South Korea finds itself embroiled in an all-out gender battle – and it retains getting worse.

The animosity between Korean women and men has reached a degree the place some girls are outright refusing up to now, marry and have children with males – a phenomenon often known as the 4B motion.

As a Korean feminist scholar dwelling within the U.S., I’ve adopted this gender battle from afar as I carried out analysis on up to date Korean gender politics.

Nonetheless, I additionally turned embroiled in it myself after my analysis on Korean masculinity was printed by CNN.

The article described international girls who traveled to Korea after turning into enamored of the thought of courting Korean males from watching Korean tv dramas. I identified that because the vacationers’ fantasies have been based mostly on fictional characters, a few of them ended up upset with the Korean males they dated in actual life.

The article was about racial politics and the masculine beliefs. However some Korean readers thought that I used to be merely criticizing Korean males for not being romantic and good-looking sufficient. One enraged Korean man commented that I used to be an “ugly feminist.”

However this was tame compared to what girls dwelling in South Korea have endured lately.

Excessive misogyny and a feminist backlash

Over the previous couple of a long time, there have been flash factors on this gender battle.

In 2010, Ilbe, a right-wing web site that traffics in misogyny, began attracting customers who peppered the boards with vulgar posts about girls.

Then in 2015, a web-based extremist feminist group named Megalia arose. Its purpose was to battle again by demeaning Korean males in ways in which mirrored the rhetoric on websites like Ilbe.

A yr later, a person who had professed his hatred of ladies murdered a random lady in a public lavatory close to a Seoul subway station. He was finally sentenced to a long time in jail, however the traces have been rapidly drawn. On one aspect have been feminists, who noticed misogyny because the underlying motive. On the opposite aspect have been males who claimed that it was merely the remoted actions of a mentally sick man. The 2 teams violently clashed throughout competing protests on the website of the homicide.

A backdrop of digital intercourse crimes

Nonetheless, none of those occasions have elicited as a lot public controversy because the steep rise in digital intercourse crimes. These are newer types of sexual violence facilitated by expertise: revenge porn; upskirting, which refers to surreptitiously snapping images below girls’s skirts in public; and hidden cameras used to movie girls having intercourse or undressing.

In 2018, there have been 2,289 reported circumstances of digital intercourse crimes; in 2021, the quantity snowballed to 10,353.

In 2019, there have been two main incidents that concerned digital intercourse crimes.

In a single, quite a few male Okay-pop stars have been indicted for filming and circulating movies of ladies in group chatrooms with out their consent.

Just a few months later, Koreans have been shocked to study what turned often known as the “Nth Room Incident,” throughout which a whole bunch of perpetrators – principally males – dedicated digital intercourse crimes on dozens of ladies and minors.

They tended to focus on poorer girls – intercourse staff, or girls who needed to make a couple of bucks by sharing nameless nude images of themselves. The perpetrators both hacked into their social media accounts or approached these girls and supplied them cash, however requested for his or her private info so they might transmit the funds. As soon as they obtained this info, they blackmailed the ladies by threatening to disclose their intercourse work and their nudes to their family and friends.

Since intercourse work and posting nude photos of your self on-line are unlawful in Korea, the ladies, fearing arrest or being ostracized by family and friends, complied with the perpetrators’ calls for to ship much more compromising photos of themselves. The lads would then swap these photos in chatrooms.

And but a 2019 survey carried out by the Korean authorities discovered that enormous swaths of the inhabitants blamed girls for these intercourse crimes: 52% stated that they believed sexual violence happens as a result of girls put on revealing garments, whereas 37% thought if girls skilled sexual assault whereas drunk, they’re partly guilty for his or her victimization.

In different phrases, a big proportion of the Korean inhabitants believes that feminine sexuality is the issue – not the sexual violence.

Authorities coverage lays the groundwork

Digital intercourse crimes are too widespread to put the blame on the ft of a handful of unhealthy actors.

To me, a part of the issue stems from the lengthy historical past of “gendered citizenship.”

Korean feminist scholar Seungsook Moon has written concerning the methods wherein the federal government created one observe for males and one other for ladies because the nation sought to modernize within the second half of the twentieth century:

“Males have been mobilized for obligatory army service after which, as conscripts, utilized as staff and researchers within the industrializing economic system. Ladies have been consigned to lesser manufacturing unit jobs, and their roles as members of the trendy nation have been outlined largely when it comes to organic replica and family administration.”

Though these insurance policies are not formally carried out, the underlying attitudes about gender roles stay embedded in Korean life and tradition. Ladies who veer from being moms and housewives expose themselves to private and non-private backlash.

The federal government has created gender quotas in sure industries to attempt to unravel this technique of gendered citizenship.

As an illustration, some authorities jobs have minimal gender quotas for brand new hires, and the federal government encourages the personal sector to implement comparable insurance policies. In traditionally male-dominant industries, comparable to building, there are quotas for feminine hires, whereas in traditionally female-dominant industries, comparable to training, there are male quotas.

In some methods, this has solely made issues worse. Every gender feels as if the opposite is receiving particular remedy resulting from these affirmative motion insurance policies. Resentment festers.

‘The era that has given up’

In the present day, the sense of competitors between younger women and men is exacerbated by the hovering price of dwelling and rampant unemployment.

Referred to as the “N-Po Technology,” which roughly interprets as “the era that has given up,” many younger South Koreans don’t assume they’ll obtain sure milestones that earlier generations took without any consideration: marriage, having children, discovering a job, proudly owning a house and even friendships.

Though all genders discover themselves discouraged, the act of “giving up” has triggered extra issues for ladies. Males see girls who forgo marriage and having children as egocentric. And once they then attempt to compete in opposition to males for jobs, some males turn into incensed.

Lots of the males who’ve turn into radicalized commit digital intercourse crimes to take revenge on girls who, of their view, have deserted their duties.

Finally, the aggressive dynamic created by the Korean authorities’s embrace of gendered citizenship has stoked the virulent gender battle between Korean women and men, with digital intercourse crimes used as ammunition.

The 4B motion, whereby Korean girls forgo heterosexual courting, marriage, and childbirth, represents a radical escalation of the gender battle by in search of to create a web-based and offline world devoid of males. Moderately than partaking in altercations, these girls are refusing to work together with males, interval.

Digital intercourse crimes are a world downside

To make certain, digital intercourse crimes aren’t distinctive to Korea.

After I train my school class on digital intercourse crimes within the U.S., I’m stunned by what number of of my college students admit that they’ve been victims of digital intercourse crimes, or knew of it taking place at their excessive faculties. And on the Nationwide Ladies’s Research Affiliation’s annual convention in 2022, I watched feminist activists and students from everywhere in the world current their findings about digital intercourse crimes again house.

Since every nation has its personal cultural context for the rise in digital intercourse crimes, there isn’t a single resolution to resolve the issues. However in South Korea, persevering with to unravel the system of gendered citizenship might be a part of the answer.

Min Joo Lee is a Postdoctoral fellow, Indiana College.

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