SOUTH KOREA

A post-it wall denounces the femicide of a South Korean woman

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There’s been widespread outcry about gender-based violence in South Korea after a young woman was killed in a brutal knife attack by a man who claimed that women were “belittling” him.

People posted hundreds of post-it notes and left chrysanthemums along a wall outside the metro station in the Gangnam neighbourhood of Seoul.

On May 17, 2016, in a building not far from the station, a 34-year-old man killed a 23-year-old woman in a brutal knife attack.

Police said the man did not know the victim, who was coming home after a night of karaoke with friends. After his arrest, the presumed murderer said that he killed the woman because he felt “ignored and belittled by women”.

Many people have spoken out against what they call a vicious instance of gender-based violence.

“She was killed for being a woman,” read the messages posted on the wall outside the metro station.

In the wake of the killing, many people have also taken to social media to condemn violence against women. Some are sharing their personal stories of experiencing sexism and gender-based discrimination using the hashtag “I survived”.

Despite the widespread outcry, the police say that they do not believe this was a gender-based crime. They say that the presumed killer was mentally unstable and that he had already been hospitalised with mental health issues. “There is a need to distinguish between hate crimes and crimes driven by mental illness,” the police said in a press briefing. “The latest case falls in the latter category.”

Protesters who gathered outside the metro station to leave post-it notes accused the police of wanting to hide the real motive for the crime in a country they say is rife with gender inequality.

No more misogyny

Une photo publiée par Carlos Shin (@carlosshin) le

There have also been counter-protests in reaction to the mobilisation against gender-based violence. Masked men gathered in front of the memorial to the victim with signs that said “Not all men are potential murderers” and “The crime was not misogynistic,” according to an article in The Korea Herald.

Gender equality is a sensitive topic in South Korea. In 2015, the country was ranked just 115th out of 145 countries in terms of gender equality by the World Economic Forum.

The wage gap remains significant. On average, a South Korean man makes 37 percent more than a woman working the same job. Few women work in management. Many women who take maternity leave find it difficult to return to work afterwards.

However, there have been some advances in women’s rights over the past few years. They can now file for divorce. Moreover, businesses now have to fulfill a quota on hiring women. There are now spaces reserved for women on public transport. Moreover, women are now allowed to take time off when they are menstruating.

Yet in this inherently patriarchal society, there are groups defending men’s rights who have spoken out against these advances in women’s rights, claiming that they are discriminatory towards men. Thousands of men flock to the conservative forum Ilbe to complain about how women are exempted from military service and to decry the hiring quotas imposed on companies, among other issues.