Stop widening the gender divide

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Stop widening the gender divide

Yoon Suk-yeol of the opposition People Power Party (PPP) won the 20th presidential election against his ruling Democratic Party (DP) rival Lee Jae-myung by the narrowest-ever margin, largely because he had lost the votes of women in their 20s and 30s. Polls conducted during the final stage of the race reportedly showed Yoon taking a comfortable lead over Lee. But Yoon won by a mere 0.7 percent. Young females went as far as sending donations to the distant third-place runner Sim Sang-jeong of the Justice Party as a show of support and denouncement of the PPP.

The PPP has fallen largely out of favor with young women due to PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok’s outright efforts to court young men during the campaign. Yoon changed his position in line with Lee and promised to disband the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family if he gets elected. The pledge was even reiterated on International Women’s Day on March 8. Various posts about the party’s sexism quickly spread on social media.

Women took collective action ahead of the vote day on March 9. A post on social media on election day urged women to take action to punish those who had discredited the opposite sex that makes up half of the world without any shame. Women fear that they are in danger of losing their voice if they stay quiet on policies discriminative toward women.

In a TV program, a campaigner for the PPP even said that the campaign strategy targeting young male voters had helped win votes for the conservative candidate from the younger generation. He more or less admitted the party had chosen an undesirable tactic to woo young male voters. But the strategy backfired. Yoon won 58.7 percent of the votes from male voters in their 20s, but lost 58 percent of women in the same age group to Lee. The PPP gave away a huge chunk of the votes from the younger generation who had been disgruntled with the sitting government due to its real estate policy, among other factors.

President-elect Yoon must address the deepening gender conflict by revisiting his campaign platform. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family drew criticism for its ambiguous attitude toward the victims of sexual crimes committed by politicians of the ruling party. Yoon must consider launching a gender equality committee to address inequality issues.

Young people share common pains as well as different fears and complaints according to their gender. Politics must not add to their problems by stoking conflict.

Voters clearly sent a very loud message that they would act with their votes if they find the actions of politicians displeasing.
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