HomeInternationalHow feminism became a hot topic in South Korea's presidential election

How feminism became a hot topic in South Korea’s presidential election

Waving indicators and sporting white sashes emblazoned with the phrases “Vote for Women,” they accused presidential candidate Yoon Suk Yeol of making an attempt to enchantment to anti-feminists to garner help forward of the election.

“You don’t deserve to be a presidential candidate, Yoon,” the primarily feminine crowd chanted. “Go away.”

The protest highlighted how heated South Korea’s gender warfare has turn out to be forward of the nation’s March 9 presidential vote, with each main candidates wading into the difficulty to win over younger voters who’re more and more cut up alongside gender strains.

Facing a hypercompetitive job market and skyrocketing housing costs, anti-feminists declare the nation’s bid to deal with gender inequality has tipped too far in girls’s favor. Feminists, in the meantime, level to the nation’s widespread sexual violence, entrenched gender expectations, and low feminine illustration in boardrooms and in politics as examples of how discrimination towards girls remains to be rife.

Surveys present a rising proportion of younger males are against feminism — and conservative candidate and political novice Yoon is making an attempt to win their help. He’s promising to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, which he claims is unfair to males, and lift the penalty for falsely reporting intercourse crimes. CNN approached Yoon’s workplace for touch upon his gender insurance policies however didn’t obtain a response.

Meanwhile, liberal candidate Lee Jae-myung of the incumbent Democratic Party has tried to strike a extra balanced tone. He says discrimination towards males is unsuitable — an obvious nod to the views of anti-feminist males — however has additionally promised to shut the gender wage hole.

The ruling Democratic Party's presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung greets supporters on March 03.

He says he’ll maintain the gender ministry — however change its Korean identify in order that it not contains the phrase “women.” But in the previous couple of days of the election, he seems to have accepted that he will not win the younger male votes and is proactively courting on-line feminist communities.

In a assertion to CNN, Lee’s workplace mentioned he had created “many gender-related policies” for men and women, together with a quota system for ladies to carry at the least 30% for high-ranking public roles, advantages for brand spanking new moms and expanded help for paternity depart.

The heated election marketing campaign has left girls feeling as if the actual points dealing with them are getting used for political point-scoring. And some fear that if Yoon wins the March 9 election, divisions between genders might widen even additional.

People cast their ballots during early voting South Korea's presidential election at a polling station in Seoul on March 4.

The rise of anti-feminists

Since the brutal 2016 homicide in Seoul’s fashionable Gangnam neighborhood of a younger lady focused for her gender, South Korea has confronted a reckoning over its attitudes towards girls.

Activists pushed to deal with sexual harassment and widespread discrimination and located an ally in outgoing President Moon Jae-In, who vowed to “become a feminist president” earlier than he was elected in 2017.

But in the years since, some males say the needle has moved too far. Anti-feminists level to statistics displaying girls at the moment are going to college at a increased price than males and say that obligatory army service for males provides girls a bonus in the roles market. Some place South Korea’s demographic disaster, brought on by slipping beginning charges, squarely on the ft of feminists.

While in different international locations, anti-feminists is perhaps discounted by politicians, in South Korea, these males have made themselves a highly effective voter bloc.

Last April, Moon’s Democratic Party misplaced mayoral elections in each Seoul and its second largest metropolis Busan, with exit polls displaying younger males in their 20s had overwhelmingly shifted their vote to the conservative People Power Party.

And in May the Korean advertising and analysis agency Hankook Research mentioned a survey of three,000 adults discovered that greater than 77% of males in their 20s and greater than 73% of males in their 30s had been “repulsed by feminists or feminism.”

“There is a sense of exclusion among men,” mentioned the 36-year-old author Park Se-hwan, who identifies as anti-feminist. “It’s now time for us to discuss men in South Korea who in comparison have been largely ignored.” Park says he agrees with gender equality however says this sense of neglect has garnered “a general objection to feminism” amongst younger males.

Park Se-hwan identifies as anti-feminist.

According to Youngmi Kim, a senior lecturer in Korean Studies on the University of Edinburgh, social polarization and a lack of employment alternatives for younger individuals has led to males in their 20s and 30s changing into extra conservative.

Or, as Yun Ji-yeong, an affiliate professor in philosophy at Changwon National University, places it: “Many people are realizing that the (country’s) scarce resources are being distributed very unequally.”

“When they’re looking for the cause, they point the finger at the women who are in front of them.”

The battle dealing with feminists

To girls, the fraught debate over gender is not simply leaving them feeling like a political punching bag — they are saying it is also plastering over the actual points they’re dealing with.

Just 15.6% of senior and managerial positions are held by girls — considerably lower than the US’s 42%. Less than 20% of legislators are girls, once more effectively beneath most OECD international locations. Digital intercourse crimes are so pervasive that they impacts the standard of life for ladies and ladies, in line with Human Rights Watch (HRW), and ladies proceed to face sexism and strain to fulfill unrealistic magnificence requirements.
Feminist protesters at a demonstration in Seoul on February 27.

Yang Ji-hye, a youth rights activist, says most of the anti-feminist motion’s claims are usually not supported by statistics — and he or she thinks the best way gender is being talked about in the election is “absurd.”

“I’m sick of these anti-feminist politics — it makes me overwhelmed just to say how much women are being discriminated against, when at the same time they say there is reverse discrimination (against men),” she mentioned.

Writer Park Won-ik says individuals with excessive views on either side are engaged in a “cultural war.” He says it is tough for others to specific their opinions with out being threatened. “There’s no effort of keeping certain rules as good citizens or as civilized people, whether you’re feminists or not,” he mentioned.

According to the University of Edinburgh’s Kim, Korea nonetheless has a “long journey ahead” in phrases of gender equality.

Kim Ju-hee, who was on the protests, has felt discriminated towards for her gender — she’s been informed her seems had been a part of her job of being a nurse, and at dwelling her feminine kin are nonetheless anticipated eat at a small desk in the back of the home after ancestral rituals. She additionally feels annoyed about the best way feminism has been used in the election.

Kim Ju-hee, a nurse, at the protest in central Seoul on February 27.

“In this election, feminism is not viewed as an issue, but rather a token,” mentioned Kim, 27. “I was very angry that it was used as if it was going to get discarded afterward.”

Yun, from Changwon National University, says if Yoon turns into president she expects feminists to face a fair better problem for equality.

“Since the abolition of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family is one of the most important promises, I think that it will probably be implemented as a tangible action first,” Yun mentioned.

“In that case, I have a concern that gender conflict and women’s human rights may go further backward.”

CNN’s Pallabi Munsi and Saeeun Park contributed to this report.

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