

        • elizabeth

          It should be classified as criminal. Arms, legs, neck or any other body part can also be associated with sex especially in a case where sexual intent is implied.

          • RegisterToPost

            So you’re in favor of tossing people in jail based on implications?

          • elizabeth

            I am in favor of criminal punishment for sexual harrassment, not only civil liabilities.

          • Chucky3176

            That’s going to put a lot of people in jail, and the prisons would be overflowing. They’ll have to increase taxes drastically to build and maintain many more prison facilities. Somethings are best to be left in the civil courts. Taking the monetary hit in the pockets can be just as deterrent, as a prison sentence.

          • elizabeth

            It is a matter of priorities. If that is going to put a lot of people in jail, the something is wrong somewhere. People will have to change their dirty habits and keep their hands to themselves. Maybe that is why perpetrators continue doing what they did because it doesn’t hurt them.

            Also, if women are made to suffer constant harassment because people are unwilling to pay, then it reflects on a society’s priorities and values.

            If you have been a victim of harassment, you would understand how it feels. Blaming Confucius will do nothing to stop the offenders. In fact, it is quite ironical when the old are usually slammed as being conservative and blamed for ‘promiscuous’ acts at the same time.
            Perhaps it is time to stop blaming old people (and their value system) for every single ill there is and for the young (and their liberal slant) to take equal responsibility for what society is today.

          • ds

            This is how the non-Anglo world works. A vagina is just a body part, like a penis–not a holy item.

            It amazes me how many Anglo women come to Asia to teach or go on business, only to inevitably leave angry…

          • examplesample

            Spoken like a true man. Be careful, karma has a funny way of coming back to bite your offspring. I sincerely hope you never have a daughter, and if you do, I sincerely hope she never gets sexually harassed or assaulted with only a fine as punishment.

          • What you think the law should be is not what the law is. And there are good reasons why the law is the way it is. You expect the judges to make up their own law?

          • elizabeth

            No, I respect the judge’s decision in the context of Korean law. Not saying that he is wrong in that sense. But I feel that Korean law can do better to protect the women. In my country, sexual harassment can be considered criminal.

          • Probotector

            I see your point, and I believe your heart is in the right place, but the statement “in my country, sexual harassment can be considered criminal” is irrelevant because this did not happen in your country. Perhaps Koreans are satisfied with the extent to which the law handles this issue.

          • elizabeth

            It was intended to show them where I am coming from/why I think the way I do, that considering sexual harassment as criminal is practicable. As long as I do not insist that they do what I say, there is no harm sharing different perspectives.

      • Chucky3176

        Look up the law’s definition of sexual harassment versus sexual molestation. The laws and punishment in the west are also clearly defined, as in South Korea.

    • Chucky3176

      It helps to know how to read Korean in this case. Read the Yonhap news article.

      “하지만 대법원은 “서씨가 접촉한 손목은 성적 수치심이나 혐오감을 일으키는 신체부위라고 하기 어렵다”며 원심을 뒤집었다.”

      “The supreme court decided that the wrist that Mr Seo grabbed was not part of the body that could lead to sexual shame and disgust.”

      “손목을 잡은 것은 집으로 돌아가겠다는 A씨를 다시 자리에 앉히려고 한 행동”이라며 “희롱으로 볼 수 있는 언사를 했다 하더라도 추행이라고 보기는 어렵다”고 판시했다.”

      “the grabbing of the wrist was an attempt to make Miss A who wanted to leave, to sit down again. While it maybe seen as a sexual harassment, it may not be seen as a sexual molestation.”

      As the poster above, T.K. says, sexual harassment in Korea is a civil case, while sexual molestation is a criminal case (probably as same as in the West). So if the article is true, this ruling does makes some sense, when the judge explains how he arrived at the ruling.

      The woman then has the choice to get a civil lawyer and sue this man for sexual harassment.

      One more lesson from this thread. It’s always best to read the original article. The English translations to this story did not include the reasoning that the judge stated.

    • elizabeth

      Grabbing a women’s wrist against her will is sexual harrassment, physical and therefore criminal. It is clear that she was not comfortable and wanted to leave and he was trying to stop her from doing so.

      • Probotector

        You know, a woman once grabbed my wrist against my will. I was in a bar, and my wife was right there. I kept telling this women I’m not interested, but she wouldn’t let go. In the end, some random dude had to explain to her that I didn’t care for her advances. Now, I’m not going to assume anything about your opinions on reversing the genders in the same situation, but do you think I should have pursued a criminal charges against this woman?

        • elizabeth

          It is up to you, really. Gender makes no difference in this case.

          Males can be victims of sexual harassment too. But generally, males seem to enjoy physical contact more or at least they don’t mind it as much as women.

          Also, because women are weaker and less able to defend themselves in terms of physical strength, they need something more to protect them from forceful attacks.

  • firebert5

    Well, I guess we know what this judge does on a regular basis…

  • Lady-Rai

    Korea just isn’t ready for the world…sad

  • Sid Driver

    I would also like to add that looking at the picture attached to this article has caused me to become sexually aroused. But not in the criminal sense though… I stayed very civil minded about it.

  • jonny

    smelling the buttocks of a woman who was bending over to pick up her cell phone. is that sexual harassment?

  • The reality of the dirty korea, i just see the movie of Hang gong ju that happend in real life and I am traumatized, they really don’t respect to the woman, the same with many famous cases over there

  • Paul

    The girl is a whore!!
    She made her own decision to drink with him.

    She wanted sex. Why else was she there?
    To chat and watch TV? Hahaha
    Women are dirty whores.

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