This morning, however, the voices got louder and more agitated. I could hear a man and a woman screaming at each other. I thought it was coming from the apartment below me, until I got up and looked off my balcony. Down in the parking lot, a white car was stopped diagonally, almost blocking traffic. Both doors were open, and standing beside the car were a man and a woman, the source of the yelling.
A steady flow of vehicles nudged their way past the white car. There were no less than 15 of them that passed by, and I was shocked that none of them stopped, as by this time the man was beating the woman. I came back inside, called my friend, and asked her to call the cops.
Back outside, the man chased this woman around the car, alternately kicking her and punching her in the head. A man on a cellphone stood a few meters away, but he didn't do anything. From up above, I was jumping out of my skin. Should I holler down? Should I go down there? Why did the woman keep bending down with tissue in her hands to clean her blood up from the asphalt? She screamed back at the man, but her voice was thick with anger, not tears.
The man stepped in and kicked her hard, sending her stumbling. He hurried after her and started to punch her in the face and head, shouting all the while. She clung to the lapels of his jacket. "Let go!" I pleaded to her inside my head. "Run!"
It was only when I noticed her head kept falling backwards sharply that I realized she was holding on so she wouldn't fall down. But then her knees buckled and she went limp. She let go, and the man let her hit the ground. I came back inside to call my friend. The police would be here in about ten minutes.
Downstairs, the woman came to and made it to the car, sitting down in the driver's seat. The man came around and punched her in the head a couple more times before stomping back up the little hill toward my building. He climbed in a van and peeled out of the parking lot, speeding dangerously down the big hill. The woman climbed out of the car, slammed the door, and weaved back to the building near mine. She listened outside an apartment door on the first floor, before she went inside.
I went downstairs to wait for the police. I walked over to the white car and saw a thick streak of blood down the window, and blood soaked Kleenex littered the front seats. As I walked back up the little hill, the man came speeding back in the van and I avoided his eyes. Tra-la-la, I always like to walk around in my pajamas outside. My imagination figured he'd gone down to the store to buy a big knife. I ducked back into the stairwell of my building.
The coast was all clear when the squad car arrived, and I quietly relayed what had happened as best I could. I pointed to the apartment where the lady had disappeared into. The cop asked me to come with them. No thank you. I didn't need to be identified as the cop calling lady.
Back upstairs, I watched as the angry man answered the door after the cops knocked. He came outside and they all talked awhile. Then the cops went away!
My co-workers and friend explained today that the police will often not interfere in cases of domestic violence. Indeed, from the Project Blue Sky website,
Traditionally, Koreans have considered domestic violence as a private matter which should be dealt with within the family. That is why Korean Police occasionally ignore or don't intervene when DV incidents are reported. Women are taught and forced to live under the myth, "Women should obey men," which is a common belief in Korean society. For example, there is an old Korean proverb: "Women should obey three men in their lives (so called SAMJONGJIDO): obey your father until your marriage, obey your husband until his death, and obey your son until your death." In addition to this, there is another saying, "Women and dried pollack should be beaten every three days." which even encourages the violence at home. Currently, equality between men and women is widely promoted in Korea, but the older generation still believes in male superiority.
I imagined the police at the apartment door, "Oh! That was your wife you were beating! Ahhhhh! Sorry to have disturbed you!"
From what I've gathered from reading articles online tonight, domestic violence isn't even part of the Criminal Code here. Back home, the police are obligated to press charges if they're called to a domestic dispute and there are signs of violence. This is regardless of whether the victim wants the perpretrator arrested or not.
I don't even know how to process this newly shed light on how things are here.
It took me so long this morning to stop shaking from all the adrenaline in my system. I feel calmer now, yet my head keeps involuntarily shaking back and forth.
For shame, Korea.