Culture critic Lee said hwabyeong has its roots in the feudal Korean kingdom that lasted from 1392 to 1897, as its strict class hierarchy and patriarchy offered no social mobility.
“For those who belonged to the lower caste, there really was no way for them to fight injustice if they were abused by those who belonged to the higher class,” he said. “The only way was to just endure it. And we also have to remind ourselves that the slavery system from the Joseon kingdom did not completely disappear in Korea until the 1940s.”
A U.S. citizen, who was then 17 years old, said she was raped by a Korean man in Seoul in 2014 when she was on an exchange program at a high school. Unlike Mattner, she decided to stay silent and not tell anyone of her “shameful” experience.
“He was Korean and I am (a) foreigner, so I was scared that I might not win the case. I didn’t want to go through the pain of facing the Korean court system and exposing my rape to my friends and family, for the chance that he might go to jail,” she told The Korea Herald. “I learned that the hard way, but Korea needs to develop better resources when dealing with rape.”
Kim Bo-hwa, a senior researcher from the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, said that the ordeal is equally felt among Korean victims due to lack of awareness of sexual crimes here.
“Rape victims here suffer from insensitivity toward them among government officials, lawyers, their families,” she told The Korea Herald.
One of the victims listed in the Korea Times article has a gofundme page.