Social media users in South Korea have reported the rise of Korean women being catcalled by intoxicated male foreigners, with a string of incidents occurring in the entertainment district of the Itaewon neighborhood in Seoul.
Women passing by the area usually experience inappropriate and unwanted comments from foreign men who are clearly inebriated, according to Hani.
One social media user stated “groups of men from different countries catcall in Itaewon,” and another user reported being “annoyed to be catcalled by foreign men while walking past Itaewon to Noksapyeong.”
A 22-year-old woman, only identified by her surname Seo, recounted her frightening encounter on December 10 while walking down the street in Itaewon. Seo said that she had a run-in with a foreign man, who suddenly complimented her for her looks, saying “You are so beautiful!”
Not knowing how to respond, Seo awkwardly smiled back at the man and walked away. However, the man, who belonged to a group of intoxicated foreigners, began following her for about half a minute while laughing and whistling at her. This frightened Seo so much that she frantically left the area.
Victims of catcalling are sometimes hesitant to contact the police, thinking that “it is disturbing, but not enough to file a charge,” Korea Herald reported.
Under Article 3 of Punishment of Minor Offenses Act, those caught consistently watching or trying to contact someone against their will may face misdemeanor imprisonment or a fine for up to 100,000 won ($93.33).
Even if the issue has been forwarded to the authorities, it would be hard to prove the claims and charge someone of sexual harassment.
“It’s extremely rare for verbal street harassment to be reported or prosecuted,” one police officer said.
“Along with legal sanctions, social attitudes are important, too. Society needs to share the attitude that street harassment infringes on the rights of freedom and safety, rights that everyone should be able to enjoy,” director of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, Lee Mi-kyeong, said.