The Korea Herald


5% of stalking cases in court lead to prison term

Nearly 40% of stalkers get commuted sentence at appellate courts

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : Sept. 7, 2023 - 18:35

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Only 5 percent of alleged stalkers indicted for harrassment in South Korea were handed down a prison term, according to a report that looked at cases from January to May of this year.

The report, released on Thursday, called for the national justice system to come up with a harsher sentencing guideline for stalking offenders.

According to data by the Sentencing Commission affiliated with the Supreme Court of Korea, 21 out of 385 stalking offenders who got a final court decision from January to May while charged with a single offense of stalking got a prison sentence, with the harshest at 1 1/2 years.

Out of the 385 alleged stalking offenders, 259 were convicted of stalking. Of those convicted, 132 got a suspended sentence and 106 were ordered to pay a fine of up to 20 million won ($14,970). The rest faced no criminal punishment.

None of the 259 who were convicted of stalking got the harshest sentences. Under the Act On Punishment Of Crime Of Stalking, which came into effect in October 2021, those who committed a crime of stalking face up to three years of prison or a fine of up to 30 million won.

The same estimate also showed that, of 263 appellate court rulings on stalking and harrassment offenders, 39.5 percent had the stalkers' sentence commuted -- mainly due to out-of-court settlements between offenders and victims and offenders' deposit of funds with the court.

The estimate was based on 1,295 court rulings nationwide over the course of five months, where 563 cases involved alleged stalking offenders who committed a single offense, while the rest allegedly committed multiple offenses including stalking. The findings were part of a report unveiled during a forum jointly hosted by the Sentencing Commission and the Korean Women's Development Institute on Thursday.

Thursday's report also indicated that no specific sentencing guideline for stalking offenses seemed to have existed for those who committed multiple offenses including stalking.

Talks have been underway to have a set of clear sentencing guidelines ready by as early as in January 2024. The Sentencing Commission approved the launch of the discussion in June.

The report urged the talks to take specific traits of stalking crimes into consideration when devising a new set of sentencing guidelines.