Just like in the United States, Korean courts are sorting through its DUI laws. In a recent case, the South Korea Supreme Court reviewed some of the basic definitions of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). The Court, in this case, looked at what the law means by “driving.”
American states define “driving” differently. In Colorado, a person is driving if he is ‘operating a motor vehicle.’ Colorado case law indicates that a person is operating a motor vehicle if he is sitting in the driver’s seat and the key is in the ignition.
In the Korean case, a cab driver in South Korea parked his cab in an alley and had drinks at a nearby restaurant. When he received a call asking him to move his car because it was blocking another driver, he moved it a few meters and returned to the restaurant. A passerby called police, alleging that the cabbie was DUI. Police approached the cab driver in the restaurant. He had a blood alcohol content (BAC) over 0.05, the per-se limit for DUI in South Korea. The driver appealed his fine of 1.5 million won (about $1,700), saying that it was excessive under the circumstances.
The Supreme Court ruled that the cabbie’s 6-meter drive was sufficient to charge him with DUI under Korea’s law. Another recent Supreme Court decision stated that a drunk driving charge is valid when even a tiny portion of the vehicles slips out of a roadside parking space and enters a road used for public traffic.
In South Korea, DUI is taken very seriously. The criminal punishment for DUI ranges up to 2 years in prison or fines up to 5 million won. Independent of the criminal punishment, an administrative punishment of a 100 day suspension or revocation of the driver’s license may be imposed.