The Korea Times
Misogyny, misandry prevalent among young people
In September, a petition appeared on Cheong Wa Dae’s website, requesting law revisions be made to subject women to mandatory military service. It wasn’t a joke, however, as the petition earned support from over 83,000 people, making it the second-most supported petition on the presidential office’s website.
“Don’t women assert gender equality, stating that women possess equal or superior abilities to men? Then shouldn’t women also serve mandatory military service?” the petition said.
“If revisions mandating military service by women are not passed, then recruitment of female officers in the military and police forces should be halted,” it said.
A week later, another petition appeared, earning over 43,000 supporters. It requested the abolition of the ultra-conservative website Ilbe, which is known for its offensive content targeting women.
“The Ilbe website, which is notorious for making the public feel uncomfortable and exerting harm on others, has become a social issue — I cannot understand why it has not been abolished yet,” the post said.
The petition referred to secretly taken pictures of (female) “cousins” posted by male users during the Chuseok holidays last month.
“It goes without mentioning that countless comments would qualify as harassment,” the post said.
Misogyny, misandry in Korea
Ilbe’s derogatory comments of women gave birth to Megalia, a radical feminist online community.
Megalia is the first type of feminist online community that created a social stir after it became publicly known in 2015.
The website used the same controversial terms of Ilbe, but by subjecting males to disparagement. Users started referring to Korean men as “hannamchoong,” which belittles them as insects, as men referred to Korean moms as “momchoong.”
Other similar online communities emerged, and influenced the public with its feminist views.
In May 2016, a woman was murdered in a restroom of a building nearby Gangnam Station. The convicted murderer was a man who said he committed the offense because he had often been looked down on by women. The victim was a random customer of a bar in the building.
The case triggered an uproar from not only women’s groups but women in the general, who claimed this was a misogyny-based murder.
More recently in July, a female owner of a waxing parlor was murdered, after she was featured on a Youtube broadcast.
A male broadcaster had visited the parlor to get a waxing treatment and broadcast the process.
He reportedly mentioned that the shop was located in a remote area in southern Seoul and made comments that sexually objectified the owner — such as that she was pretty and that he was aroused by the waxing treatment.
The murder of the waxing parlor owner occurred months after the suspect watched the Youtube video.
Feminists defined the case as yet another misogyny-based murder and held protests at Gangnam Station, which has become a symbol of women’s movements.
In August, a female gamer received a death threat from a male counterpart. She is known for her broadcasts which harass male gamers the same way she was harassed while playing games as a woman, a minority in the scene.
The male gamer, who was angered after feeling humiliated, vowed to kill the female gamer, broadcasting his way to her house.
He was arrested and fined, but this incident prompted Rep. Jin Sun-mee to speak out and request further police investigations.
Understanding the phenomenon
Some say men acting in this way is a response to the competitive Korean society.
“Life has become increasingly tough in the ultra-competitive society. People seek approval and it appears they are attempting to make others inferior in order feel better about themselves,” Lee Hyun-jae, professor of the University of Seoul’s Institute for Urban Humanities said.
Others view the phenomenon as a means to curb the feminist movement.
“Misogyny can be understood as a means to silence women,” according to Seo Min, a professor at Dankook University’s college of medicine and author of “Misogyny, what is it women have done?”
Seo is one of the few outspoken male feminists here.
“Women endured oppression in the past but now they have started raising objections. And with the advent of the Internet, men started to lash out at women who are protesting, by using derogatory language,” he said.
Feminist activists say misogyny is a relatively new term in Korean society but the concept is not.
“It has always been there — it is just that people have started discussing the issue only recently. The culture of patriarchy is age-old,” said Jay, an activist at civic group Women Link.
Jay rejected the idea of a “clash between the genders.” “This is based on the condition that they are on level ground — that they have equal standing, but the fact is — circumstances were tilted in favor of men from the start.”
As Megalia became known, many of the terms used on the site came as a shock. Critics pointed out this type of belittling could not be regarded as feminism. Feminist activists have a different stance.
“This goes to show how derogatory the original comments against women were,” Jay of Women Link said.
Still, there are concerns about the extreme terms that are being used on such radical sites, because minors who are prone to be influenced are freely able to access them.
The government is currently monitoring the sites and gives orders to remove content that is deemed highly inappropriate.
According to data from Rep. Shin Yong-hyeon of the minor opposition People’s Party, Ilbe received 1,500 orders from the government over the past five years to delete offensive posts, topping the list of 10 portal sites. Megalia was also among the top 10.
Megalia is now closed. The most active feminist website is now “Womad,” derived from Megalia.
However, monitoring has not curbed the amount of offensive content, as the number of removal orders has only grown, from 149 in 2012 to 1,352 in 2016.
“Because there are no legal regulations restricting such content, we can only order website managers to control the content,” Lee Sung-woo, an official at Korea Communications Standards Commission said.
Dealing with the issue
Some say regulations are needed to restrict hate-speech. However, others say regulations will not be effective unless there is a social consensus on the dangers of hate speech.
“Simply putting a law into effect when public perceptions on gender are still behind will not change anything,” Lee said.
“Before regulations are introduced, schools need to teach students about gender equality and social discussions need to take place on the issue,” she said.
Along the same lines, some say websites such as Megalia are needed to keep discussions going, even if they invite controversy.
Seo said websites such as Megalia have helped liberate women to some extent and stated women need to continue to make their voices heard.
“Because women have started speaking out through Megalia, men like myself have taken up interest in the issue of gender equality. More men need to take part in the movement to promote feminism,” he said.
Jay of Women Link also evaluated Megalia positively. “Through Megalia women were able to make a strong response against misogyny, ” she said.