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Pirates minor leaguer under investigation for abusing girlfriend in Daegu

May 21,2018
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Bae Ji-hwan, a Korean shortstop in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league, is under investigation for assaulting his then-girlfriend in Daegu last year.

The Daegu Jungbu Police Precinct announced last Friday that it had opened an investigation into Bae after his ex-girlfriend, Kim Seul-gi, reported an incident where he repeatedly kicked and strangled her.

Bae, 18, returned to Korea on Saturday to cooperate with the investigation.

On the night of Dec. 31, 2017, the two were dining at a restaurant in Daegu when Bae saw a text message that Kim, 18, had sent to a friend. Kim had told her friend she was having a difficult time with Bae because of “his obsession with her and his harsh words,” according to police.

After they left the restaurant, Bae began kicking her on her back and yelling at her in the middle of the street, Kim told the JoongAng Ilbo. When he noticed people staring, he allegedly took her into a building, slammed her body against a wall and grabbed her by the hair. In the process, he almost threw her down the stairs. Kim said he then punched her on the shoulder several times and strangled her until she fainted.

“When I woke up, he strangled me again,” Kim said. He kept hitting her until he was relieved of his anger. It was the first of several times that he would physically abuse her.

“My ex-boyfriend was going through a hard time trying to sort out some confusion with his debut in Major League Baseball,” Kim said. “I told myself that it was because he was under a lot of stress and that he would change if he really liked me.”

The two had been dating since November 2016. After the assault on New Year’s Eve, she continued to see him and tried to “understand what he was going through,” she said. When friends saw her bruises and asked what had happened, she told them she bumped into a wall.

But the abuse never stopped. Kim recalled how Bae once beat her when a man joined a group chat that she was a part of on a messaging app.

“He kept telling me that he would kill himself whenever I tried to break up with him,” she said. “That’s why I couldn’t end it with him. I don’t think anyone will understand, but I was afraid he would have made a bad decision because of me.” In one message that Bae sent Kim after beating her, he promised not to hit her again “even as a joke.”

The two eventually broke up at the beginning of last month after the Pirates signed Bae for $1.2 million in March. It was the franchise’s second-largest international signing in its history. Although Bae is under investigation by police, his contract with the Pirates remains intact.
In April, Kim had posted pictures of her bruises on her Instagram account with a confession that she was in an abusive relationship.

Baseball fans lashed out at her, accusing her of being a “gold digger” and telling her she got hit “because she cheated.” The comments, she said, have been giving her anxiety attacks.

Kim said she hoped Bae would be punished under the law “now that the truth has been revealed.”

The number of domestic violence cases has almost doubled between last year and this year, according to a four-month report released by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family on Thursday.

Since January, the number of government hotline calls by women in abusive relationships rose to 3,903 from 1,886 in the same period last year. The number of reports to the Korean National Police Agency has risen 26 percent from 3,575 last year to 4,848 this year.

Just two weeks ago, a French woman in Korea reported to police that her Korean boyfriend punched her in the face after she told him she wanted to break up with him while they were drinking at a bar in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. Last month, a police officer’s ex-girlfriend reported him for headbutting her in January and knocking off her front teeth during a heated argument.

With the increasing reports of domestic violence, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family in February proposed harsher punishment for perpetrators of domestic violence and stalking.

BY LAURA SONG, HONG SANG-JEE [song.hankyul@joongang.co.kr]