A growing number of Korean men fear being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment in crowded public places due to the new zero-tolerance policy for such offenses.
One woman posted an appeal on the Cheong Wa Dae website last Thursday claiming that her husband had been wrongfully accused of groping a woman in a busy restaurant and sentenced to six months behind bars.
Huh Yoon, an attorney, said, "In cases where the account of the victim is the only piece of evidence, courts have no choice but to take it into account."
Last Saturday a group of men created a website seeking to help other men who have been wrongfully accused of sexual harassment. The website attracted more than 1,000 members in just four days. Some men said they make sure to put their hands in full view of others when they ride a crowded subway, while others keep their smartphones in their pockets so that they will not be suspected of taking upskirt pictures.
Last year, 1,094 cases of sexual molestation on subways were investigated by police, up around 30 percent compared to the previous two years. Police launched a major crackdown and more and more women reported such incidents amid the global "Me Too" movement.
Most of the accused were found guilty. Experts say trained officers must be allowed from the onset to analyze the veracity of accounts of both victims and alleged offenders, which is a practice common in advanced countries.
Yoon Kyoung, an attorney who used to be a judge, said, "It is difficult for men who are wrongfully accused to seek damages from the state, so extra care needs to be taken during the arrest process and in obtaining testimony."
Sexual harassment allegations tend to have a devastating impact on the personal and professional lives of the accused, and even though such offenses are rife in Korea, that does not mean that every individual who is accused of them is automatically guilty.
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