Recently, an innocent woman was killed at the heart of the Gangnam Subway Station district. The murderer stated that he has been ignored by women, and the murder was motivated simply because the victim was a female. Many people define this case as an actual emergence of a deep-rooted hatred for the opposite gender, which is a hot topic in today’s Korean society. The Sungkyun Times (SKT) will look for the reason why hatred for the opposite gender is growing as a big controversy in Korea, and will also explore the appearance of hatred in various aspects of our society. The article will conclude with an examination of potential solutions to this phenomenon.
Why Is Hatred for the Opposite Gender Becoming Apparent in Korea?
|The Memorial Site at Gangnam Subway Station / voakorea.com|
Gender-based hatred or discrimination has been a serious issue for a long time. According to a report from the United Nations, Korea has long-preferred males over females, and thus, females were considered inferior. The problem, however, was not visible in society because the awareness of gender equality was not regarded as significant. As time passed, more and more people have become aware that gender equality is an integral issue, deemed as a natural prerequisite for society to mature.
Although Korea is a member of the OECD countries, the gender equality index of Korea ranked 115th out of 145 countries, and this is much worse than economic progress. Moreover, in Korea, hatred of the opposite gender is more prevalent than ever. Gender-based hatred in Korea is intertwined with many different rationales.
First, the spread of the Internet is one of the main reasons that contribute to the problem. As the Internet is mostly an anonymous place, many Internet users do not filter their thoughts and simply spit out their opinions. There are also many Social Network Service (SNS) sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, which enable free expression of thoughts. In addition, a growing number of users on the Internet desire to get attention from others. Thus, they intentionally speak out in offensive ways to get more attention. These provocative remarks on the Internet are conveyed by many Internet users and eventually spread to real life.
Secondly, gender-based hatred can be attributed to the harsh social condition of Korea. The terms Hell Joseon1 and N-po generation2 represent the fatigue of living as part of the young generation in Korea. This harsh condition forces young people to give up basic requisites of life, such as marriage, friendship and housing. Although giving up these features of life is related to the changing population structure, the labor market system, and many other social issues, individuals turn to the opposite gender to point to someone to blame. It is easier for them to express their anger to one specific target than to the overall society. Thus, each gender fiercely complains about the unfairness of policies that are only beneficial to the other gender.
Typical examples of one gender beneficiary policies include the gender quota system and the military service extra point system. The gender quota system is regarded as a female-friendly policy that requests for organizations to assign at least 30 percent of their positions to female employees. This policy was criticized for its probability of reverse discrimination against males. Females, however, state that they have disadvantages in the job market. The controversies have become so intense that the policy became a recommendation rather than an obligation. In an opposite way, the military service extra point system has been an issue because it only gives advantages to males who have finished military service. The system causes reverse discrimination against females who have the same ability to do the same work. The public opinion of these two representative policies also progressed in the frame of gender-based hatred, and the controversies are still ongoing even today.
The Appearance of Gender-Based Hatred
Most of the extreme gender-based hatred is expressed on the Internet. One example is a conflict between Internet communities such as “Ill-Gan Best (Ilbe)” and “Megalian,” which have lopsided gender ratios. “Ilbe” is a community that is highly male-centered.
|Conflicts Between “Megalian” and “Ill-Gan Best” / timetree.zum.com / ilbe.com|
At first, the main purpose of this community was not to denounce females, but rather to get attention by using offensive and unrefined languages. One of the subjects that the community used to gain spotlight was criticism toward women. Once a post gained attention by practicing offensive hate speech about females, other users were compelled to use more violent words to receive the next spotlight. As a result, the Internet community coined new terms such as Kimchinyeo3 and Doenjangnyeo4 by generalizing one bad example as an overall phenomenon prevalent among all women. The responses to the misogynic practices of “Ilbe” are varied, and they are emerging both in reasonable and unreasonable ways.
At the other extreme of “Ilbe,” there is a women-centered community called “Megalian.” This community identifies itself as a community that hates misogyny. The main response to misogynic practices of “Ilbe” uses a mirroring strategy. The users of “Megalian” use the same methods to show contempt to men who display hatred for women. For example, this community coined new terms such as Hannamchung5 and Samchohan.6 They also made subtitles for videos that contain negative views on Korean males and spread them to other countries’ websites. Just like ping-pong, these two communities exchange extreme hatred toward each other.
Even the SNS platforms that were not designed to split society with hatred are now also contaminated by hateful thoughts. According to big data research company Daum Soft, in 2015, gender-based hatred terms increased by more than 40 times on SNS compared to those that appeared in 2014. This statistic also shows that hatred toward the opposite gender has become more intense than before.
|Dior Advertisement Named “Korean Female” / futurekorea.co.kr|
Although direct hatred comments are apparent on the Internet, gender-based hatred codes are used indirectly in cultural contents.
Recently, an advertisement by Dior was a hot issue. The advertisement named “Korean Female” featured a Korean woman carrying a Dior bag while standing in front of a red light district. The advertisement was criticized for its implication. As the woman is standing in front of a red light district, it seems that Korean women are eager to work on a red light street to get a Dior bag. Although the advertiser made an apology to the public, people took umbrage at the distorted and overgeneralized portrayal of Korean women.
The hatred cultural codes also appear on webtoons, pop songs, and TV shows. As the media unknowingly produces gender-based hatred codes, the vicious cycle repeats.
The Possible Risk of and Solution to Gender-Based Hatred
Gender-based hatred is dangerous because the problem can become deeply rooted in society. As we can see from the response of people after the Gangnam Station murder, the notion related to gender-based hatred can be framed in many other aspects of our society. Not only in this generation, but the notion can also be passed down to future generations. As the Internet cannot filter itself and does not have barriers for children or young students, the spread of hatred is only a matter of time. There was a case in which an elementary school student called his school teacher a Kimchinyeo. The most serious problem is that hatred can cause Korean society to be polarized into men and women. Eventually, the phenomenon will hinder the integration of overall society.
Although the solution cannot be defined clearly in this polarized situation, we should at least search for a positive direction to overcome this phenomenon. Thus, the SKT interviewed Professor Moon Hee Choi at SKKU, who is teaching a course called “Gender and Society,” in order to seek new perspectives and advice.
Interview with Professor Moon Hee Choi
Q1. Why do you think that gender-based hatred occurs in Korea?
A1. Before we discuss the term “gender-based hatred,” I think we should first define the correlation between gender-based hatred and other factors of our society. I think focusing on other factors that cause this phenomenon is a basic step to understanding the main cause of this hatred. Next, I think we should clarify the reasons why both the producers and the counterparties of hatred are exchanging the same offensive remarks. As the gender-based hatred comments do not appear in logical ways, the responses to the comments are also expressed in unreasonable ways. Furthermore, the terms are not based on actual males and females, so the image of the opposite gender is distorted. The way that hatred grows is by making an ideal image and comparing it with actual men and women in a real world. However, the perfect image they constructed does not exist in the real world, and the opposite of the ideal image is not realistic either. As we all know, not all women are Kimchinyeo, and not all men are Hannamchung. The distorted generalization is exacerbating the issue.
Q2. Then what can be a solution to Korea’s gender-based hatred?
A2. What gender-based hatred communities are doing now is responding in the same manner because doing so brings attention. Many people will think about enacting a hatred-regulating law. Enacting a law, however, cannot be the best solution to end the hatred because I think a law should be constructed after conducting a concrete discussion on this problem. Unless a law is implemented after analyzing the fundamental cause of this problem, the law will only be a temporary solution and will deter the public from making a social consensus on this problem. Thus, I think understanding the core reason for hatred is the solution.
Q3. Do you think the self-purification process will occur?
A3. Self- purification of gender-based hatred is a voluntary effort to change the debates into a productive discussion. I think self-purification can only occur when people view this situation from the standpoint of a third party. Realistically, self-purification cannot occur in the near future. Therefore, people should participate in debates to change the ways of discussion into more productive manners. If people spend a long time making this discussion of hatred rationally, then we can expect self- purification.
The hatred of the opposite gender might be an outlet for young people’s anger toward Korean society. The anger, however, might not be directly related to the opposite gender in this country. Instead, the hatred might be exploding complaints about Korean society. Therefore, we should examine the underlying cause and find out some ways to deal with them. People should also make efforts to divert the offensive remarks by choosing more productive means of discussion. Although it will a take long time to reach the self-purification process, people should keep paying attention to the deeply rooted problem and respond in reasonable ways.
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