Men consider their place as victims amid Me Too furorA 26-year-old counselor at a local call center recalled a recent company retreat during which some of his female senior colleagues gossiped over dinner about a male worker from a different team.
“His lower body looks so masculine,” said one. “I envy his girlfriend.” The counselor, surnamed Jeong, was then groped by a female coworker who was sitting next. She asked, “How’s yours?”
Empowered by Korea’s mushrooming Me Too movement, Jeong wanted to speak out but hesitated because he is a man. “I was so offended,” said Jeong. “I wanted to join the Me Too movement, but I knew I wouldn’t be taken seriously.”
But Jeong is not alone. One in four male respondents said they experience sexual harassment at work at least once a week, according to a study last year by the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education & Training, which surveyed 1,734 male workers across various industries.
While women tend to experience physical assault, the study showed that Korean men were more likely to experience verbal abuse, but not always. A 29-year-old office worker surnamed Lee said, “I’ve always been shy about my thin physique, so I started working out this year. One time, when our team was at a bar, a senior male colleague asked whether I’ve seen any improvements and suddenly slipped his hand inside my jacket to touch my chest.”
Older employees, several human resources managers told the paper, are also struggling with sexual harassment, though often in a radically different sense. A 40-something worker at a local conglomerate surnamed Park said he was summoned by his company’s HR office earlier this month for verbally abusing a junior staff member several years back.
“I told her, ‘Women over the age of 35 are no longer considered women. Why do you have an Adam’s apple, by the way?’” Park recalled. “But over the years, we’ve grown so close with each other. She often raised her voice at me and we exchanged some pretty nasty jokes.”
Park therefore assumed she was taking revenge when she decided to report him to HR after he scolded her for her poor performance.
“I was dumbfounded and upset,” said Park.
An HR worker for a different conglomerate said several senior workers have called up the team to ask whether anyone accused them of sexual misconduct. “If rumors spread,” the worker said, “the suspects could be internally probed and punished, or worse, fired.”
BY YU SUNG-KUK [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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