A South Korean man has been sentenced to nine years in prison for stalking a woman he later allegedly murdered in a high-profile case that sparked outraged calls for legal reform.
Over a period of nearly two years, Jeon Joo-hwan, 31, stalked and threatened his victim — a former colleague — on more than 300 separate occasions, the court found.
He was not detained because police deemed him “low risk”, even though he continued to harass the woman, who had filed a second set of charges against him earlier this year.
On September 14, the day before his sentence, Jeon is accused of stabbing the woman to death in a public toilet in a subway station in central Seoul.
He is said to have told investigators that he was furious about the legal problems his victim had caused him. He was fired from his job on the Seoul subway – where the victim also worked – after she initially reported him for stalking.
“We are delivering a tougher sentence (on the allegations of stalking) because the victim was murdered,” the Seoul Western District Court said in its verdict, according to a report by Yonhap.
The court also ordered that he attend 80 hours of classes in the treatment of stalking and 40 hours of classes in the prevention of sexual assault.
The defendant had “killed the victim even after he made an apology to the court” asking for a pardon.
Jeon will be tried separately and convicted of murder, which he has not contested. He told reporters after he was arrested, “I did something very insane”.
The murder sent shockwaves through South Korea, sparking criticism that police had failed to protect the victim, despite reporting the man twice within six months.
South Korea will introduce new laws to combat stalking in 2021, but critics say the country’s police and courts are not taking such crimes seriously enough.
President Yoon Suk-yeol has ordered authorities to work harder to prevent such crimes, acknowledging that the current legal framework “seems insufficient to protect victims”.
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