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Gender Conflict in Korea

For centuries, Korean society has been a traditional patriarchal one. However, the modernization of the country brought along various changes, including the emancipation of women.

As this transition happened rather rapidly, certain social conflicts were bound to emerge. As a result, gender conflict in Korea has been a hot issue in the last few decades.

Opposition against Feminism

Feminism in Korea seems to be understood differently than in other parts of the world. While the general idea of the movement remains essentially the same: women's rights, it has been criticized for strong anti-male sexist sentiments and radical views. Furthermore, mainstream Korean feminism seems to be operating mainly in the virtual space which puts it at risk of fragmentary and distorted information. These are some of the factors which generate mass opposition against feminists in the country. Statistically, Korean men of ages 20s-40s express a negative reaction towards feminism. The overall situation is exemplary of the ongoing gender conflict in the country which has recently been exposed on the global scene.

Gender and the Olympics

Said clash was showcased at last year's Tokyo Olympics when the gender controversy surrounding An San, a Korean female archery athlete who won three medals at the time, took place. Instead of being praised for her achievement, she faced tremendous backlash as she was associated with the feminist movement. Although An did not make any direct political comments at the games, netizens were quick to point out some of the expressions she had used on social media. Allegedly, some of her posts include slang typical of local feminist activists. This, combined with her short hair, was enough for her to be claimed as a feminist and that is how the athlete found herself in the midst of an online slander. There were numerous vicious comments against the medalist, with some Koreans going as far as to suggest that she should be stripped of her title. On the other hand, supporters of An attacked male archer Kim Je-deok for no other reason than being a man.

Offensive Symbolism

This is not the only instance of Korea's gender war. On the contrary, this confrontation not only affects sports and social circles, but also has direct impact on businesses. Since May of last year, more than 20 companies and public institutions in the country have removed items that could be viewed as feminist symbols from their products, and at least 12 of them have apologized to male customers to appease them. For example, some argue that the gesture of the thumb and index finger pinching towards each other is meant to mock the size of a man's penis. Therefore, it is considered an anti-male statement and, by association, a feminist symbol. That is why, convenience store chain GS25 which had launched an advertisement that happened to feature an image of a similar hand gesture to promote a sausage, was faced with immediate backlash. Once the controversy was in the public eye, several other companies were also forced to rethink their designs.


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South Korea

Author: Margarita Kichukova

Editor: Yousra Feriel Drioua

© World Reporters - 2021.22

All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the permission of The Create Your Korea team.

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