On hit TV shows, South Korean women are increasingly depicted in positions of power, notes CNN
. Last year alone, they were portrayed in roles such as a feisty queen, an autistic lawyer who wins cases, and a dedicated journalist.
In real life, though, South Korean women fight many barriers to gender equality in the deeply patriarchal country. They are forced to give up their careers after childbirth and are expected to carry the burden of housework and childcare.
The women who do continue working earn 30 percent
less than their male counterparts. South Korea’s gender wage gap has been the highest among the 39 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for 26 straight years.
South Korean women and girls also struggle with a pervasive culture of misogyny. They have been targeted in digital sex crimes
committed by men
, with few perpetrators being convicted.
The government itself has played a role in discriminating against South Korean women. It blocked
their access to information on women’s health, sexual and reproductive rights, and medical abortion. It has scrapped the term “gender equality
“ from textbooks.
Kim Hyun-sook, the Minister of Gender Equality and Family, was heavily criticized by women’s rights groups after she made insensitive remarks about a woman who was stalked and murdered by her male colleague in a restroom of a Seoul Metro station last year
. This led activists to give her the tongue-in-cheek “obstacle to gender equality” award at an early International Women’s Day rally in Seoul, reports Al Jazeera
Amid an anti-feminist wave that has swept across South Korea, the women have been fighting back through a robust #MeToo movement. Hawon Jung
, journalist and author of Flowers of Fire: The Inside Story of South Korea’s Feminist Movement and What It Means for Women’s Rights Worldwide
, writes that: “They fought vigorously for tougher punishments for spy-cam crimes. They successfully campaigned to abolish the country’s decades-long abortion ban.”
Other women have joined a growing movement of women who believe that the only safe world for them is “a world without men,” writes Anna Louie Sussman in her article
. The refusal of heterosexual marriage and childbirth are two of the core beliefs of the movement.Human Rights Watch
has called on the government to “address the dire state of women’s rights” in South Korea.