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Outrage in Korea after woman who had complained of stalking is stabbed to death in public toilet

For three years, a South Korean man stalked a younger colleague, harassing her with hundreds of phone calls and messages and illegally filming her after she rejected his advances.

She reported him to the police, complained of stalking, and the case was before the courts.

On Sept 14, a day before he was to be sentenced, the man allegedly followed her to a subway station in Seoul, where she worked, and stabbed her to death in a public toilet.

Jeon Joo-hwan, 31, was arrested on charges of murdering the 28-year-old woman while she was on duty.

Both were employees of Seoul Metro, the operator of subway lines in the capital, though Jeon had been relieved of his duties in October 2021 after the police began investigating him.

When he was brought to court after the killing, a reporter asked if he had anything to say to the victim. “I’m sorry,” Jeon said.

He is understood to have told the police that he committed the crime out of resentment, after prosecutors tried to seek a nine-year jail sentence for him in the stalking case, and admitted that he did a "truly crazy thing".

The killing, which evoked memories of a horrific case of a man stabbing a 23-year-old woman to death in a toilet near Gangnam subway station in 2016, has sent shockwaves through South Korea and triggered an outpouring of grief and anger.

“We acknowledge the gravity and cruelty of the crime in that the suspect brutally killed the victim at a public place according to a plan,” the Yonhap news agency quoted a panel of police and experts as saying in a statement.

Questions are also being raised about the effectiveness of an anti-stalking law enacted in 2021.

Lawyer Min Go-eun, who was representing the victim, voiced her frustration at the "failure by law enforcement and the court to act more proactively to prevent the murder".

President Yoon Suk-yeol has promised that his government would do its utmost to beef up efforts to protect stalking victims and prevent such cases.

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