Feminism in South Korea: Some Men Don't Just Dislike It, They Fear It

Feminism is an emerging cultural phenomenon that has reached almost all countries in some form. Predicated on the historic ills of misogyny, feminism urges that all sexes should be equal in every walk of life.

Naturally, not everyone is a fan. For older men and women, some are grounded in their conservative ways where patriarchy is the norm. But because feminism challenges that status-quo, some people are opposed to it.

But in South Korea, men not only loathe feminism, they fear it.

On Sept. 15, 2018, a 39-year-old business owner groped the buttocks of a woman in a Korean soup restaurant and was sentenced to six months in prison. While some cheered, others such as Moon Sung-ho, leader of Korea’s Dang Dang We, a group “fighting for the justice of men”, was furiously astonished that a man could be convicted without any evidence but the victim’s claim and with such a long sentence. He did not blame the courts, however, he blamed feminism.

Later, at the panel discussion at the National Assembly, Korea’s top legislature, Moon denounced how “feminism is no longer about gender equality. It is gender discrimation and its manner is violent and hateful.”

Yet, contrary to Moon’s depiction of a feminist supremacy in South Korea, the nation ranks 115th out of 149 countries on Gender Equality as of 2018. The fact of the matter is, South Korea is still an infamous patriarchal society.

A man by the fake name of Kim, provided his personal opinions on the matter of feminism. He is in his 20s and is about to graduate university. According to Kim, he “sits apart from women at bars to avoid being falsely accused of sexual harassment.” Like many men, he used to support how females wanted to gain some equal footing, but now he perceives feminism to be a supremacy movement to bring down men, and he is not alone at all.

A survey from Ma Kyung-hee, a gender policy researcher at Korean Women’s Development Institute, illustrated some alarming statistics out of the 3000 Korean men that participated.

For 62 years, South Korean males have been forced into the army. Men are sick of it and ask, what about women? While women are out in the world pursuing their dreams and advancing their careers, men are stuck in the army. 83% of males think it’s better to do away with mandatory military service and 72% of men think that male-only conscription is a form of gender discrimination against men.

A Realmeter poll in 2018 found that out of 1000 adults, 76% of men in their 20s oppose feminism. This concerning number suggests that there must be more to the story than men simply hating feminism, and there certainly is; most men would be okay with the mandatory military service if women were required to participate as well -- that’s equality is it not?

The issue young men raise as of now is that men lose two years of their freedom and opportunity. Kim asks, “If I can't use that time for self-improvement, won't I lag behind women in the job market?"

Yes, males are scared. Youth unemployment has risen from 6.9% to 9.9% in the last decade. Plus, housing prices are astronomically high with the median price for an apartment in Seoul going for $670,000.

But to put everything into perspective, women still earn less than men and women are still poorly represented in government. So men cannot simply victimize themselves without looking at the reality.

Still though, Lee Jun-seok, a 34-year-old senior member of the centrist Bareun Mirae Party, suggests the creation of a new political party that would strongly oppose feminism much like the right-wing parties in Europe.

Men in Korea truly believe that feminism is out to get them. Kim says, “We are the punching bag.”

Do these Korean men have a point worth listening to?

Work Cited

  1. https://edition.cnn.com/2019/09/21/asia/korea-angry-young-men-intl-hnk/index.html

  2. https://thediplomat.com/2021/07/how-feminism-became-a-dirty-word-in-south-korea/

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