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Why The #MeToo Movement Is So Important To South Korea

The word feminism became the word of the year following the incredible acts of women around the world, and in October 2017, prominent women in the entertainment industry came out with their own stories and became major supporters of women who have experienced sexual abuse. The #MeToo Movement has sparked important discussions about the hardships for women globally, and in South Korea has allowed women who previously felt like they did not have a voice to express their hardships.

Hundreds of South Korean women are telling their stories of sexual abuse, and actively fighting for the protection of women overall in South Korea. With South Korea being a conservative country, many women have kept quiet about their experiences, often involving men in senior positions. The hierarchical society in South Korea has allowed older men, or men in higher positions, to abuse their power and act wrongly towards their juniors.

The MeToo movement did not gain attention in South Korea until public prosecutor Seo Ji-hyeon accused a former Korean ministry of justice official of groping her during a funeral in 2010 in an interview televised in January.
Seo Ji-hyeon gives an interview regarding her sexual harassment.

Following this interview, prominent men in the industry were exposed one by one. Presidential candidate Governor Ahn Hee-jung was accused of raping his secretary and as a result, resigned from his position. The director Kim Ki-duk, Golden Lion winner at the Venice Film Festival, has had the release of his movies stopped due to the allegations made against him by actresses accusing attempted rape. Once a Nobel Prize for Literature nominee, poet Ko Un will have his poems erased from South Korean textbooks after he was accused of sexually assaulting female literary hopefuls. Actor Jo Min-Ki committed suicide in March after he was accused of sexually assaulting eight women. Before his death, he was fired from his position as a drama professor at Cheongju University after students accused him of rape and sexual assault.

In March, Irene from the South Korean girl group Red Velvet recommended the book Born 1982 by Kim Ji Young, a popular Korean feminist novel that discussed the life of a Korean women in a sexist society.
Male fans of Irene cut her photo cards into pieces and light them on fire.

Irene’s recommendation have seen some male fans leaving comments saying “I’m disappointed in her”, “I regret ever thinking of marrying you”, “Bad b*tch” and “Don’t act so naive to the world. She needs to realize that the majority of her fans are male and it’s wrong for her to make them feel bad when they’re spending money on her.”

With all the internal problems regarding women’s rights in South Korea, it’s not hard to see why the MeToo movement is essential in helping these women tell their stories. In a society where women make up only about 2% of the leadership positions in workplaces, it is not uncommon for male bosses or colleagues to touch a woman inappropriately or even invite their female colleagues to their hotel room after drinking with them for hours. Due to the stigma against victims, many South Korean victims have turned to anonymous apps such as Blind to come forward with allegations. Hopefully, with the continuation of the MeToo movement, South Korean citizens will continue to protest for the voice of women to be heard and listened to. With the downfall of these abusers, South Korea is certainly moving forward in terms of women’s rights.

Photo credit: Hindustantimes

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