Gov't Responsible for Victims of 2000 Gunsan Brothel Fire

    September 23, 2004 19:01

    When a special prostitution prevention law went into effect Thursday, the Supreme Court acknowledged the responsibility of the government to pay compensation to those who died in a fire that occurred in a brothel district in Daemyung-dong, Gunsan. The fire triggered the legislation of the special law.

    The Supreme Court upheld Thursday the lower court’s ruling that had ordered the government and brothel owners to pay W67 million and W590 million in compensation to bereaved family members of the victims, respectively. 13 bereaved family members of three out of the five victims filed a compensation lawsuit against the government, Gusan City and brothel owners and won the partially favorable ruling.

    The bench said in its ruling that even though the police could have easily noticed that the victimized women were confined and forced into prostitute, they violated their work obligations, as they didn’t take necessary measures like arresting and questioning brothel owners, but rather received bribes to neglect the situation.

    This is the first ruling that has acknowledged the responsibility of the government (the police) for failing to actively crack down on prostitution. It is expected that the ruling will have considerable effects on the police’s activities to clamp down on prostitution in the future.

    A press briefing on the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the fire at Daemyung-dong was held on Tuesday afternoon at the press room of the Supreme Public Prosecutors' Office. Lawyer Bae Keum Ja gives her thoughts on the judgment.

    Feminist organizations, such as the Korea Women's Associations United (KWAU) said in their statements, “We welcome the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of women who were victimized by prostitution and have been neglected.” The organizations urged the government to strictly enforce the special prostitution prevention law and carry out comprehensive measures to prevent prostitution.

    Concerning a W3.1 billion compensation lawsuit filed by bereaved family members of victims who died in a fire that occurred at a bar in Gaebok-dong, Gunsan, the first and second trials did not acknowledge the government’s responsibility, because there was no correlation between public servants’ negligence of duty and the victims’ deaths. The fire claimed 14 lives in January.

    (Choi Jae-hyuk,
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