Thursday, May 6, 2010

Blood Money

The idea of blood money has been around in one form or another for a long time. In the west we know it best as Danegild or Weregild. In Korea today it is called hapuigeum.

In the west it was originally used as a way of preventing blood feuds when someone was killed. Today, in most countries you find it being used, it is still used to compensate for the death of a loved one. However, in Korea it is paid by the offender to the victim (whether real or perceived) of a crime to either prevent charges or have them reduced. It is a common practice in Korea and is often brokered by the police. Often the police will try and cajole people into accepting the blood money.

According to a friend (Korean) blood money is only supposed to be used to handle cases where there are no witnesses. He gave the example of 2 people getting into a fight or 2 cars crashing with no witnesses. Also, he told me the police usually push people to settle this way so they don't have to file the paperwork and see it through.

One of the flaws in this system is that the courts here see the most injured person as the aggrieved party even if it was their fault. Which can lead to sleazy assholes causing trouble to get hurt or faking they were more injured than they are just to get money.

My friend was of the naive view that this is the only way it was used. Fights. Accidents. His shock seemed genuine when I showed him articles about the South African woman who was raped and what happened.

There is not a lot of information about blood money in Korea, in English, on the net. Most of what I learned came from personal experience and talking with Koreans. What is on the net in English mainly concerns the case of a South African woman who was raped last year and the rapist offered her blood money.

Well, there is more to it than just that. The rapist stalked her for a while. Then raped her. Then she was basically raped by the system. I say that because of how blood money affects the sentencing process.

The piece of shit offered her around 5 million won and told her to leave his country. She refused it. Before it went to court he upped the amount to around 18 million won. She still refused it. She wanted him tried, convicted, and punished to the full extent of the law. Which ended up not being very far.

Unfortunately in Korea, even if blood money is offered but not accepted, it affects your sentence. The Korean legal system considers the OFFER of blood money to be a sign of remorse, which will see your sentence lowered. If it is accepted your sentence will be reduced even more.

Then you have some of the cases involving people I know. In one case, which I mentioned in another post, a friend/co-worker was repeatedly attacked by a guy. When the guy finally came at him with a bottle he took the guy down with a kick to the nuts and a pop to the head. The guy was KNOWN by the police to go after blood money from people. Yet they pushed his case for the money and it was paid. When I related this story to my friend (Korean) when we were talking about blood money he seemed to think the guy deserved money because he never hit my friend with the bottle. I guess I looked at him like he was an idiot because he started trying to justify things.

He actually gave me a bit of insight to the stupid amount of posturing Koreans do when they fight. In an interesting twist of reality he actually said the guy MIGHT not have hit my friend/co-worker so he didn't have to defend himself. But I retorted the guy might have swung fully and he would have been hit. To which he replied that then my friend would be the one receiving the blood money. Pretty fucking twisted logic. Let someone smack you upside the head with a bottle instead of defending yourself because he may not swing it fully at you. When Koreans do this posturing they are hoping the other guy will hit first. That way they can sleaze some money out of them.

Then you have Dong-Chim from my assault posts. The MAIN reason he went after the attackers was to save face for losing the fight and get blood money. A year or so after Dong-Chim was in a car accident. He actually got a doctor (maybe through bribery) to keep him in the hospital a week longer to prove how wrong the other guy was ... and get more blood money. What a fucking weasel.

Blood money was a concept that came out of medieval times. From my experience in Korea it is part of what is wrong with the legal system here. It basically institutionalizes bribery and blackmail. It allows the police to not have to do their job. Some of the Koreans I talked to, unless they were lieing, have no clue about how the system really works. It isn't a practice I would expect to see in a modern civillized country.


  1. I was looking for information beyond wikipedia's small blurb, because the entire system being 'brokered by the police' seemed to imply a form of socially accepted corruption. It's kind of rewarding to think that I was correct, thank you for taking the time to write about it :-)

  2. You do realize that this is the case because Korea's system is a civil law system (the US, UK, Canada, and other Commonwealth nations have a common law system), right? And that settlement money (which is what "hapuigeum" literally means) has a parallel in the common law system in the form of plea bargaining?

  3. Blood money equals plea bargaining? You are kidding right?

  4. I have to side with anonymous here. Saying plea bargaining is like blood money is comparing apples and oranges.

  5. Both are settlement systems in criminal law that attempts to resolve a case quickly. They are hardly apples and oranges -- they are analogous.

  6. The day you show me how I, not being the prosecution, can use plea bargaining to blackmail someone is the day I will believe you.

    Both are fruit (tools of the law in their respective countries) but they aren't the same.

  7. You fundamentally don't understand the difference between Civil Law and Common Law, which makes you extend your false impression based on false understanding.

    If you read my post, you will know that:

    (1) Separation of prosecution from the victim is an arbitrary feature of American Law/Common Law;

    (2) What is involved is not "blackmail" but a settlement negotiation process which is actually mimicked by Common Law jurisdictions;

    (3) There is no inherent reason why criminal settlement (i.e. what you mistakenly refer to as "blood money") is more or less unjust than plea bargaining.

  8. I actually wrote about this elsewhere but will rewrite it here.

    A friend of mine, and a co-worker at the time, was attacked by a guy (a Korean in Korea of course). He fended the guys first few ttacks off, pushing the guy away. The final time the guy came at him with a bottle. So he kicked him in the nuts and popped him in the head. The guy went down saying money.

    They went to the police station. My friend was told (through translation by his girlfriend) that he would have to pay the guy 4,000,000 Won of be charged with assault. The police were apologizing because the guy has a HISTORY of doing this to people. At the same time they encouraged the BLOOD MONEY be paid.

    If that isn't blackmail I don't know what is.

    Maybe the system isn't meant to be used that way, but it does. I know a co-worker (Korean) at my last job was surprised that the fact the rapist offered the South African woman blood money was taken into account with his sentencing even though it was refused. he didn't think it worked that way. But it does.

  9. There is no blackmail. Your friend had all the liberty in the world to refuse to pay, see the case through the criminal justice system, and demand that he get paid restitution from getting attacked. No one can force him to enter into a settlement. There can be no blackmail when there is no leverage.

    If you consider settlement of a nuisance litigation to be a blackmail, American legal system practically encourages blackmail by allowing for contingency fee for lawyers (lawyers getting a cut of winning) and class action law suit (frivolous claims of millions of people can be backbreaking for companies.)

  10. The guy has a history of abusing it that way, the police are pushing you to accept it.

    You and I will just have to agree to disagree on what we think it is.

  11. That the police pushed your friend to accept has no bearing whatsoever, because he was absolutely free to refuse it. The exact same thing happens in plea bargaining within American criminal justice system. When I was working at the district attorney's office, all we ever did was to pressure defendants into accepting pleas. The defendant can either accept 6 months in prison, or go to trial and risk getting a 2 year sentence. That is not blackmailing either.

    This is not a matter of opinion over which people may agree to disagree. This is a factual matter over which there is only one correct answer -- criminal settlement system is either a blackmail, or it is not. I hate to break this to you, but in this instance, my understanding is correct and yours is not. I am not trying to be a dick about this; I am only informing you that what you wrote is not correct.

  12. I don't think you are being a dick about it. It is something I will have to think about, I am nothing if not stubborn. As much as part of me wants to say (rightly or wrongly) you are making excuses the same can be said of me. Maybe I just got my mind set on the way I see it and I am the one wearing blinders. (I have to admit that I was focusing a bit much on the way the police pushed for acceptance.) It is something I will have to think about.

  13. I appreciate your intention to think about it further. If you want more information, I am always available.

  14. Sorry for the late reply, work piled up. I was going to post a reply here but it deserves it's own thread.

    I can't really argue with anything you said unless I want to deny reality. Something I hate when other people do and try not to do myself. Yet, in this case, I have been doing it.

  15. A late reply because your ass hurt too much after the beating you took. You hypocritical loser.

  16. There are huge differences between blood money and plea bargaining.

    1) The prosecution offers a plea bargain for a lesser punishment than if the case goes to a court decision, and the defendants can decide whether they want the all-or-nothing option or to reduce their risk. Defendants don't get to reduce their risk by simply offering to plea bargain and thereby reduce their risk.

    2) The offer and discussion of a plea bargain cannot be admitted into court by either prosecution or defendant as an admission of guilt and is not used to reduce a sentence upon conviction of the greater charge.

    3) The prosecution, which does not have to, makes the offer of or considers the defendant's offer, which the prosecition does not have to accept, of a plea bargain. In short, the power is with the prosecution not the defendant.

    4) An acceptance of plea bargain by the prosecution does not preclude a civil suit by the victim. In this case, the W5,000,000 does not have to settle the victim's claim.

    5) The acceptance of a plea bargain, which means that the defendant pleaded guilty to some charge, strengthens the victims claim for civil damages. With blood money that's all the victim gets.

    That's just off the top of my head and in a fit of disgust.

  17. What I feel like "The Korean" lacks in understanding about the frustrations of foreigners and even Koreans regarding the issue of "blood money" in Korea and plea bargaining is his lack of experience with the ways these sort of situations occur in Korea. He may notice the parallel similarities in the general outcome but doesn't understand how the system might be skewed to favor a certain group.
    Like Russia, there are known to be groups of people who specifically cause fights and arguments and goad people into hitting them. Sometimes to the point where the person defending themselves feel justified in their actions.
    This is what happened to my friend who getting off from a cab felt slighted and asked the taxi driver if the taxi driver had said something offensive to him. The taxi driver jumped out from the cab and proceeded to curse off at the friend and posture. The friend fearing for his safety struck back when the taxi driver hit him. The taxi driver was injured, called the cops and the cops took the side of the taxi driver. Everyone saw that the taxi driver had hit the friend first and used profane language but it did not matter to the police. The friend had to pay up 2 million Korean Won.
    This is common in Korea and the exchange of money takes place on the very spot. As opposed to plea bargaining which is stretched out and doesn't guarantee money. The police themselves also pressure the defendnt before it even reaches the ears of the prosecture.

    I believe the Korean also wrote a post about how he would prefer recieving the money right away in contrast to plea barganings which do not guarantee a certain sum on the spot. This shows that he acknowledges the differences, which is what most foreigners are attempting to argue in the end.