A first-ever anti-stalking law took effect in South Korea on Thursday, enabling the punishment of perpetrators with up to three years in prison.
It is the first South Korean law that has been enacted specifically targeting stalking. Previously, the act of stalking was classified in the Criminal Code as a misdemeanor subject to less than 100,000 won ($85) in fines, reports Yonhap News Agency.
Under the new law, acts of approaching, following or blocking a victim against his or her will; waiting for or observing a victim in and around his or her residence, workplace or school; sending unwelcomed messages, images or videos through mail, telephone or IT networks; and causing anxiety or fear by destroying objects placed around a victim’s residence constitute acts of stalking.
The same applies to such acts targeted at the victim’s family, friends or cohabitants.
Continuous and repeated execution of these actions constitutes stalking crimes punishable by up to three years in prison or 30 million won in fines, according to the new law.
The penalty could be aggravated to a maximum of five-year imprisonment or a fine of 50 million won if a weapon or other dangerous object is used.
The legislation was made in light of years-long public criticism that weak punishment has led to an increase in related crimes.
With the new law in place, police can now take measures to respond to acts of stalking, such as providing protection shelters for the victims during an investigation and issuing restraining orders banning potential suspects from coming within 100 metres of the victim and online contact if the situation is likely to take place again.
“We will work to control acts of stalking in the early stage before it evolves into a more serious crime,” a police official said.