There is growing popularity in anti-feminism around South Koren men, especially online where there are numerous posts that express their disapproval targeting feminists. The phenomenon became rampant after a female pop artist known as Irene who is a member of the Red Velvet band stated that she read a popular novel called ‘Kim Ji Young, Born 1982’ that talks about how women are treated in South Korea.
In the book’s release in 2016, the book sold over 100,000 copies as it became the book of feminists because it resonated well with many women in Korea who had experienced the same discrimination discussed in the book. Fans took their frustrations online after Irene said she had read the book; men placed comments to threat their support of her music group, as they expressed their wish for Tv shows to ban her from being aired. One member of the popular K-pop group Apink, Son Nau-eun was also criticized by fans after they saw her phone’s screen saver that read, ‘Girls can do anything.’
According to Ahn Sang-soo, a researcher at the KWDI (Korean Women’s Development Institute), the retaliation by men against the female pop stars who are advocating for feminism is due to the ambivalent attitudes by men towards women. The people who are commenting negatively on these topics divide women into two groups; the ones who are seen as submissive, and the ones who pose a threat by being defiant, where most feminists fall.
Since most men view their favourite idol singers as the women they most admire, if their idols behave in a manner that goes against what they believe, it provokes them to have an adverse reaction against their idols. Additionally, the animosity of the internet is natural, because people can express themselves in aversion and anger.
The men’s anti-feminism phenomenon is not only online. There is an Anti-Feminism Association that boasts a membership of close to 2,800 members that went to City Hall in Seoul on December 2017 to call for the dismantlement of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.
According to the group, they believe that feminists are feeding women with information that teaches them to hate men using distorted versions of feminism. The group members caused controversy publicly as they compare feminism to Nazism.
In Korea, there has been a movement called the #MeToo movement that has also caused a rise in the anti-feminists. The President Moon Jae-in has supported the #MeToo movement because it leads Korea to society of women’s rights and sexual equality.
President Moon also added that his country is reflecting how sexual discrimination is entrenched in the society and that it is now clear how it brings oppression and discrimination against sexual equality.
The #MeToo movement has deepened gender fault-lines because it also goes back to the roots of Korea’s conservative culture. Some men have responded to the #MeToo movement by freezing women out of their workplaces which hurts women’s professional ambitions. Others have associated the movement to a witch hunt as two men were reported to have taken their own lives after being sexually harassed.
For the men who believe that #MeToo is about sexism against men use the hashtag #YouToo to share their own harassment stories. A group of Korean men began to crowdfund about a project to produce a book titled “Kim Ji-Hoon Born 1990”. The project is said to shine a light on men’s discrimination in Korea, just like the statement that only men need to conduct military conscription. The project was finally pulled.