[Newsmaker] Women rally against misogynistic crimes

By Ock Hyun-ju
  • Published : Aug 6, 2017 - 18:20
  • Updated : Aug 6, 2017 - 18:25
The slogan “Men, stop killing women” blared from a speaker outside Gangnam Station on Sunday afternoon, surrounded by some 150 people. 

Women call for tougher measures against misogynic crimes in South Korea during a rally near exit 10 of Gangnam Station in southen Seoul, Sunday. (Yonhap)

The location of the protest has become symbolic of the fight against misogyny since a young woman was murdered in a public toilet in May 2016. The murderer had no connection to the victim, and chose to kill her just because she was a woman.

“There are still many crimes taking place against women. That’s because in this society a basic form of human beings is a man and women are not being treated equally,” one of the organizers, who wanted to be identified as Chongdae, told The Korea Herald.

“We cannot let women be killed at the hands of men anymore.”

A placard “Men, stop killing women” is put on the pavement during a rally against misogynic crimes near exit 10 of Gangnam station in southern Seoul, Saturday. (Yonhap)

Covering half of their faces with black masks and wearing black clothes, the participants sang songs and chanted slogans criticizing the social atmosphere objectifying women and failing to stop crimes targeting women while sitting on the pavement under a tent in scorching heat.

“We are not virgins, whores or flowers. We are human beings, human beings! Women are human beings!” they chanted. “South Korea is the country where only men are safe. I am alive today because I am lucky. Bathrooms! Streets! Even our homes! It is not a safe country for women.”

The protest came amid growing concerns over misogyny and crimes against women, following the murder of a 30-year-old owner of a beauty parlor last month which many say is similar to the Gangnam murder case in its nature.

A man, 30, was indicted on charges of murder, robbery and attempted rape in relation to the crime last week. The man, who was out of job and had 6 million won in debt, is thought to have posed as a customer, received a waxing treatment and stolen the victim’s money before attempting to rape her and stabbing her to death on July 5, the prosecution said.

The man planned to murder her after finding out that the female owner had been running the beauty salon on her own in a desolate neighborhood through online real-time videos, according to the prosecution. 

Women call for tougher measures against misogynic crimes in South Korea during a rally near exit 10 of Gangnam Station in southen Seoul, Sunday. (Ock Hyun-ju/The Korea Herald)

Since the case surfaced, many comments on male-dominant websites appeared to insult the victim. An online user asked, “Was the woman doing waxing pretty?” Another said, “Have you ever read news reports saying fat women were killed out of misogyny?” 

But the participants in the rally distanced themselves from the specific murder case. They rather focused on shedding light on misogynistic crimes, mindful of the victim’s bereaved families.

Those who are believed to be relatives of the salon owner openly asked the activists not to publicize the murder case on a community site, saying that they don’t want it to be overshadowed by a dispute over misogyny.

“The misogynistic nature of the crime is only a small part of the crime among many other things. We are concerned that publicizing the case will not prevent recurrence of similar crimes,” the commenter wrote.

It was not confirmed whether the commenter was related to the victim.

“There is misogyny in society, but it is still being denied,” said a 20-year-old participant, who wished to be known as P. “Many crimes targeting women are only attributed to offenders’ personal problems, though misogyny is structured in society.”

“But there have been no laws or institutions to punish those who commit misogynic crimes,” she said.

The government created a task force, composed of 10 officials and experts, last week to find solutions to prevent gender-based crimes. The team plans to put a priority on publicizing the issue of misogyny to trigger a public debate. It is set to lay out a set of measures to crack down on crimes against women in September, one of President Moon Jae-in’s election pledges.

Women made up most of the victims of serious crimes – sex offenses, arson, robbery and murder -- in 2015, according to Institute of Justice. The portion saw a steady growth for six years, making up 82.9 percent in 2010 and 88.9 percent in 2015.

“I am afraid of taking a taxi at night or walking home alone. I am afraid when a man follows me from behind. There are things I have to be afraid of because I am a woman,” said a woman, who wanted to be identified by her surname Kim, in her 20s.

“To be honest, I don’t think misogyny was the reason behind the killing of the beauty parlor owner. But I think that the socially marginalized were targeted. It could have happened to me,” the university student said.

But there were also concerns that the rally might contribute to divisions between men and women.

“I think it is good to raise voice about misogyny. But it is a shame such a divisive rally would only further trigger conflicts between men and women,” said a 28-year-old office worker, surnamed Sohn. 

By Ock Hyun-ju (