Korea’s war between genders gets hotter

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Korea’s war between genders gets hotter


A pair of college students, girlfriend and boyfriend, decided to attend a sexual violence prevention class together. Maybe not a good idea.

In the class, the lecturer defined prostitution as “an act in which a person who is relatively superior in status buys a person of inferior status with money and claims ownership.”

Afterwards, the couple quarreled. The guy argued that the person who employs a prostitute’s services is not the only one at fault and that a prostitute is not necessarily a second-class citizen. The girl scoffed, saying men consider themselves superior in society and people who buy sexual services are mostly men. The eternal war between men and women hasn’t cooled down in Korea. In fact, when the Institute for the Future of State hired Tapacross, a professional research company, to use big data to analyze the main social issues in Korea, conflicts between men and women came out on top. Tapacross analyzed big data consisting of 120 million references on online platforms from mass media and social network platforms for a period of 18 months from July 2017 to December 2018, after President Moon Jae-in entered office.

In the top 10 issues identified by Tapacross, six were related to relations between the sexes or gender equality. The Me Too movement came second on the list followed by singer Koo Ha-ra’s problems with a boyfriend at No. 4 and a bar fight between women and men near Isu Station at No. 5.

Koo Ha-ra’s ex-boyfriend threatened to release a sex video of them during an argument in September 2018, and the couple became a symbol of a very acrimonious breakup.

The Isu Station assault was a bar fight between two women and four men near Isu Station in southern Seoul. The women claimed to be victims of a hate crime by misogynists; the men claimed their social media and legal attacks were a hate crime against men. The police recommended all parties be prosecuted for assault.

At No. 6 was a scandal surrounding former South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung, currently appealing convictions for allegedly sexually assaulting and raping his secretary, which makes him the highest-profile target so far of Korea’s Me Too movement. The Constitutional Court’s striking down of a 66-year ban on abortion was No. 7.

A scandal about an intern at Korea’s largest furniture company claiming she was coerced into having sexual intercourse with a senior colleague was No. 9. Police closed the investigation citing a lack of evidence.

All of these issues were interpreted very differently by men and women - almost certainly the reason they rate so highly on the list of issues prominent in the zeitgeist.

“Recently in Korean society, even discussions about safety are related to women and feminism,” said Lee Taek-kwang, a professor at Kyung Hee University. “The recent Burning Sun nightclub scandal exposed a culture that exploits women, which has brought about public rage.”

Tapacross analyzed big data consisting of around 120 million references online with a customized program that gathers data by “crawling,” or extracting data from web pages, mass media, social networks and online communities. The program gathers an average of 10 million posts or articles each day, and from this data, the company announces the top 10 most referenced issues each week.

In the period from July 2017 to December 2018, Tapacross identified 780 of the most referenced issues. One of its most surprising findings was that the conflict between genders amounted to 70 percent of all social conflict. During the same period, ideological conflict only accounted for 14.8 percent, generational conflict 5.1 percent and conflict between labor and management 4.5 percent.

In contrast, between January 2015 and June 2016, gender conflict only accounted for 31.2 percent of all social conflict. The number of postings on the internet related to gender conflict increased sixfold from about 3.8 million posts in the period from 2015 to 2016 to 24.1 million posts from 2017 to 2018.

In terms of gender equality, the top issues identified in the research were sex crimes, dating violence and the Hongik University male nude model incident. At No. 4 was the novel “Kim Ji Young, Born 1982.”

In the Hongik University incident, a woman model in a still life drawing class posted online photos of one of her male colleagues posing nude for a class.

She was tried for illegally filming and sharing photos and punished with a prison term of 10 months. Some women found that treatment overly harsh, and said that men who posted nude photos of women were never punished so strictly.

The novel “Kim Ji Young, Born 1982” by Cho Nam-joo became a best-seller for portraying gender inequality and sexual discrimination in Korea and was embraced by feminists. But some thought it went too far.

“Female celebrities posted pictures of the book on their social media accounts,” said Kim Su-hyun, the director of Tapacross. “Men expressed their discontent with the novel and said that it encourages reverse discrimination, which led to conflict about support for feminism.”

With such public concentration on gender equality issues, young men in particular are wondering whether they deserve criticism for male attitudes of generations past.

“It isn’t like all men commit sex crimes or that men in their 20s enjoy vested rights like the older generation did,” said a 24-year-old surnamed Lee. “In reality, men are pressured by comments that point out that they are ‘the oldest son’ and ‘a man,’ so I’m worried that [society] would only focus on women’s rights, which would bring reverse discrimination.”

On the other hand, many women believe that men do not understand the difficulties that they face. “The term reverse discrimination is intentionally used to conceal gender inequality,” said Yoon Ji-young, a professor at the Institute of Body and Culture at Konkuk University. “When people try to set things straight, men suddenly become the victim.”

“Gender conflict come from men and women thinking that the current situation is unfair,” said Kim Hyung-jun, a professor of politics at Myongji University. “Women focus on discrimination against women and misogyny, but men focus on misandry and reverse discrimination, which creates conflict.”

Conflict between men and women is being amplified in a negative way through online platforms. Through an analysis of keywords related to conflict between men and women, 47 percent were negative terms from 2017 and 2018, which was a big increase compared to 38 percent from 2015 to 2016. Words related to mockery, threats, insults and hatred, which incite emotional debate, were frequently used.

“It is a problem that the conflict between the genders is appearing as feelings of hate, which is emotionally consuming,” said Shin Kwang-young, a professor of sociology at Chung-Ang University. “This is amplified through the internet, and for this to be used to advance society, the conflict must be approached as to how it can improve current policies.”

BY SPECIAL REPORTING TEAM [jung.myungsuk@joongang.co.kr]
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