Friday, April 17, 2009
South Korean women fighting back
On March 25, a 31-year-old woman, only identified by the surname Lee, was tending a convenience store in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, at around 3 a.m.
A 30-something man, who had just left the store after buying beer, came back and tried to assault her. Lee quickly used her tear gas spray on him, and the perpetrator ran away.
Earlier this month, police arrested a 37-year-old man named Gwak on charges of attempted assault after analyzing footage from the store's surveillance camera.
Lee's successful self-defense may seem an isolated case, but there is a growing demand for self-defense products and CCTVs in the market - especially following a series of random crimes against women.
Korea has been considered a relatively safe place to live. But after serial killer Kang Ho-soon admitted to murdering at least eight women, more women say they feel uneasy about being out at night.
In an online survey of 889 university students in March regarding the Kang Ho-soon case, some 260 female respondents, or of the women surveyed, said they try to go home early, the online job portal Albamon said.
About 20 percent of women said they grew more interested in self-defense. Nearly 94 percent of total participants said since the serial killing incident, they have felt scared upon encountering someone at night.
The sale of self-defense products from January to March soared 80 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the country's major internet shopping website Interpark.
In the period leading up to March 14, which Koreans celebrate as "White Day" by giving their loved ones candy and presents, gift sets containing self-defense items were popular on online shopping sites.
Internet retailer Auction said it has sold some 4,500 gift sets in one week in early March. Similarly, Gmarket said the sale of self-defense products in early March tripled compared to the same period last year.
Interpark said the best-sellers are gas sprays in lipstick cases, accounting for about 70 percent of their total sales, as they are discreet and easy to carry. Other popular products include whistles and pepper sprays that do not require permission.
A manufacturer of self-defense items said its sales doubled shortly after the Kang Ho-soon case made the news, but has steadily decreased recently.
The widespread anxiety has also led mobile phone manufacturers to unveil products designed to sound an alarm when activated by the user.
In late March, Samsung Electronics unveiled the Anycall SPH-W7100 phone with a loud, 100-decibel alarm which can be activated by pulling a ring connected to the top of the handset in case of emergency. This "Bodyguard Phone" also has a GPS function to transmit the location of the user in case the alarm is de-activated forcibly and sends SOS messages to the user's parents.
Samsung's Haptic Pop SCH-W750 phone also provides safety features, such as easy SOS button options to set off a fake incoming call ring-tone and an alarm.