So-called "Reverse Sexism" in Korea 소위 ‘역차별’

In this post I want to discuss the claims of “reverse sexism” or victimization of men made by two blogs in response to recent Korean laws designed to prevent sexual abuse or promote gender equality. This is not to say that men cannot be abused, but according to groups like Man of Korea (남성연대described here) and the site formerly known as Boslachi (보슬아치 사이트) which is now called Men’s Korea (맨즈코리아 described here) Korean men suffer from “reverse discrimination” based on gender as a result of these and other laws. The argument stems from the establishment of ministries and laws to rectify historic gender discrimination, prevent sexual violence, and address social and political inequalities that subordinated women's human rights. Last November, Eri Kim wrote a powerful piece rebutting the supposed “over-empowerment”of women in Korean society. Eri Kim asks, why a group of men keep referring toprograms for women’s rights as “reverse sexism.” I don't think that designing such policies is 'reverse discrimination' against men because: 1) they do not strip men of their human rights, but rather enforce women's human rights, 2) they are enacted to bring about gender equality, 3) 'reverse' implies that men do not enjoy social and political privileges, but they still do (please see The Grand Narrative for a discussion on women's workforce participation here and here for starters), 4) this is a much weaker argument, but the vast majority of politicians and judges presiding over Korean law are men, and finally 5) women do not occupy a hierarchically superior position to structurally discriminate against men in the way that women have been recipients of discrimination in the past. 

여기서  소위역차별 남성들의 성폭력예방법의피해자라는 인식 대해 얘기하고싶다. 지난 11월에 김에리씨의 기사가 인상적인 이야기로 남성연대나 보슬아치사이트의 소위 여성들이 월권행위를 한다는인식을 반박했다. 김에리가 유독 일부 한국 남성들은 같은 상황에서도역차별생떼를 쓰는 것일까냐고 했다.

The first issue I would like to discuss is the Korea Men’s Union’s attitude toward the regulation of the sex industry (I previouslyposted about their attitude toward sexual harassment here). The group opposes the current legal regime that attempts to address sex trafficking. Recently the Court system upheld a case protecting the rights of a minor in a coerced sex scenario, under the sex trafficking prevention and youth protection laws. In the September 9, 2010 ruling, the Supreme Court found that:

 “A (male) and B (male) approach a pregnant runaway 16-year-old teen C (female) and tell her that they will help find a way for her to earn enough money for abortion. B then solicits C to take takes naked photo shots and then forces C to sign a contract for sex. In the meantime, A gets arrested for an unrelated crime and is sent to a prison. In addition, B, C, and A’s wife split the money earned by procuring and coercing C to have sex with at least 12 customers. The court rules that even though A was physically absent, he still is guilty because he did not prevent his partner from coercing the teen to have sex or take photos.”
첫째로 남성연대의 성산업의 규제에 대한 인식을 비판하려고 한다남성연대 성매매특별법을 반대하고 있다. 최근에 대법원의 판례중에서는 십대소녀가 성행위를 하도록 강요했던 악덕 포주들을 성매매특별법으로 처벌하여 여성의 인권을 보호했다. 대법원 2010.09.09 선고 20106924 판결에 따르면,
갑이 을과 공모하여 가출 청소년 (, 16)에게 낙태수술비를 벌도록 주겠다고 유인하였고, 을로 하여금 병의 성매매 홍보용 나체사진을 찍도록 하였으며, 병이 중도에 약속을 어길 경우 민형사상 책임을 진다는 각서를 작성하도록 , 자신이 별건으로 체포되어 구치소에 수감 중인 동안 병이 을의 관리 아래 12회에 걸쳐 불특정 다수 남성의 성매수 행위의 상대방이 대가로 받은 돈을 , 갑의 등이 나누어 사용한 사안에서, 병의 성매매 기간 동안 갑이 수감되어 있었다 하더라도 갑은 을과 함께 미성년자유인죄, 청소년의 성보호에 관한 법률(2009. 6. 9. 법률 9765 아동청소년의 성보호에 관한 법률로 전부 개정되기 전의 ) 위반죄의 책임을 진다고 원심판단을 수긍한 사례.”
The Korea Man Union opposes the laws because they are worried about their personal interest, insofar as they do not want to be criminalized for buying sex. However, they do not express much concern for sex workers human rights and working conditions, nor for the prevention of sex trafficking or for minors trafficked into the sex industry. Although the Law is not perfect (which we discuss here) rather than focusing on so-called ‘men’s rights’ the group should realize they share common interests with women in Korean society. The Korea Man Union should more carefully consider the social and legal conditions for sex workers in Korean society.

남성연대의 성매매특별법을 반대하는 이유는 개인적인 이익을 위한 성구매로 불법 형사처벌를 받고싶지 않기때문이다. 그들은 인신매매된 사람들과 십대소녀들의 인권에대해 별다른 우려를  표명하지 않는다. 성매매특별법은 완벽하진 않지만 소위 남성의 권리 주력하지 않고 한국사회에서 남자들과 여성들 사이에 공동 이익을 위하여 함께 도움이 있는 방향을 지향하는 법이다. 남성연대가 인신매매, 여성인권과 성노동자의 법적인 사회지위에 대하여 신중히 문제를 고찰해야한다

Secondly, I will discuss ‘everyday sexism’ by some men and women in society. For example, some men  complain about reverse sexism these days but they do not understand what it is to be a woman in society.

둘째, 사회의 일상 성차별 대해 얘기해보자예를 들면 몇몇 남성들은 역차별 대해 불평하면서 여성들의 일상 생활에서 겪게 되는 성차별을이해하지 못하는 같다.

Sometimes when my close (usually) male friends get upset about the laws designed to prevent sex crimes, they say that are all men are treated as ‘potential criminals’ by the law. I get very frustrated because if those men really want to change society and do something about rape culture (which contributes to the threat and fear of sexual violence), first they might consider carefully voting for sound political platforms and politicians that will pursue policies to end violence, or they should take everyday action to criticize other men's sexist language and discriminatory actions toward women, obviously they themselves must not rape and should learn how to prevent rape (by learning about rape culture, for example), and they should think about gender issues.

주변 남성들에 따르면 그들은 항상 자신들을 예비 성범죄로 보는 시선에  불편하다고 얘기를 하며, 이는 나를 화가 조금 나게 한다. 남성들에 대한 불편한 시선에 사회적 인식변화를 만들려면  우리는 성범죄 혹은 성차별에 대한 올바른 인식을 가진 정치가들을 선출하여 모두가 인정할 있는 법을 만들어야한다. 또한 일부 남성들은 그릇된 성의식을 가지고 여성을 비하하거나 성차별하는 행동들을 개선해나가는 노력이 필요하다. 물론 성폭행은 일어나지 말아야한다.  그들은 젠더 이슈에 대해 생각해야 한다고 생각한다.

Finally, due to high incidence of rape, victim-blaming and social acceptance of the conditions that promote or permit rape we can say that Korea has a rape culture (which is criticized by SlutWalk Korea 잡년행동_슬럿워크 here and on Twitter @SlutWalkKorea ). Sometimes when news of a rape or sexual crime comes out these male friends may think that they do not have to bother to care about these issues, instead they complain that they are looked at by women around them as if they are potential sex offenders. But, in that case they should first think about the purpose of the law to protect women and children from crime, and carefully consider the anxiety that women and children experience everyday in society. In addition, if they really want to see a change they should get involved in elections and in demanding a widespread change in our rape culture society. 

결론으로 성폭력을 방관하는 현상 사회적으로 성폭력행위를 안일하게 생각하는 행위때문이다.어떤 남성들은 뉴스에 나오는 성범죄 사건들이 자신과는 상관없는 일이라고 하며 사건에 관심이 없지만 몇몇 남성들을 예비 성범죄자로 보는 시선을 불만느낀다고한다. 하지만 이런 사건들로 인해 불안해 떨고있는 여성들과 어린이들의 입장을 생각한다면 그들을 어떻게 보호해야하는가를 먼저 생각하는게 중요하다고 생각한다. 또한 이러한  문제를 개선하고 싶다면 선거에 참여하여 공정한 의식을 가진 정당을 뽑아  우리 사회의 성폭력 방관현상 금지 요구해야한다고 생각한다

Court Case Referenced:
대법원 2010.09.09 선고 20106924 판결 【사기·청소년의성보호에관한법률위반(강요행위등청소년의성보호에관한법률위반(청소년이용음란물제작·배포등미성년자유인·절도·공문서부정행사】 [2010,1960]

*About the image: This image was found as part of a series titled 남녀 역차별 posted on 2009/08/12 by VertiGo. This particular image was captioned 여자가 남자때리면 용감하다 or "If a woman hits a man she is brave."

What is "Men’s Korea" (formerly Boslachi)? 맨즈코리아 ('보슬아치' 사이트), 그들은 누구인가?

This post will briefly introduce Men’s Korea (맨즈코리아), formerly known as Boslachi (보슬아치 사이트). 

First, readers should note that the term boseulachi (보슬아치) is derived from the combination of a Korean word for vagina (보지) and an old term used to refer to a Choson dynasty government official (벼슬아치). The term, as described by colleagues (who were quite embarrassed to speak about this term) is intended to disparage ‘bossy women’ or ‘women with power’ or attempts by women to ‘control men.’ Similarly, according to colleagues, the term jaseulachi (자슬아치) from a combination of the term for penis (자지) and the Choson dynasty official (벼슬아치), to refer to a “man who treats woman badly” or who is overly “worried about mens rights and/or angry about benefits for women.”  

Besides its’ former name, the Men’s Korea site shows obvious sexism in a number of posts. For example, the Men’s Korea post pictured below, titled “Ilbe Kimchi Bitch” features the personal identifying information and Facebook contact information of a woman the anonymous poster apparently does not like (but we have censored that information in the image below).

For purposes of clarification, according to Koreabang, Kimchi Bitch is a
Slang word usually used to denote material Korean girls who spend most of their time shopping and buying cosmetics, looking down on Korea in preference of perhaps a better Western life, when they are in fact Korean down to the core. The word kimchi is used to to highlight the fact that you cannot wash off the smell or stain of kimchi –– and therefore you can not wash away your Korean roots either. Also phrased as 김치년 ['kimchi-nyoen', 'kimchi bitch']. Similar term sometimes used for men too.
The poster can present the identifying information of this Facebook user and label her with hate speech. Or, take this gem, taken from Men's Korea "BEST LIST" which carries the title "Korean women #1 in theWorld for Infamy." The post describes Korean women as having high divorce rates, abortion rates, etc. before the poster concludes: "#1 Whores ^^ Within 3 days you have to meet 1."

So, in conclusion the site provides an online forum for women-bashing and hating on gender equality and specifically targeting individual women that nameless netizen's have a grudge against. Some posts on the site reflect some men's resentment toward women individually, collectively, socially and against institutions that support women. 

http://www.boslachi.com/ or http://www.menskorea.com/
일베 김치녀” and “한국여성 지구촌 불명예 1 싹쓸이


Testing Park's 'psychological symptoms'

The Hankyoreh ran a cartoon on 2013.01.18 which they have since translated into English, but without completely describing the text. The cartoon depicts a psychology test like those popularized in magazines. Below is the cartoon as presented by the newspaper:

A test of Park’s psychology

Here is the Hankyoreh's translation/explanation of the cartoon in English:
President-elect Park Geun-hye stands on a square that represents her election campaign pledges to expand welfare. Park is now at a crossroads and will need to decide her next step. The men on the left represent the conservative media and politicians who are urging Park to trim back the generous welfare promises she made, saying that the budget for the measures can’t be found. The square to Park’s left represents keeping the promises regardless of the difficulties, which is the type of politician that she is trying to present herself as. (by Jang Bong-goon)
However, the English translation provided doesn't capture the full criticism represented by the 해석 / psychological test interpretation written upside down at the bottom of the cartoon. This text roughly states (my imperfect translation):
If Park modifies pledges, she is instructed as follows:Your symptoms to avoid: having an earnest heart of gold.
The cartoon implies that either Park is dishonest and lacks goodness, or that she does the right  (difficult) thing and is authentically representing herself as President-elect. 

What do you think about Korea's social welfare system? About Park Geun-hye's pledges and the feasibility of proposed policies? 


Sex Workers' Human Rights in Korea

We previously discussed Korea's sex industry at Should government License Prostitution?

Sex Workers' Human Rights in Korea

I. 2004 Special Law on Prostitution Pending Supreme Court Review

I am very very excited that a case will be reviewed by the Supreme Court to determine whether the 2004 Special Law violates sex workers' human rights.

Foremost, I am excited that sex workers’ human rights are under consideration and particularly Judge Oh Won-chan's arguments: 
“We don’t punish a woman acting as a concubine or a wife for hire,” Oh said. “In this regard, the law could violate people’s basic rights.” Oh also questioned the effectiveness of the law, saying authorities should focus on punishing brothel owners and pimps exploiting prostitutes.” 
Speaking to that exploitation and abuse, several sex workers voice their challenge to the current legal regime through testimony provided in the following excerpts:
“I cannot file a police report even when customers beat me up for fear of facing punishment of my own.” 
“Men who buy sex get away with a few hours of lectures while we have to swallow condoms when the police arrive on the scene. The special law on sex trade pushes us into corners.” 
Professor Sealing Cheng has written several persuasive accounts analyzing the law, a few key points quoted below:
“The Korean Women’s Associations United (KWAU), the largest umbrella organization of women’s groups, mobilized public support for reforms to eliminate prostitution—which was equated with sex trafficking.” 
As a result, reporting and social discourse about sex trafficking and sex work obscure the problems lingering in South Korean police enforcement of the law to prevent sex trafficking and support victims: 
“raids are now reported in the media and by the National Police Agency as raids on “venues that violate women’s human rights” without mentioning the fact that women found in these venues are often charged with the crime of prostitution. A separate report by the National Police Agency, however, stated that by the end of 2009, there were 1,779 middle or high school girls in Seoul officially recorded as having fled from their homes. Of these, 175, or 9.8 percent, were apprehended for prostitution charges. Meanwhile, even though the laws were introduced to tackle the problem of trafficking into prostitution (Article 18.3.3), a 2008 report by the Korean Women’s Development Institute found that not a single case of prosecution took place under this provision. The majority of the cases (91.7 percent) were prosecuted for procuring prostitution, with only 1.9 percent prosecuted for coercion into prostitution.” 
Thus, the law designed to respond to international norms condemning Korea’s inaction on sex trafficking ultimately results in vigilant policing of sex workers. 

II. Rhetoric that I hope the Supreme Court will not Adopt

- I hope the Supreme Court takes a step away from recent precedents implying that all people engaged in the sex industry are ‘victims’ which was previously pushed by the Korea Women’s Association United. The law and media reports obscure sex workers agency by conflating trafficking and sex work. Whether or not the Supreme Court rules in favor of sex workers’ human rights in the pending case, the ‘victim’ language ignores sex worker's agency. The law also overlooks the ways in which criminalizing the sale of sex effectively prohibits sex workers from accessing their rights when they cannot turn to the police in cases of rape or abuse.  

- I don’t want to see rhetoric that poses sex work as a ‘solution’ to a state-obligation, or that treats sex like something that men are 'entitled' to while stigmatizing women. For example, last year former senior police officer turned Professor Kim Kang-ja argued that, 
“there are members of society for whom it is difficult to find partners, such as the disabled, illegal immigrants and widowers. Society needs to address the needs of these individuals by allowing prostitution in restricted areas” 
but I find this rhetoric as well as other contemporary examples of gendered policies such as the regulation of migrant marriage, social welfare for homeless women have demonstrated troubling outcomes. This rhetoric also reminds me of the Park Chung-hee era policies regulating sex workers and unofficially deputizing them as cultural ambassadors on behalf of the state and obligating them to negotiate international and racial conflicts in military camp towns, as pointed out by Professor Katherine Moon in Sex Among Allies
“governmental and non-governmental elites use different classes and groups of individuals to pursue the ‘national interest’… class, local culture, and race interfere with a particular foreign policy issue and the interests and capabilities of governments. The key is to pinpoint which women at what time and in what gendered way are identified with the politics of a foreign policy issue.”  
- I would hate to see a reiteration of past (and recent) Court rhetoric that frames sex work as a “violation of the social fabric” while ignoring the social and economic realities in contemporary Korea that violate citizens’ rights and imperil their lives. In 2004 and again in 2011 the lower courts revived the ‘social fabric’ argument and in 2006 demeaned sex workers directly by calling their work “an obscene and shameful lowly occupation.”

III. Hoping for New Perspectives on Sex Work

- Perhaps the Supreme Court might take a moment to acknowledge that not only women are sex workers.

- It would be great if the Supreme Court affirmed sex workers human rights, and possibly paved the way for access to health care and other social services citizens and workers currently access without discrimination.

- It would be fantastic to see the Supreme Court give an honest appraisal of the real role and value of sex work in Korean society. Like Judge Oh Won-chan, the Court has an opportunity to take steps to decrease the stigmatization of sex workers. 

IV. Call for Dialog

I also have a personal and scholarly interest in the issue and I have spent the last year researching court cases. It is my opinion that the social conditions, the discriminatory police crackdown, and the enforcement of penalties in the law do violate human rights. But, I am not a Supreme Court judge, so I wait with fingers crossed hoping to hear that a new law will adequately protect all human rights concerned – the rights of sex workers and protections against sex trafficking – which is at best, problematic, in the current law. I will be following this case and also hope to publish a paper on the topic. I would love dialog with others interested in the issue and welcome your comments. 


Publications cited:

Cheng, Sealing. “Rethinking “Human Trafficking”: Reflections from South Korea” in Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, MIDDLE EAST PROGRAM & UNITED STATES STUDIES, OCCASIONAL PAPER SERIES, Rethinking Human “Trafficking,” SUMMER 2010.

Moon, Katherine H.S. Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.-Korea Relations, 1997.

Relevant Korean Supreme Court Cases:

대법원 2004.09.03 선고 2004다27488 2004다27495 판결 【가불금•손해배상(기)】 [공2004.10.15.(212), 1650]  
대법원 2011.10.13. 선고 2011도7081 판결
【폭력행위등처벌에관한법률위반(공동공갈)•업무방해•폭력행위등처벌에관한법률위반(단체등의구성•활동)•폭력행위등처벌에관한법률위반(집단•흉기등감금)•협박】 [공2011하,2402] 
대법원 2011.10.13. 선고 2011도7081 판결 
【폭력행위등처벌에관한법률위반(공동공갈)•업무방해•폭력행위등처벌에관한법률위반(단체등의구성•활동)•폭력행위등처벌에관한법률위반(집단•흉기등감금)•협박】 [공2011하,2402]

Korean media in English:

Prostitution vs. women's rights
Confession of a prostitute
Judge seeks constitutional review of law that criminalizes prostitution
Is sex trade really illegal?
Korean media in Korean:
'성매매여성 처벌 조항' 처음으로 위헌 심판대 올라
법원, '성매매 여성 처벌 조항' 첫 위헌심판 제청
'성매매 여성 처벌법' 위헌 제청
[성매매특별법 8년]'음지의 性' 더 키웠다…자활-법률지원 절실
불꺼진 단속 … 또 불붙은 성매매 -성매매 특별법 시행 7년 …키스방•호스트바 등 음성적 영업 신•변종 업소'활개'
성인간 합의된 성관계 처벌 지나쳐 vs 性상품화 용납 못해
"성매매특별법, 개인 자기결정권·여성 평등권 침해"
성매매특별법, 위헌 심판대 올랐다