He stalked a woman for years and then killed her in a subway washroom
A man who stalked and killed a former colleague at a subway station has been found guilty of the crime by a court and sentenced to jail for 40 years in a case that caused massive public outcry in South Korea.
The furore that stemmed from the case forced a review of the country’s anti-stalking laws and widespread criticism of the country’s conservative government, whose gender equality and family minister had said the murder was not a gender-based hate crime.
Jeon Joo-hwan, a former subway worker, was found guilty on Tuesday by the Seoul Central District Court of revenge killing and other charges relating to stabbing the victim to death in a washroom at the Sindang Station in Seoul on 14 September, reported Yonhap news agency.
The court also ordered him to wear an electronic tracking device for 15 years.
The prosecution had asked for a death sentence for Jeon.
Jeon reportedly knew the 28-year-old victim as a colleague since October 2021 when the two began working together for Seoul Metro, that operates the city’s subway.
Jeon said to the police that he murdered her due to resentment after prosecutors demanded a nine-year prison sentence for him in the stalking case in August.
He was accused of killing her on 14 September, a day before a court was to sentence him on charges of stalking her.
The woman had finished her evening shift at the subway station as Jeon waited for her for over an hour outside the toilets, wearing gloves and a disposable shower cap, and then stabbed her.
She had filed two stalking complaints against him and he was indicted in February and July last year.
On 15 September, the court was to rule on one of the stalking complaints.
Jeon had been sentenced to nine years in prison for stalking, illegally filming and threatening the victim late last September and had later appealed the ruling.
The woman, who was not named by the authorities, was harassed by Jeon since 2019.
He reportedly called her over 300 times, begging her to date him and threatened self harm on her refusal.
She reported him in October 2021 after which he was fired from his job and arrested.
He was released on bail and not subjected to a restraining order.
“From the defendant’s testimony, it appeared he was determined to murder the victim unless she agreed to settle” the stalking charge, the court said in its verdict, reported Yonhap.
“Despite the victim’s wish to cut ties, the defendant forced her to suffer stalking and committed a revenge crime... instead of reflecting on his misdeeds.”
After outrage around her death, president Yoon Suk-yeol directed the justice ministry to amend anti-stalking law that came into effect in 2021.
The amended law removed a provision that said a perpetrator cannot be prosecuted without the explicit consent of the victim, leaving them vulnerable to retaliation from their offenders.
The amendment also requires stalking suspects to wear an electronic anklet even before court sentencing.
Police had arrested at least 7,152 people under the new anti-stalking law, reported the BBC last year, citing data from the National Police Agency. However, only five per cent of the suspects were detained.
The subway murder had led to several protests across Seoul and the outpouring of sympathy for the victim led people to go to the Sindang station’s women’s lavatory and put up thousands of post-it notes, many of them saying “stop femicide” and appealing for a change in the anti-stalking laws.