Domestic Violence in Korean Families

(Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer, Creative Commons license)

(Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer, Creative Commons license)

Closed Korean family culture is being blamed for increased suffering from domestic violence within the community.

According to police officers who serve in places in the New York area where many Koreans live, a growing number of Koreans are being arrested for domestic violence such as spouse abuse. However, reports are filed after numerous repeated assaults.

Experts say that Korean reluctance to discuss private family issues publicly and the stereotype of enduring difficulty are contributing to the low report rate by Koreans.

Mental health counselor Bo Ram Song, of Palisades Park, New Jersey said, “Koreans tend to be highly reluctant to reveal their private family problems to others… Putting more importance on hiding their weakness than getting help increases damage.”

According to police in Palisades Park, New Jersey, where many Koreans live, 50 percent out of 120 calls made annually in connection with domestic violence results in arrests. Police also said Koreans accounted for 60 percent of arrested perpetrators and most of them had a domestic violence record.

Sean Lee, a detective in Palisades Park, said, “After investigations, most of the arrested Koreans and their families turn out to have experienced domestic violence before… Many Koreans don’t report the violence in the beginning, but they ask for help from the police when they can’t avoid it any longer.”

Statistics from Korean counseling centers in New York and New Jersey also demonstrate the increase in Korean domestic violence. A statistic for the first half of this year from the Family Service Center at the Asian Women’s Christian Association shows that the number of individuals receiving domestic violence counseling has doubled compared to the second half of last year.

At the Korean American Family Service Center, counseling related to domestic violence comprised 70.6 percent (885) out of a total 1,253 counseling visits from January to June this year. Even men reporting damage from domestic violence recorded 8.2 percent of the counseling visits.

According to Jennifer Kim, a police officer in the Domestic Violence Unit at the 109th Precinct, a total of 269 people were arrested for domestic violence last year in Flushing. She said, “As well as domestic violence between married couples, various types of domestic violence keep occurring, between unmarried couples, sisters, parents and children… Many Korean communities deem that reporting domestic violence is shameful, influenced by Confucian culture.”

There are also many Korean cases of domestic violence that resulted in divorce. Korean lawyers say that mental persecution as well as physical assault falls within the category of domestic violence.

Ashley J. Song, a lawyer in New York said, “A spouse’s severe gambling and drinking can also constitute mental persecution… the Korean trait of keeping issues in secret sometimes results in continued beating and even death.”

New York lawyer Jeremy D. Sung said, “Most of Korean families in trouble are not doing well financially. While most of the economy is getting better, small retailers are still in a bad situation. It leads to domestic violence and 95 percent of clients end up agreeing to divorce.”

One Comment

  1. Whoa, careful where you point that blame gun, activists. Confucianism does advise patience and respect toward parents, but does not condone family abuse. If anything, that shows the breakdown of Confucian education with abusers, which should have taught fathers to be fathers indeed, demonstrating fundamental values like restraint and mercy.

    …But Korean or not, few bother teaching or studying these things, except remedial counselors. Take the mind and heart out of Confucianism, and leave only the decaying bodily structure of rigid family roles, and of course, skeletons of selfishness and control will haunt your community.

    “Although the subordinate members of a relationship (children to their parents, wives to their husbands) were required to be obedient, their obedience was not absolute and depended upon the superior member of the relationship (parent, husband for example) acting in accordance with his own obligations” (

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