Korean Police Deny Wrongdoing In Australian’s Rape Investigation

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Airdre Mattner says she was drugged, abducted & raped in Seoul last September, but after dealing with South Korean hospital staff & police, including a recent Facebook post by police that revealed private information regarding her case, she says she's been devastated her even further. Korea FM spoke with Mattner & the Korea Herald reporter that's been covering her story to learn more about how both foreign & Korean victims are treated by police & other authorities while seeking justice. Find more information on Airdre Mattner's story at http://GoFundMe.com/JusticeForAirdre.

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Interview answers, both in audio & written form, have been edited for length & clarity. ----------

Two recent English language articles from the Korea Herald have shed light on the issues foreigners face while reporting a rape in South Korea, with a specific focus on one woman who says Korean police mishandled the assault claim she made last year here in Seoul.

My name is Airdree Mattner and I'm an Australian primary school teacher currently working in Japan. I decided to visit Korea last September with my boyfriend and other friends, but they were not able to stay as long as I could. On the evening of September 25th, I attended an organized pub crawl in Hongdae, where I believe I was drugged at the third bar we visited. I was then taken to a hotel far away and raped by a man who was not a member of the pub crawl and I only saw for the first time while regaining consciousness in the taxi we took to the hotel. I woke up the next day naked in the hotel room and discovered that all my money was gone.

After realizing her money had been taken, Airdre Mattner says she took a taxi to her hostel where the staff paid the driver & placed her in private room where she could calm down & rest. She then traveled to a medical facility to speak with a doctor & file a police report. As she had visited South Korea while on vacation, Mattner was in a difficult position, & decided to return to her job in Japan while staying in contact with Korean police to pursue the case.

Before I left, I made sure the police had my email address and was told they would send all updates through that address, including my medical results in two weeks. However, on the 23rd of October, the embassy finally received the medical report, and I had to resort to asking the embassy to act on my behalf in terms of securing this medical report because it was not sent to me. Additionally, police were not replying to my questioning to their direct email address, which is the same address I had sent the screenshots of the man who tried to add me on Facebook, so I had no choice but to go through the embassy. And I have continued to have them act on my behalf since September of last year. And when Airdre Mattner finally was able to see the files on her attack, she says the information the police & medical professionals gathered was not what she had expected. The medical report shows that no evidence was collected from my nails, mouth or hands, and the only area the police attempted to collect evidence was from my chest. There is no explanation in the report as to why they didn't follow procedure and try to collect DNA evidence from other areas. There are large sections that are completely blank and not filled out. The medical report has also clearly been falsified with them implying I was out on my own late at night and that I had become drunken and that I didn't remember what had happened to me. And this completely contradicts my police statement.

On April 1st, the police station in charge of the investigation posted an open letter addressed to Airdre Mattner on Facebook to defend their handling of the case. In the letter, the police refute Mattner's claim that proper procedures were not followed while collecting DNA evidence, noting that a sample of the suspect's DNA was collected & sent to the National Forensic Test Lab. Mattner's claim of being drugged at a bar in Hongdae was also challenged with blood and urine test results the police say show no drugs were in her system, and while they were able to locate CCTV footage of the man she identified at the hotel, their investigation concluded that he was not a suspect. Video footage of Mattner's statement to police was also cited in the post, with police saying that they've confirmed through the recording that no insulting questions were asked, and explained their lack of direct contact with the victim by noting that as Matter immediately left Korea, and also due to language barrier, the Australian Embassy was used to send her medical results and other notifications during the investigation process. However, Mattner says she eventually had to pursue other means to bring her attacker to justice due to a lack of support form Korean Police.

There were various reasons why I decided to resort to using GoFundMe. The first and the primary reason was that on the 18th of January, I was notified that police had decided to close the case and mark it unsolved until there were new developments. This was particularly devastating and shocking for me given how much I thought I had provided to the police for them to be able to work with and conduct a full investigation. So I decided to take things into my own hands in terms of attempting to fundraise to produce legal action in London where we believe the man is residing. And also additionally because I decided it would be a good platform to share my story and what had happened to me in terms of attempting to spread awareness not only of the high right of incidences like this in Seoul but especially how these cases are dealt with when they are reported to police.

And that goal seems to have been achieved as one writer Korea FM spoke with has continued to cover the story.

My name is Laeticia Ock and I'm working for the Korea Herald. I also cover legal and social affair issues. I learned about her story through the expat community, so I went to the GoFundMe page and saw her allegations about how the police treated her and how the hospital handled the case. I thought it was very problematic and I heard those allegations from other rape victims in the past who also accused hospitals and police of wrongdoing, so I decided to write a story. Especially because foreigners are very vulnerable because of the language barriers and because they don't know how to access information and how to defend themselves. According to what victims told me so far, police should have treated them with more dignity and because they were victims, they should have avoided questioning them in what they called an "insulting manner." And they should have informed them of the investing process and results through the embassy or directly. They should have done that. But according to what I heard, it seems like police kind of failed to do so, though in their defense, police said they tried to reach the victims as well as Mattner, but there must have been some miscommunication or because of the language barrier. That was the exact wording they gave me. But, many Korean women are also suffering from secondary damage. It was hard enough for them to suffer from these sexual attacks, but during the investigation process, they were treated like they were lying, basically blaming the victim.

And in addition to the problems Airdre Mattner & other Korean & foreign victims say they have faced after reporting their attack, Mattner now faces an online campaign from police to discredit her story.

They were posting comments on my GoFundMe page directing me to their public Facebook post addressed at me. It was shocking. I felt harassed and unsafe because of the amount of information they had released that I had never previously released myself to anyone, anywhere. And I had not given them permission for this information to be made public, either. And I'm not going to engage in the public standoff that they seem to be looking for. That's all I can say really.

Laeticia Ock agrees.

I was basically shocked because it was kind of against common sense. The police posted an open letter to a rape victim revealing her information and case. And all the comments were very supportive of her and very negative about the police decision to post the letter on Facebook in public. And I talked to the police actually, and they said to me that they had to take action because Mattner went on to the GoFundMe page to "defame the police." That's what they said. So police said that they had to publicly post an open letter to her to explain and clarify some misinformation, that's the word they said, "misinformation."

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