Former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae got herself in trouble by saying she opposes feminism in an interview on YouTube.
Among those who criticized her remarks was Rep. Sim Sang-jung of the minor Justice Party.
Choo, who has vowed to run for president next year on the ruling Democratic Party ticket, said in an interview with an online media outlet Friday that she opposed feminism and that “if one wants to be treated like a flower because she’s a woman, women will always be ornamental.”
Instead of seeking to protect their own rights, women should suggest making things equal with men, and the world should be one that doesn’t need feminists, Choo said.
On Monday Rep. Sim tweeted a link to a news article on Choo’s remarks and wrote, “(I) thought this was an interview from 20 years ago.”
“Feminism is not female chauvinism,” Sim wrote.
“Feminism is the lives of all women in Korea, and it’s about opposing all sexual discrimination.”
Sim stressed that many women are still losing their lives in constant fear of sexual violence while the voices of sexists get louder.
“At times like this, politics must keep balance. Instead of getting carried away by gender conflict based on how one can benefit or lose from it, (politicians) must stand in solidarity with women, men and sexual minorities to firmly oppose all discrimination, and bring forward gender equality. This is the role of politics,” she added.
Kang Min-jin, leader of the youth chapter of the Justice Party, said feminism never called for women to be treated like flowers, but called for women to be treated like people.
“It is extremely irresponsible of her, a minister of the Moon Jae-in administration, which failed on policies for women, and a presidential candidate of the ruling party, to blurt out populist remarks like ‘I oppose feminism’ instead of facing their failures,” Kang wrote on Facebook.
“What she said was a dreadful misinterpretation of feminism. Must have been intended to easily win over votes from certain people.”
Choo wrote on Facebook on Tuesday that she opposed a “feminist phenomenon that is misunderstood as self-righteous and misophallist.”
“A worrisome ‘exclusive’ feminist phenomenon among some is turning even those who will stand in solidarity to realize gender equality into enemies. That is the reality,” she wrote.
“Feminism basically begins with inclusive values and attitudes. What it takes issue with are sexually discriminative and divisive values, attitudes, customs and institutions. It is not just women’s task to bring these down. It’s everyone’s responsibility.”
Choo said she had never once confused female chauvinism with feminism.
“I didn’t say women being treated like a flower was feminism. I meant to explain that women are asking for fair opportunities without discrimination, instead of preferential treatment,” she wrote.
“My constant efforts were a process of overcoming discrimination against women, and years of living as a female judge, politician and working mom, so such framing and distortion do not work on me.”
Some people misunderstand feminism and take a hostile and aggressive posture toward men, which she cannot support, Choo said, adding that she would not continue arguing on the topic as there was “no reason to engage in a futile and consuming debate.”
South Korea has seen severe gender conflict in the past few years, mostly online between young men and women, over issues such as mandatory military service, radical feminist online communities, misogyny, spycam crime and sexual violence.
Lee Jun-seok, the recently elected 36-year-old leader of the main opposition People Power Party, enjoyed strong support from young male voters when he spoke up against affirmative action for women.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com