Women’s groups across South Korea are planning to stage massive protests nationwide against violence based on gender this weekend. This is the first time to take place simultaneously in a number of large cities after the outbreak.
It’s an attempt to counteract the anti-feminist trend that has taken over South Korea, creating a tension-filled gender war in which discussion about women’s rights is considered taboo and males claim they are the victims of discrimination based on gender.
The pandemic been a major obstacle to many public gatherings. However, after the lifting restriction this year women are returning to the streets in greater number.
In October, a plethora of people from all over the country came in Seoul in protest against President Yoon Suk Yul’s plans to dismantle the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. Social, labor and civic organizations, such as Korean Women’s Associations United, came together to urge the government to protect women’s rights.
The feminist group Haeil (Korean word for “tsunami”) will be organizing protests across the cities of Seoul, Gwangju and Busan on Sunday.
An administration that fuels the anti-feminist movement
The South Korean feminist movement has made progress in the past five years, leading to one of the most popular”MeToo” movements across Asia. The movement threw out important public figures that were who were accused of sexual assault and even the Mayor of Busan South Korea’s second largest city.
However, some people are now thinking things are getting too much.
Yoon took over the presidency in January with a platform in which she accused feminists of being misogynistic and appealing to males who feel that they must be the ones to bear the burden of the country’s increasing economic uncertainty and decreasing market for jobs. Policies designed to improve female economic opportunities and reduce the gap in pay between men and women are fueling young men’s discontent towards women.
Anti-feminists have used online forums and social media to promote their beliefs of Korean feminists are a radical group of man-haters. One YouTube channel that has more than 500,000 subscribers posts videos that portray feminists as “mentally sick” radicals who advocate female male chauvinism.
Yoon continues to push his anti-feminist platform in recent months, insisting that he’ll continue to implement his plans to eliminate the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. The ministry was created in 2001 to offer support to girls who are victims of domestic and sexual violence as well as to ensure that police officers don’t discriminate against women according to gender.
Yoon has blamed the ministry’s staff for treating men as “potential sexual criminals” and for accelerating gender discrimination.
“Abolishing this ministry of gender is all about enhancing the security of families, women as well as children as well as the socially vulnerable,” he told reporters in October.
What’s it like to be an Asian woman living in South Korea
In the last couple of centuries, South Korea has continued to have the biggest gender pay gap in the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). At the time of the 2021 census the gap in gender pay for South Korea was 31% nearly double what is the OECD average of around 12 percent. To give an example the gap between the two is 16.9 percent for the United States.
South Korean women largely must make a choice between work and family as The Economist’s glass-ceiling index rating it as the lowest-performing nation within the OECD for women working in 2022. A strict policy on maternity leave at workplaces are among the causes of South Korea’s shockingly low fertility rate of 0.8 children per womanwhich is the lowest worldwide according to the World Bank.
Apart from discrimination at the workplace, women are subjected to a certain standard of beauty, which many consider unjust and insensitive. Women are stigmatized who don’t wear makeup or have hair that is short according to Yusu Li, a member of the feminist group Haeil.
Danbi Hwang, a member of Haeil the group, stated that when women don’t wear makeup when they go to work, colleagues will inquire, “Do you feel OK? Do you feel like something is wrong?”
“They react by attacking directly the appearance of women,” she said.
“Escape The Corset,” or “escape of the corset” movement was a phenomenon that took South Korea by storm in 2019 as a protest against the beauty standards in the country and pressure from society to conform.
However, the societal expectations for women are still in place. In one instance during the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, South Korean archer An San — who was awarded three gold medals in Tokyo was the victim of online slurs from feminists who claimed her hairstyle suggested that she was a radical feminist.
Witch hunts against feminists and any other woman that talks about gender-related issues.
Hairstyles can be the cause of insults and accusations of male-hating, many ladies are in South Korea are fearful of protesting about the rights of women.
Ellen Kwon, 25, told me that many young Korean men are snubbed by women because they are committed to gender equality.
Kwon She, who has lived the majority of her life in Korea and the other half of her time in her native U.S., said she isn’t willing to openly discuss gender-related issues with her Korean acquaintances.
“I know how men will be reacting,” she said. “I am sure they’ll think”This is another woman talking about gender issues ..'”
“Femi,” short for feminist, is now a derogatory term applied to anyone who speaks out regarding gender discrimination and women’s advancement across South Korea. Hwang Haeil, who is from Haeil, told me that asking someone if they’re an “femi” within Korea can be the exact as asking them if they suffer from mental illness.
“This kind of discourse restricts women’s voices particularly when they attempt to promote gender issues,” said Jinsook Kim an Emory professor Emory University who studies online gender and misogyny. “A majority of women are unable to discuss gender-related issues in public settings and are unable to speak to their closest friends because it isn’t clear what peers think of the issue.”
Because of this, many women work online anonymously. Most of them don’t receive threats of death regularly and some even leave the country.
There aren’t many public figures that advocate for women’s rights, Korean girls are trying to find role model, Kim said.
In the workplace there are women who hold just 21 percent of management positions, and just five percent of executive roles at South Korean companies. Politically, the same pattern is evident. For instance, in the legislative chambers just 19 percent of seats are held by women. According to Kim the report, there are only few female professors in Korean universities.
“It’s difficult to say there’s hope when we take a look at the whole picture,” said Li, of Haeil. “But what keeps me optimistic is my feminist peers as well as my acquaintances, seeing women with similar characteristics to me, such as little hair, with no makeup, and the women’s rights movements that show that we’re not the only ones.”