Misogyny Persists in South Korea, Despite Progress on Women’s Rights

Misogyny Persists in South Korea, Despite Progress on Women’s Rights
People leave notes at Gangnam Station to mourn the stabbing death of a 23-year-old woman by a male attacker, Seoul, South Korea, May 22, 2016 (AFLO photo by Lee Jae-Won via AP).

Last month, two South Korean police officers assigned to protect high school students in Busan, the country’s second-largest city, were found to have had sex with several of them. But neither was punished. Instead, they both resigned and were set up to receive full retirement benefits. The former police chief who broke the scandal on Facebook commented, “This is what happens when you dispatch young, good-looking police officers to schools filled with teenage girls.”

News of this story broke as South Korea was in an uproar after a young woman was stabbed to death in a bathroom near Seoul’s central Gangnam Station. Her murderer had been standing in an empty stairwell, evidently waiting for a victim. The girl had been spending time in a bar below with her boyfriend. The man who killed her later said he felt “ignored” by women, and that sometimes they walked in front of him on the street and deliberately slowed their pace in order to make him late for work.

Questions arose about the state of the man’s mental health, but his crime was also very quickly labeled an act of misogyny. Within days, one of the Gangnam Station exits was carpeted with thousands of post-it notes expressing grief over the woman’s murder and anger concerning violence against South Korean women. The case became symbolic of the widespread misogyny in South Korea. Unintentionally driving the point home was a far-right group known as Ilbe, which sent a faux-funeral wreath to be placed at the station that included the photographs of sailors who died in the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010. A note with the flowers read, “Let’s remember that soldiers died in the sinking of the Cheonan warship because they were men.”

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