How the 🤏 symbol contributed to the rise of anti-feminism in South Korea (2023)


When the “pinching hand” emoji, which depicts a thumb and forefinger one inch apart, first appeared in 2019, the internet happily got to work.

"New Emojis to Prank Men"declared misdemeanorOn your side.

"It could change sexting forever," he said.title Buzzfeed.


"If you're one of those people who go to the press to protest the use of emojis to make fun of small penises, your secret has come out." Stephen Colbertjoked on The Late Show.

In South Korea, however, this image was no laughing matter.

In recent weeks, the hand, once used as a logo by a now-defunct radical feminist group, has become a topic of conversation in a fierce battle over gender and anti-feminist backlash. "Men's rights" groups have taken to searching for the image contained in various posters and advertising campaigns in the McCarthy roundup of companies, organizations or their employees sympathetic to feminism and attacked them with boycotts or a wave of complaints.

How the 🤏 symbol contributed to the rise of anti-feminism in South Korea (1)

Logo of the defunct South Korean feminist group Megalia

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It is a surprising, some would say surreal, reversal of the #MeToo movement: men who have controlled society for generations suddenly insult women pointing at their bodies.

But for them, the sign is proof that male hatred is ubiquitous in South Korea today and that radical feminism is out of control. And their campaigns have been successful: large corporations disciplined or demoted employees for far-fetched advertisements, ministries and municipalities apologized and improved promotional materials, museums dismantled exhibits and celebrities, and their careers were jeopardized.

The episode is the latest in the escalating war on gender and equality that divides the country, and a show of strength for a group of young men who increasingly resent feminism, feel they are victims of the women's movement, and believe that shawls are, in fact, a tip. against them, not vice versa.

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It is an internet phenomenon with an internet-driven backlash against feminism that has emerged inPorcelain, OnUnited KingdomyEspecially the United Statesamong Gen Z men, many of whom claim that feminism has "gone too far" and complain that men are unjustly maligned, falsely accused, ridiculed and gagged.

South Korea remainsone of the most unequal societiesin developed countries, assessed on indicators such as the pay gap, labor force participation rates or women in leadership positions. Women have long faced discrimination and sexism and still hold to rigid patriarchal expectations. Still, the rise of feminist activism in recent years has met with fierce resistance, especially among men in their twenties who feel they are paying the price for redressing the inequalities of previous generations. They feel particularly disadvantaged by the fact that all South Korean men, except women, are required to serve in the military.

"The younger generation suffers from economic frustration and uncertainty," said Jinsook Kim, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and a media researcher who has studied online feminism and dissent in South Korea. "The problem is that these young Koreans attribute their feelings of persecution or insecurity not to the government or politics, but to the women they believe are preventing them from getting what they deserve."

Park Won-ik, an author who has written several books about online hate under the pseudonym Bakkabun, said young men are attracted to extreme views because the current liberal government has excluded them from discussions and an overly concerned press. listening to women's concerns while ignoring the legitimate issues faced by young men today.


"The biggest problem is that there was no medium in the press or in politics that represented the voices of young men, and complaints piled up," he said. "Everyone has their problems, but only one side is prioritized."

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While antifeminism has been associated with far-right movements elsewhere, suspicion and dislike of feminism is gaining widespread support in South Korea. According to a 2018 study by the Korea Institute for Women's Development, over 65% of South Korean men in their 20s said they equate feminism with hating men, and 56.5% said they would break up with their girlfriend if I were a feminist

"Feminism is a mental illness" has become a common refrain of some street protests by "men's rights" activists. A columnist wrote in 2015 that "mindless feminism" was a militant group "more dangerous than the Islamic State".

Many analysts suggested that April's mayoral election results in the capital Seoul and the country's second-largest city Busan, which were swept away by conservative opposition, were due to discontent among young people.

The hand that pinches appeared in South Korea's gender debate in 2015, years beforeturned into an emoji. This year, a group of South Korean women, fed up with the widespread misogyny in male-dominated online forums, decided the best way to push back was to do their best.

They began to refer to men with their genitals, as men used to do with women. They created masculine versions of internet slang that was demeaning to women and reversed sexist idioms: "A woman's voice should never go over a fence," "Women and dried fish need a beating once in three." days against men. They mocked and humiliated men based on their physical appearance and often the size of their appendix.

The group of women called themselves "Megalia" and chose the image of a pinching hand as their brazen emblem. The controversial online forum only lasted a year before being disbanded due to internal disputes.

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There was no way to represent the voices of young men and complaints were mounting.

— Park Won-ik, author

Despite this, the group and its feminism continue to resonate and dominate gender debates and criticism of the women's movement.

In 2016, a video game voice actress was fired after she posted a picture of herself online wearing a T-shirt that read "Girls Don't Need a Prince", which was sold by spin-off group Megalia. In 2018, men and women got into a fight in a pub in Seoul after an argument that shouted insults popularized on the Internet: the women shouted "6.9", which is the average Korean penis size in centimeters, according to a 2003 study, and the men responded by calling them "Bitch Megal".

In April, the GS25 branch of the convenience store chain faced criticism after a job advertisement stated that applicants should not be feminists, prompting corporate headquarters to apologize.

The following month, the chain ran a campaign to promote camping gear, including pinching the hand reaching for a small sausage. Male-dominated forums erupted with accusations that the ad was hateful to men. GS25 again apologized and edited then retracted the announcement. Despite this, the network was met with boycotts and protests outside its headquarters demanding the dismissal of the poster designer. The company later announced that it had disciplined the designer and assigned supervisors and management.

"They don't want to be associated with feminism because they're afraid of losing customers," said Kim, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Cho Ju-bin masterminded one of South Korea's most notorious sex crime schemes by blackmailing young women into providing sexually compromising photos.

Ha Heon-gi, a former legislative adviser and founder of media consultancy firm New Communication Lab, said the men behind the effort took a page from a feminist book and used methods used by women to challenge misogynistic statements or practices. bring out an apology or bring down powerful people.

"An eye for an eye. You've had issues with ridiculous stuff, so we're doing the same," he said. “It's a sense of political efficiency that collective action works. The women united with one voice and were heard. Men didn't have that experience and now they express their wishes as consumers."

Ha, 31, said she knew South Korean women were still at a disadvantage and recalled that her grandparents preferred their adolescent sons. However, she said the women's movement was creating discontent by lumping all men together, failing to acknowledge the changing circumstances in which today's young men grew up.

"The tensions that arise in the process of correcting inequalities need to be addressed, but they have been ignored and dismissed," he said. “Because there is inequality, you have to move on. Dissatisfaction is inevitable, but no one in the media or in politics is listening.

Kim Seok-hwan, 28, did not participate in the GS25 boycott. But earlier this year, he stopped buying books from the Kyobo Book Center, where he used to buy about 10 books a month, after a bookstore employee accidentally retweeted comments from the store's official account that he found derogatory to Korean men.

The aspiring law student said he sympathized with feminist ideas and the need for equality, and knew that violence against women was a problem, but felt increasingly discouraged by the polarizing rhetoric, which struck him as more moral exaltation than constructive discussion.

"We're in a situation where people are gagged and everyone is afraid to say the wrong thing," he said.

She said her generation grew up in an environment where her peers were student leaders and group leaders.

"These are people we competed with on equal terms," ​​he said. "So when the patriarchal order of the past is used to attack our generation, it seems unwise."

Women's groups and South Korea's National Human Rights Commission have raised concerns that opposition to feminism has led to women being silenced or disadvantaged in the workplace for expressing their views on gender issues.

It's a trend that even caught up with K-pop stars who were harassed for having a phone case that said "Girls can do anything" or reading novels about discrimination against women.

"It's harder to speak out when you're exposed to discriminatory comments and it denies women the right to work in a comfortable and relaxed environment," said Park Hyo-won, an activist with Korean group Womenlink. "It's being used as a witch hunt."

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What are the causes of gender inequality in South Korea? ›

Gender inequality in South Korea is largely rooted in the country's Confucian ideals and has been perpetuated and deepened by historical practices and events, such as military sexual slavery and Park Geun-Hye's scandal.

What does feminism mean in Korea? ›

Radical feminist movements in South Korea focus on women's rights as human rights. Many of these groups were formed during the late 1980s, as opposed to the older reformist groups. They focus on issues such as reunification with North Korea and the prevention of torture of prisoners.

What is the anti feminist view? ›

Antifeminism is the countermovement of thought and action that is opposed to feminism. Its thematic range is as extensive as the fields of feminism's intervention, and has evolved over time to oppose the rights gradually won by women.

Does South Korea support gender equality? ›

Gender equality is included as one of the six basic pillars for development in South Korea's Framework Act on International Development Cooperation. KOICA 's Mid-term Sectoral Strategy 2021-2025 focuses on three strategic objectives for gender: Economic empowerment.

Is South Korea masculinity vs femininity? ›

Masculinity vs. Femininity measures the role of aggression, achievement, and gender in society. South Korea scores low on this scale (39) while the US scores high (62), implying that the Koreans are a feminist society whereas the Americans are a masculine society.

What are three main causes of gender inequality? ›

Gender Inequality In The Indian Society
  • EDUCATION. Gender inequality is a pressing issue in Indian society. ...
  • Poverty. ...
  • Patriarchal Setup in our Indian Society. ...
  • Lack of Education or Illiteracy. ...
  • Lack of Awareness Among Women. ...
  • Social Customs, Beliefs and Practices. ...
  • The Need For Awareness.

Why is South Korea considered a feminine society? ›

South Koreans emphasize eating wisely and staying active in their everyday routine. This is an prime example of why South Korea is considered a Feminine Society by Hofstede. Feminine cultures stress equality, free time, quality of life and work to live rather than live to work.

What is feminine and masculine in Korean? ›

There is no gender in Korean. In Korean, nouns are not masculine, feminine, they should be considered "neutral". This applies to adjectives as well as nouns.

How do you address a woman in Korea? ›

Names and Titles
  1. It is considered very impolite to address a Korean with his or her given name. ...
  2. Americans should address a Korean with Mr., Mrs., Miss + family name; however, never address a high-ranking person or superior in this manner.

What are the reasons for anti feminism? ›

Antifeminism might be motivated by the belief that feminist theories of patriarchy and disadvantages suffered by women in society are incorrect or exaggerated; that feminism as a movement encourages misandry and results in harm or oppression of men; or driven by general opposition towards women's rights.

What word means anti feminist? ›

synonyms for anti-feminist

On this page you'll find 13 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to anti-feminist, such as: sexist, chauvinist, male chauvinist pig, manist, masculist, and misogynist.

What was the first example of an antifeminist movement? ›

An early antifeminist organization was the National League for the Protection of the Family, formerly known as the Divorce Reform League. Men and women of both sexes took part in the movement.

Is South Korea safe for female? ›

Is South Korea safe for women? Yes, South Korea is generally considered to be a safe country for women. The country has a low crime rate and a strong commitment to gender equality. However, as with any country, it is important to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings.

What is the gender inequality in the workplace in South Korea? ›

Gender inequality is still widespread in South Korea's workplaces, according to data from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. The employment rate among women stood at 51.2% last year, which is 18.8 percentage points lower than the male employment rate.

What is a returning lady in Korea? ›

Women who came home) is a term used to refer to Korean comfort women in the context of Korea's status as a tribute state of the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty; as the imperial protectorate of Japan, and in South Korea under the post-colonial protection of the United States.

What percent of Korea is female? ›

Female population, percent of total

The latest value from 2021 is 50.06 percent. For comparison, the world average in 2021 based on 196 countries is 49.98 percent. See the global rankings for that indicator or use the country comparator to compare trends over time.

What is soft masculinity in South Korea? ›

The Korean kkonminam concept of soft masculinity originates from the Japanese concept of bishōnen in shōjo manga and anime, but, according to Sun Jung, with more purity, innocence and politeness.

What are male beauty standards in South Korea? ›

It is very common for Korean men to care about a clear, smooth and fair skin. It is also usual to dye and style hair on regular basis. The body shape is expected to appear rather androgyne than too muscular. Men wear sharply stylish cut outfits and double eyelids are really common as a result of cosmetic surgery.

What are 3 examples of gender inequality in society today? ›

Gender Inequality Examples:
  • Gender inequality in girls education. Even before the pandemic, girls were more likely than boys to never set foot in a classroom and be denied equal opportunities. ...
  • Child marriage. ...
  • Gender-based violence. ...
  • Child labor.

What is the main issue of gender inequality? ›

With the prevalence of gender discrimination, and social norms and practices, girls become exposed to the possibility of child marriage, teenage pregnancy, child domestic work, poor education and health, sexual abuse, exploitation and violence. Many of these manifestations will not change unless girls are valued more.

What are some examples of sexism in everyday life? ›

Evaluating women less positively than men (e.g. in job application and promotion processes). Ignoring and talking over women. Side-lining women in social and work networks. Seemingly harmless comments about women, such as that they are naturally better at collaborating, detailed work, child care, cooking or shopping.

Is South Korea a male dominant society? ›

South Korea is a deeply male-dominated society that has long had a poor record on women's rights. The nation's gender wage gap is the worst among developed countries, with little support for women seeking careers past their early 30s. Young women are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, especially online.

What is the difference between femininity and masculinity? ›

Masculinity is seen to be the trait which emphasizes ambition, acquisition of wealth, and differentiated gender roles. Femininity is seen to be the trait which stress caring and nurturing behaviors, sexuality equality, environmental awareness, and more fluid gender roles.

What country has a feminine society? ›

Countries that are considered feminine cultures are Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, and Costa Rica. According to Hofstede, "Femininity stands for a society in which social gender roles overlap: Both men and women are supposed to be modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life."

What do you call a pretty Korean girl? ›

The first way is to use the word 아름답다 (areumdapda). The second way is to use the word 예쁘다 (yeppeuda), which means 'pretty. ' These words generally can both be used interchangeably.

What does a boy call a girl in Korean? ›

Jagiya (자기야) – “Honey” or “Baby” Perhaps the most popular of the Korean terms of love between couples, it means “honey,” “darling,” or “baby,” which you'll often hear among couples in K-dramas. You can also just shorten it to 자기 (jagi). Use this term along with Korean love phrases. It's used for both men and women.

What is the Korean girl style called? ›

Most fashion enthusiasts have a common query about what is Korean fashion called? Let's answer: most people consider “hanbok” -a traditional Korean dress, a symbol of Korean fashion. Korean people wear this attire on special occasions.

What do Korean call their girlfriend? ›

Status Of Relationships In The Korean Language
EnglishKoreanPronunciation Guide
Girlfriend여자친구 / 여친Yeojachingu / Yeochin
Ex-boyfriend/girlfriend전 남자 친구Jeon namja chingu
14 more rows
Jan 14, 2022

What is another word for girlfriend in Korean? ›

The word for “girlfriend” in Korean is 여자친구 (yeojachingu). It is sometimes romanized as “yeoja chingu”. Like English, 여자친구 (yeojachingu) in Korean should generally only be used to refer to your partner. It is made up of two words: the word 여자 (yeoja) and 친구 (chingu).

How do Koreans address their queen? ›

Jungjeon mama 중전 마마 (Her Royal Highness the Queen) Seja jeoha 세자 저하 (His Royal Highness the Crown Prince) Daegun daegam 대군 대감 (His Excellency the Grand Prince)

What is the main issue of feminism? ›

In general, feminism can be seen as a movement to put an end to sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression and to achieve full gender equality in law and in practice.

How to solve feminism issues? ›

Listed below are some simple yet effective ways in which you can play your part in taking back what it means to be a feminist.
  1. Make use of social/print and electronic media. ...
  2. Call out inequality. ...
  3. Support non-profit organizations working for women. ...
  4. Rally political support. ...
  5. Elicit support from men.
May 10, 2023

What is a male feminist called? ›

The Oxford English Dictionary (2000) defines masculinism, and synonymously masculism, as: "A male counterpart to feminism. Masculists reject the idea of universal patriarchy, arguing that before feminism most men were as disempowered as most women.

Who was the anti feminist leader? ›

Schlafly became an outspoken opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) during the 1970s as the organizer of the "STOP ERA" campaign. STOP was a backronym for "Stop Taking Our Privileges".

What is the feminist word for female? ›

Womyn is one of several alternative political spellings of the English word women, used by some feminists. There are other spellings, including womban (a reference to the womb or uterus) or womon (singular), and wombyn or wimmin (plural).

What is feminist also known as? ›

The word feminist comes from feminism, which originally meant simply "being feminine," or "being a woman," but gained the meaning "advocacy of women's rights" in the late 1800s. Definitions of feminist. a supporter of feminism. synonyms: libber, women's liberationist, women's rightist.

What are three feminist movements? ›

It is typically separated into three waves: first wave feminism, dealing with property rights and the right to vote; second wave feminism, focusing on equality and anti-discrimination, and third wave feminism, which started in the 1990s as a backlash to the second wave's perceived privileging of white, straight women.

What woman started the feminist movement? ›

Journalist, activist, and co-founder of the National Organization for Women, Betty Friedan was one of the early leaders of the women's rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Can girls drive in Korea? ›

In 2021, there were more than 19.3 million male drivers and almost 14.4 million female drivers in South Korea.

Is South Korea safe for Americans? ›

Watch your belongings. Sexual assault and harassment, drink spiking and other violent crimes occur, particularly around bars and nightlife areas, such as Itaewon and Hongdae. Don't accept food, drink, gum or cigarettes from strangers. Remain vigilant, take care when walking at night, and travel in groups if possible.

Can I eat alone in Korea? ›

Although it may not be wrong that Koreans do not like to eat alone, it doesn't mean there aren't any good places in Korea to eat alone. Come and see this list of restaurants in Seoul that we recommend you should come to eat a meal alone. All of them offer delicious food and great prices!

Why does South Korea have low gender equality? ›

Gender inequality in South Korea is largely rooted in the country's Confucian ideals and has been perpetuated and deepened by historical practices and events, such as military sexual slavery and Park Geun-Hye's scandal.

What are the gender roles in South Korean culture? ›

In traditional Korean society, women's roles were confined to the home. From a young age, women were taught the virtues of subordination and endurance to prepare for their future roles as wife and mother. Women, in general, could not participate in society as men did, and their role was limited to household matters.

How bad is inequality in South Korea? ›

In an analysis of income inequality data for different countries provided by the World Inequality Lab as of March 2023, the Hankyoreh found that the highest-earning 1% of South Koreans accounted for 11.7% of income as of 2021 — an increase of 3.3 percentage points since 2007.

Is it rude to ask a woman her age in Korea? ›

Asking someone you've just met how old they are may be impolite in many cultures, but in South Korea it's one of the first questions people ask one another.

What is it called when Korean girls act cute? ›

Aegyo (애교) is when a person acts cute or in a childish way, despite not being a young child themselves. Doing aegyo is a way of acting cute that is popular in Korean culture, especially among K-Pop idols.

What do you call a girl who is younger than you in Korean? ›

If you're referring to someone younger than you, the other person is your 동생 (dongsaeng). This term means both younger sister and little brother. However, if you want to put more emphasis on the gender of the 동생 (dongsaeng) you are talking about, you can add 여 (yeo) for girls and 남 (nam) for boys.

What are the 5 causes of gender inequality? ›

Here are 10 causes of gender inequality:
  • #1. Uneven access to education. ...
  • #2. Lack of employment equality. ...
  • #3. Job segregation. ...
  • #4. Lack of legal protections. ...
  • #5. Lack of bodily autonomy. ...
  • #6. Poor medical care. ...
  • #7. Lack of religious freedom. ...
  • #8. Lack of political representation.

What were the major causes of the conflict in Korea? ›

It was sparked by the June 25, 1950 invasion of South Korea by 75,000 members of the North Korean People's Army.

What is the plight of gender inequality in South Korea? ›

According to a local survey, an astounding number of 74% of working women responded that they experienced “some form of gender discrimination, including sexual harassment and wage discrimination.” It is perhaps unsurprising then that South Korea's birth rate has plummeted to an all-time low.

What is gender inequality in short answer? ›

Gender inequality is the social phenomenon in which people are not treated equally on the basis of gender. The treatment may arise from distinctions regarding biology, psychology, or cultural norms prevalent in the society.

What causes gender differences? ›

According to biological theories, gender differences in psychology and behavior are caused by congenital factors, such as sex hormones, chromosomes, genes, and heredity (Feingold, 1994; Chaplin and Aldao, 2013).

What conflict led to Korea being split into two countries? ›

After World War II, Korea and Vietnam were liberated from Japanese occupation. Leaders could not agree on how to organize their government, so they split!

What ended the Korean conflict? ›

Citation: Korean War Armistice Agreement, July 27, 1953; Treaties and Other International Agreements Series #2782; General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives. This armistice signed on July 27, 1953, formally ended the war in Korea.

What were the effects of the Korean conflict? ›

The war created numerous war orphans and divided families in both Koreas. In South Korea, it also created US military bases, which have been present for decades, and the mandatory conscription for male citizens. The growing number of North Korean defectors also has been an increasingly frequent and telling phenomenon.

What are the four causes of gender inequality? ›

Multiple factors contribute to this disparity, with the most significant being poverty, unsafe migration, gender-based violence and discrimination and a lack of access to education.

What is the main issue of gender in the society? ›

Gender issues include all aspects and concerns related to women's and men's lives and situation in society, to the way they interrelate, their differences in access to and use of resources, their activities, and how they react to changes, interventions and policies.

How does gender equality impact society? ›

Gender equality prevents violence against women and girls

men's control of decision-making and limits to women's independence. rigid gender roles and stereotypes. male relationships that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women.

What is the level of inequality in South Korea? ›

Korea's income quintile share ratio — that is, the income of the top 20% of the population divided by the income of the bottom 20% — also worsened from 5.85 in 2020 to 5.96 last year.

Which country is most affected by gender inequality? ›

1. Afghanistan
  • Afghan girls who are allowed to attend school generally don't stay for more than two years.
  • This reflects in financial inclusion for women in the country; which the WPS ranks at just 7.2%
  • The country also ranks among the highest for gender-based violence.
Aug 15, 2022


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