By Dong-chan Sin, Voices That Must Be Heard
NEW YORK - The level of violence among Korean families in the New York Korean community is still serious. According to a report released by the Korean American Family Service Center based on 2010 service statistics from a local 24-hour hotline, 57 percent of all calls to the hotline – 969 of the 1,696 – were related to domestic violence.
Violence in Korean families means quarrels between husbands and wives, not parents and children. Marital disputes are not new – the use of physical aggression and verbal abuse to spouses has long been documented. The problem is that Korean husbands are still using violence as an instrument in arguments.
The latest findings from the Family Service Center show that 84.2 percent of all the Korean domestic violence victims in New York in 2010 involved Korean wives abused by their husbands. Most victims have experienced this humiliation often; there is a pattern of repeated physical and verbal abuse. Violence against husbands, on the part of wives is slowly rising, but the numbers remain very small in comparison – only 15.8 percent of all domestic violence related calls. The victims, all of whom seem to be married adults, range in ages between 21- and 55-years-old.
"Domestic violence includes riotous conduct such as physical assault, outrageous and harsh language such as abusive words, unreasonable statements, etc. Some violence cases seem to be triggered by economic problems, or clinical and mental issues such as a morbid jealousy or suspicion regarding spousal faithfulness," states Ms. Jung-sook Yoon, the director of the Korean American Family Service Center. She added, "In the overwhelming majority of cases, the abuser is a Korean husband who grew up in the strict patriarchal family system and retains those traditions, often with ill effects in American society. Such antiquated beliefs hold that wives, and women in general, can be easily neglected."
The Korean American Family Service Center had taken over 4,000 calls at its 24-hour hotline and general daytime counseling service. Slightly more than half of the cases – 2,400 – dealt with non-violence related issues, involving youth (121), child education (118), business failure and financial difficulty (96), alcohol addiction (65), health (44), immigration (28), and general marital conflict (200). The Center also manages a long-term rental program to provide housing for families of domestic violence. Besides providing 18 months of rent-free living and for other expenditures, the program helps victims find jobs, and receive English-language training.
The Center also operates a free public legal counseling program, assisting with social service issues such as welfare and medical benefits. The center's educational programs include afterschool for kids, ESL English classes, computer classes, as well as youth community projects, mentoring, volunteering, and leadership.