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Park Shi Hoo Case Affected By Public Pressure

BY Joan MacDonald | Apr 05, 2013 04:29 PM EDT

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While Park Shi Hoo's fans may have been surprised that the police judged a rape accusation against him worthy of prosecution, that decision may have as much to do with recent pressure on the police as it has to do with the facts in the case.

Views on what constitutes rape are changing in South Korea, where the concept of "date rape" has not been as accepted as it is in the U.S. According to a 2012 Korea Herald article by Daniel Fielder, a professor of law at Wonkwang University, South Korean law defines rape as requiring "the use of violence or intimidation or by taking advantage of the victim's condition of unconsciousness or inability to resist."

The definition of being unable to resist, explained Fiedler, means that the victim has to be totally unconscious, not just passed out from drinking too much soju. So, administering a date rape drug would be considered rape, but getting a girl drunk would not. According to the law, a woman has to resist and not get into a situation where she cannot fight off her attacker.

Park Shi Hoo's accuser, known only as "A," said they had been drinking and that she passed out before he took advantage of her. The actor said that "A" was sober when she left the restaurant with him and a friend and that she continued to text throughout the evening, proving that she was not drunk. He claims their relations were consensual. Drug tests for a date rape drug turned up negative.

It is inevitable that changing attitudes toward the definition of rape will affect this case. As of last year, a woman who drank during a date put herself at risk of not being taken seriously when reporting a sexual assault. However, last year's scandal about a talent agent taking sexual advantage of trainees contributed to pressure on the police to take rape accusations more seriously, to presume a woman's innocence even if she had been drinking.

In 2012, Korea's Sexual Violence Relief Center said that only 10 percent of all rape cases were reported because women feared they would not be taken seriously. However, in November of 2012, an appeals court ruled in favor of a rape victim, even though a lower court had ruled the defendant innocent, saying the woman's injuries were not significant enough to prove rape. This was considered a landmark case.

Park Shi Hoo's high profile case may provide a way for police and prosecutors to prove they are taking the changing views on rape seriously.

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