Gov't to toughen punishment for domestic violence

SEOUL, June 28 (Yonhap) -- The government will strengthen its early response to domestic violence calls and toughen punishment for uncooperative assailants, officials said Friday, as part of efforts to curb the recent upward trend in the number of domestic abuse cases.

The government will also make it a rule for police to be accompanied by a professional counselor when called to a scene of a domestic violence case, they said.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family announced these and other measures after a government policy coordination meeting presided over by Prime Minister Chung Hong-won.

Under the new rules, assailants will be apprehended at the scene and can be detained for questioning if they are habitual offenders or found to have used a lethal weapon in committing the crime, the ministry said.

They will face up to 5 million won (US$4,366) in fines if they refuse to cooperate with police or comply with orders to stay away from the victims, it said.

The government said it will apply a tougher standard of punishment when the victims are immigrants, children and the disabled.

As part of efforts to better protect victims of domestic violence, the government decided to limit the rights of assailants to meet their children as in most cases the victims share residence with their children while living separately from the violent spouse.

These measures come as the nation has experienced a sharp rise in domestic violence cases last year after years of steady decline.

Police arrested 8,762 criminals for domestic violence across the nation in 2012, up from 6,848 in 2011, according to government tallies.

Government data showed 15.3 percent of married women in South Korea were victims of domestic abuse in 2010, which is more than five times higher than Britain's 3 percent (2007 figure) and Japan's 3 percent (2004 figure).

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