November 25, 2014 11:49
The Supreme Court on Monday overturned the conviction of a man in his 40s for repeatedly sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl.
A Seoul district court had slapped the man, identified as Cho, with a 12-year prison term for rape, but an appellate court later scaled back the term to nine years because he had no prior record of sexual offenses.
Cho approached the girl back in 2011 in the elevator of a hospital, claiming he knew a talent agent who has access to celebrities. She gave him her mobile phone number hoping to meet some stars and find a way into show business. Cho met her several times and they had sex. When the girl became pregnant, he told her to run away from her home and the two began living together.
The girl's father was sick with a brain tumor and her mother was also suffering health problems. Other acquaintances persuaded her to report Cho to the police in 2012. By then she had given birth to his child.
Cho told the court that he and the girl were involved in a "romantic relationship" and that the decision to leave her parents had been her own. However, in the initial verdict, the court concluded that it was fear of reprisals from Cho that prevented her from informing others.
The Supreme Court saw things differently. It pointed out that the girl visited Cho in prison every day as his trial progressed and continued to send him letters and mobile text messages saying she loved him. It reasoned that such behavior "makes it difficult to believe" her claims. The court did not accept that Cho coerced the girl into sending the letters and text messages.
The age of consent in Korea is 13, so any conviction requires proof that the minor was forced into sex.
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