88.5 percent of women living in Seoul have experienced dating violence, in some form or another, according to a report published on Jan. 30 by Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG).
The report, titled “Dating Violence Leads to Domestic Violence After Marriage,” was based on an online survey of 2,000 women between the ages of 20 and 60.
The results were damning. 54.7 percent of women had been subject to sexual violence, 61.2 percent to verbal, emotional, or economic abuse and 81.6 percent of women had been subject to controlling behavior.
The study comes at a potentially transformative time for gender relations in South Korea, as a series of prominent figures are going public about their experiences of sexual violence.
“Dating violence” is a term commonly used in Korean to refer to the more technical term, “intimate partner violence” (IPV). The World Health Organization recognizes as IPV the different categories of violence used in the study. WHO defines IPV formally as “behavior within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to those in the relationship.”
89.7 percent of the respondents in the study understood what IPV was — but only about 30 percent were capable of recognizing it when it happened to themselves. 65.9 percent of women reported taking no action after experiencing sexual violence.
Public reception to the report has been mixed. Major daily newspaper Donga Ilbo thoroughly denounced the report, saying that it “only promotes further hatred.” Kang Hee-young, the study’s lead researcher, told Korea Exposé that “concerned citizens and critics” had questioned the credibility of the categories of violence.
According to Kang, key criticisms included the fact that number of victims varies greatly depending on the specific category of violence, yet all are counted collectively as “victims of IPV.” The study also surveyed only female victims in heterosexual relationships, excluding male victims and women in same-sex relationships.
Kang acknowledged the study’s limitations, claiming that it was intended to “show that violence starts with the small things and has a certain pattern of progression.”
Go Gwang-hyeon, a Seoul government official overseeing the study, told Korea Exposé, “Behavior control is an especially big and pervasive problem in unequal relationships…. We need to re-examine the things we do subconsciously.”
Cover Image: A recent study states that dating violence is prevalent in many Seoulites’ intimate relationships. (Via Pxhere, CC0 Public Domain)