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The battle of the sexes:why some south korean men are anti-feminist
Written by June Souk | Published. 2022.04.28 19:41 | Count : 695

[METOO hashtag, Credits by Pixabay]

In  2020, young men in their 20s and 30s marched the streets of Seoul to exhibit how they felt in regards to feminism and how it has “gone too far”—namely, that there were no limits or boundaries for what was considered "extreme" when it came to gender related issues. This supposed reaction to unfiltered feminism also caught the attention of then-candidate Yoon Suk-Yeol, now President-Elect, leading to a campaign pledge to disband the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. 

In an effort to dissect this reaction from the public , Nathan Park, a Washington-based attorney, states there are two reasons for this conservative reaction of sorts: the perverted worship of ideal meritocracy in addition to misogyny. 

For Mr. Park, the hardships of youth employment are considered to be one of the pivotal factors influencing this conserative turn. Young South Korean men see their women counterparts as threats in the intense job market who continue to receive preferential treatment due to government policies, diluting the pure notions of meritocracy. Men, according to Park, believe that they are victims of structural gender discrimination in the labor market. A 2019 Sisian report  even claim that 70% of men surveyed  agreed with the statement that “today, discrimination against men is more severe than discrimination against women.” 

This so-called pervasive attitude by South Korean men can be further demonstrated by many young South Korean males making a turn to the political right. In the mayor of Seoul elections in 2021, more than 70% of males voted for the conservative candidate Oh Se-hoon. There are arguments in political circles that claim this visible sharp turn can be related to the new conservative party leader, Lee-Jun Seok, spreading notions of misogynist rhetoric. 

These two factors- perceived meritocracy and misogyny- in conjunction with President-Elect Yoon’s campaign promises appear to have emboldened certain constituencies in the male populace to justify their sentiment as the underdog in need of a new balance. 

President-Elect Yoon has also promised to enhance punishments for false accusations of sexual violence, which has gathered massive support for these young men–who, it must be noted, have developed into a strong voting block for the conservatives. These policies, however, have gathered growing concerns from women, who worry that such actions by the incoming administration would discourage women in Korea to speak up against abuses. 

Regardless of one’s stance on this issue in South Korea, it is fair to say that with any political evolution, in this case, progressive feminist gains, there has been an interesting if not equal reaction to the growing feminist movement. While some argue that the current movement is an ominous sign for the future of South Korea and her politics, there are individuals, such as Timothy S.Rich, an associate professor of political science at Western Kentucky University,  who believe that it is necessary for the new government to take the potential concerns held by these men into account and aim to alleviate them. 

Nevertheless, there are also individuals such as Bae In-kyu, the head of Man on Solidarity -one of the largest and most active anti-feminist groups here in South Korea- who strongly believes that feminists are a “social evil.” This hatred of feminism is said to be rooted in fear from these men, who feel threatened and marginalized in Korean society. There is fear that the rise of women participation in the workforce and in positions of power, directly challengethe traditional patriarchal system in which Korea has maintained for generations.  

These groups, due to the influence of technology and the internet have been able to prosper and amplify their agenda onto vast audiences. These groups have threatened and criticized businesses with boycotts, forcing companies and corporations to pull advertisements and make public apologies. 

It is evident that this underlying “battle of the sexes” will be one of the more pressing issues that the new South Korean administration will have to handle along with other political fault lines that have divided the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June Souk

Grade 11

Seoul Foreign School

 

 

 

 

 

June Souk  hsr@dherald.com

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