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Surveillance footage released to the media by Hwang Ye-jin‘s mother shows the attack that led to her daughter’s death. Photo: YouTube

South Korea’s ‘dating violence’ problem exposed by young woman’s death after savage beating

  • Hwang Ye-jin, 25, had her ribs broken, internal organs damaged and suffered bleeding on the brain after she was savagely attacked by her boyfriend
  • A petition filed by her mother calling for new legislation to outlaw dating violence in South Korea has been signed more than 372,000 times
South Korea
A mother whose 25-year-old daughter died after being savagely beaten by a boyfriend has seen her petition calling for new legislation to outlaw dating violence in South Korea signed hundreds of thousands of times.

Hwang Ye-jin had her ribs broken, internal organs damaged and suffered bleeding on the brain from the attack at her home in Seoul on July 25. She died from her injuries in a hospital’s intensive care unit some three weeks later.

Surveillance footage from the night of the attack shows Hwang having her head repeatedly slammed against a wall by a man, who is later seen dragging her unconscious, blood-soaked body out of a lift at her apartment building.

Hwang Ye-jin, 25, died from the injuries she sustained in the attack. Photo: YouTube

The 30-year-old man shown in the footage, who told police he was angry at Hwang because she had told people about their relationship, was initially arrested before being released pending trial after a court deemed him not to be a flight risk.

Outraged by the court’s decision, and the fact that her daughter’s killer was charged with manslaughter rather than murder, Hwang’s mother made public the surveillance footage of the attack, and released her daughter’s name and photograph to the media.

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The mother says the man – who reportedly lied to emergency services by telling them Hwang had passed out drunk and banged her head on the ground – took too long to seek help following the attack and did not attempt to use his lifeguard skills to resuscitate her daughter.


Her petition, filed on the presidential Blue House’s website on August 25, outlines the details of the attack and calls for a new law to “severely punish” dating violence. As of September 1, it had been signed more than 372,000 times.

Analysts said the huge public response to the petition reflects the desire for change in a patriarchal society where men too often “view their girlfriends as mere appendages who should always submit to them”, as Kwack Dae-gyung, police and criminal justice professor at Dongguk University, put it.

“There is tendency among Korean men who were raised in a male chauvinistic environment … to fly into a rage and use violence when women refuse to do as what they want,” Kwack said, adding that many in South Korean society – including investigative and judicial authorities – still view such violence as “lovers’ quarrels” in which they should not intervene.

A still from surveillance footage released to the media shows Hwang Ye-jin, right, unconscious on the floor after being dragged out of a lift by her attacker. Photo: YouTube

Hwang’s death has been widely seen as epitomising South Korea’s problem with dating violence. A bill outlawing it was proposed years ago, but has been stuck in the country’s National Assembly amid a lack of consensus over what should constitute dating violence and how offenders should be punished.

Police statistics show that more than 30,000 people were charged with violence against their partners in the country over the past three years, including about 7,000 acts of physical violence, 84 sexual assaults and 10 murders.


A 2018 survey found that nine out of 10 women living in Seoul said they had been abused and hurt, either physically or psychologically, by their male partners.

Choi Seon-hye, director of the Korea Women’s Hot Line that oversees counselling centres and shelters for survivors of domestic violence, told the Korea Times newspaper that “reports of dating violence have increased as victims respond more sensitively and actively than before”. But investigative authorities too often “refrain from intervening, treat it as trivial and close the case on the spot”, Choi was cited as saying.

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Kim Do-yeon, head of the Korea Dating Violence Institute, said the response to the petition filed by Hwang’s mother showed “there is a growing public awareness in this country that dating violence is nothing less than a crime”.


“They fear [what happened to Hwang] could happen to themselves while others have had the same experiences of abuse at the hands of their male partners,” she said, adding that calls from women to domestic violence help centres had increased “exponentially” in recent years.

“Women used to suffer in silence for fear of the backlash from men and other repercussions, but they’ve started speaking out,” Kim said. “It’s high time we made a strong law to punish offenders sternly and to protect and support victims.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Young woman’s death sparks call for law on dating violence