Despite the baity title of their video, DKDKTV has released a decent explainer of the other side of the current culture war in Korea over feminism and why some have such negative reactions to any indication female celebrities might be feminist. I think they do a decent job of explaining the environment to an international audience while also not co-signing on most of the bullshit the other side spews, even if it does seem rather delusional to say there isn’t a bunch of misogyny in the country.
Anyway, regardless of what you feel about the video, I’m just using it as a jumping off point for the issue at large.
While this is understandably a sensitive subject, given the discussions that went on in the comments of a recent article, I think it’s important for international netizens to at least understand what’s going on in Korea right now.
Us in the West have to realize that perception of feminism in Korea is much different. It’s relatively new in Korea, and to this point, it’s hard to deny that a lot of the faces of the movement that do get representation in the mainstream are (unfortunately and unfairly) radfem communities populated by many who are homophobic, transphobic, and just generally toxic. Mirroring is the frequent explanation for their behavior, but as even their apologists note, it’s not helping the gender divide any. I’ve briefly touched on TERF radfems in Korea before when talking about Han Seo Hee, and I said she was an appropriate representation of that segment of feminists for a reason.
So knowing that, there are a bunch of things to consider here, I think.
People who try genuinely to contextualize what’s going on in Korean society for those who may not be aware are doing quality work. However, those just distracting from the irrational hate directed to female celebrities (or women, in general) are simply co-signing on the misogynistic bullshit, IMO. We don’t need context to understand why using a harmless phone case or reading a perfectly fine book doesn’t deserve death threats and harassment. If the celebs become Han Seo Hee-esque, then sure, they can be called out and I’ve done so myself. But trying to take away from legitimate criticisms of irrational reactions to anybody maybe kinda sorta showing signs of being interested in feminism is just utter nonsense.
Again though, when talking about bigger pictures, I do think it’s important to know how much of the mainstream conversation is dominated by feminists that many internationally would deem problematic. So when speaking about news out of Korea in general, not all of the backlash against things labelled feminist is about woman-hating or even anti-feminism, as some of it is just hating specific types who drag down the movement, IMO. To that point, when going through the Korean spy cam tag regarding the idol incidents, I saw many queer Korean feminists who explicitly stated they don’t fuck with TERF radfems. Or for entertainment-related examples, many witch hunts led against celebrities (even female ones like IU) start from these messy people as well. The point I’m making is that I would bet many around these parts would side-eye the shit these communities are doing as being problematic messes as well, so it seems like relevant context to understand.
Still, too often when people try to explain the two sides of this, I feel like they drifting too close to a gigantic false equivalency. Insofar as mentioning hundreds of years of institutionalized sexism in Korea (as well as modern misogynist communities) and then Korean TERF radfems and throwing their hands up as if to say, “Welp, both cancel each other out.” Seems like an intellectually dishonest way to avoid confronting harsh realities about gender inequality in Korea more than anything else. After all, the status quo is one of inequality.
As far as the spy camera protest, I’ve basically already said my piece on it, and I support the movement’s stated goals even if some within it are a mess. If you broadly dismiss it just because of the bad apples, I think you’re dumping the baby out with the bathwater and sort of missing the bigger picture. Fix what needs to be fixed and criticize what needs to be criticized, but no need to dump potentially meaningful progress just because some rallying for it may be shitty.
Anyway, I’m interested in hearing people out in the comments.