Misogynistic Hate Will Not Stop Korean Feminism Leave a comment

On July 28, dozens of South Korean men posted hundreds of complaints on the Korean Archery Association’s online bulletin board. They were demanding that the organization revoke the two Olympic gold medals that the 20-year-old archer An San had thus far won at the Tokyo Games. Why? She allegedly looked like a feminist. As one man complained, “She has short hair and goes to a women’s only college—she reeks of feminism.”

Soon after she made her first Olympic TV appearance, young men on 4chan-esque web forums and YouTube channels launched a defamation campaign against An. Their tactics were familiar in Korea: accuse the target of “misandry,” support their claim with ludicrous evidence, and build pressure until the target apologizes. These men bombarded An’s Instagram account, insisting that she clarify whether she’s a feminist. They also claimed she employed Internet slang supposedly associated with radical feminists to ridicule men.

The two words that apparently proved her misandry—“ung aeng ung” and “5.5 trillion”—are innocuous and in wide use. The first is an onomatopoeia that describes language that is unintelligible or nonsensical, like “mumble mumble”; the second is typically used to quantify an innumerable amount for the purpose of exaggeration.

The charges were absurd, but a movement of young Korean men had invented a narrative that anyone who says or types these words must be a man-hating feminist, because some “feminazis have been caught using the terms.” These men organized online to “reverse the feminist-friendly coverage” on An. The New Men’s Solidarity Network, for instance, distributed slideshows about An and directed its 336,000 subscribers to the comment sections of articles.

The witch hunt against An is a part of a larger anti-feminist backlash. Since 2015, a new, forceful feminist movement has raised awareness about the gender-based violence that permeates Korean society. Women have brought attention to the country’s digital sex crimes industry, extraordinarily lenient punishment for sexual violations, female homicide rate, and gender pay gap, which is the highest in the OECD.

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