South Korea: Another Battleground for the Feminist Movement

ABDULMOHSEN Al JUMA WRITES– South Korea is undergoing a measure of major social upheaval with regard to how women are treated in the country. Change has been catalyzed mainly by a myriad of scandals that rocked the country over the past year.

Despite having the 11th largest economy in the world, South Korea’s treatment of women has ranked much lower in every international assessment. For example it was ranked 115 out of 149 on the World Economic Forum’s report on gender parity. Women have been silent victims in the country for a long time. But with the emergence of global movements such as #metoo, women are finding the strength to speak up against serious abuse – even against some well-known politicians, professors and others in the limelight.

One of Korea’s most reputed poets, Ko Un, was accused by another fellow poet of sexual abuse. In 2019, an appeals court of South Korea found politician and former presidential candidate Ahn Hee Jung guilty of sexually assaulting his former secretary and was sentenced to 3 years and six months in prison. Another South Korean director, Lee Yoon-Taek was recently jailed for six years after being found guilty of sexually assaulting nine women and being accused by 17 women of sexual violence.

However, the biggest scandals that marred the nation were the spycam porn scandal and the Burning Sun scandal. The government had been suffering from the growing problem of women being filmed secretly in changing rooms and restrooms. This has forced the authorities to make daily checks of about 20,000 public toilets in Seoul itself.

The rising trend in Japanese culture and animations, soap operas, and even pornography is emulated in Korea. Adding insult to injury is the growth of “revenge porn,” where boyfriends secretly upload scandalous videos of their ex-girlfriends as a form of revenge.

The Burning Sun scandal exposed elements of the K-pop industry of having links with prostitution and sexual assaults. One K-pop idol was linked with reports of women being drugged and molested in the Burning Sun nightclub. A video of male idols having sex with at least ten different women who also looked to be drugged has been surfaced and not helped K-pop’s glamour image.

Such events are now bringing forth a few revolutionary changes that are considered to be a long time coming. The K-pop industry is witnessing a change where females k-pop idols are starting to ditch their high heels during performances and are performing in sweatshirts and sneakers. People have responded positively to such changes, with many women hoping that change is close. Then, on April 11, South Korea abolished its 66-year-old law that criminalized abortion. Its seems even in the tradition-bound Korea culture, the times they are a-changin’.

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