In October 2017, The New York Times revealed that Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted many female celebrities which led him to be fired from the company that he established. However, the revelations about the pervasiveness of sexual assault did not stop with celebrities. Instead it triggered one of the biggest social campaigns under the banner of #MeToo. One look over the Korean News these days and it would be fair to say that there will be at least one article about #MeToo trending in a variety of areas such as the film industry, literature, religion, universities and so forth.
|▲ The 'MeToo' movement have been brought public debate on sexual harassment in varied working places.|
The Me Too movement was first attributed to the activist Tarana Burke in 2009, but was repopularized with a tweet by American movie star, Alyssa Milano, that said "If you’ve been sexually assaulted write '#metoo' as a reply to this tweet". According to an announcement on Twitter in 2017, 12 million people joined the campaign. What’s more, according to CBS News on October 24th, 2017, the campaign actually reached 80 countries, which implies this campaign no longer belongs to a specific part of Hollywood. The MeToo hashtag can now be seen on all other forms of social media.
Weinstein’s case is typical of the stories being shared in the ‘Me too’ movement. He took advantage of his authority over the people that he worked with. He harassed numerous Hollywood actors including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd. He called actors into his office or hotel to molest them.
However, cases of "Me too" in Korea are a bit different, at least in terms of how they started. Based on an interview by JTBC, Newsroom, Public prosecutor, Seo Ji-hyeon stated that she was sexually molested by Ann Tae-geun, another public prosecutor and Choi Kyo-il, a congressman. The revelations raised the issue of sexual molestation in the legal profession and spiraled to other industries when famous theater director Lee Yoon-taek was accused of sexual assault by many in the Korean movie industry. This also leads many anonymous people to join the campaign locally.
|▲ Women attend a protest as a part of the #MeToo movement on International Women's Day. (Photo by Google)|
According to an interview by the Dankook Herald (DKH) with a congressman in a relevant area, the congressman stated that all Koreans should be aware of the case of the public prosecutor, Seo Ji-hyeon: and the concept of ‘secondary damage’. When she revealed her experience of sexual harassment, there was no policy to protecting the victim, which means even though she might have been victimized in private, she was brave enough to expose the case and hope Korean society would to stand up to protect victims of unrevealed sexual assaults. Moreover, the congressman said that since victims of gender-based violence could do nothing but hide, because there was not enough legal evidence to protect them, their actions eventually led to a motion, the revised Labor Standard, 2.2.2018, which is a system designed to better protect the victims. This allows workers protection and support for investigations of gender-based violence. However, the congressman also believes that there is an urgent need for change in the social recognition of gender-based violence to accompany the changes in policies in order to make the ‘Me Too’ campaign meaningful.
However, in contrast to the congressman’s opinion, there have been seemingly inappropriate debates on public forums which have divided society into males vs females, where each side is laying the blame on the other instead of focusing on the absurdity of our system of hierarchy and an absence of policy that may have forced victims to feel isolated, which is the congressman’s belief.
Since there are a lot of people think that the Me Too campaign tends to rely on anonymous exposures on social media, a number of males in online portals started insisting on a need for the so called ‘Pence rule’: This was coined by US Vice President Michael Pence, when he stated that he would never have a meal or a drink with any female alone, unless it was his own wife. While this had nothing to do with the Me Too campaign, in Korea, the Pence Rule is being called for in order to curtail any inappropriate conduct while at work. This had led to a tendency to isolate female workers from drinking meetings after work or ensuring only same sex colleagues go on business trips together, both of which can arguably hamper career development of women. In other words, somehow the solution being sought for sexual assault is separating genders rather than supporting and building one voice to change our brutal society.
What’s more is that opinions are also divided on the Pence Rule. Supporters of the Pence Rule insist that there is no other option for males to protect themselves. They argue that sexual assaults can be considered very subjective which force them to believe that separating our genders is the best way to avoid misunderstandings. However, opponents believe that the Pence Rule violates male rights in a different way. According to an open interview of young male feminists in the Jungang-Ilbo, they argued that the Pence Rule portrays all men as potential sexual offenders, who don’t know how to behave around females, without harassing them. Despite these objections, the rule is still being applied in workplaces and the public remain far apart from building one voice as one society.
|▲ Tarana Burke, who repopularized the Me Too Movement.|
Throughout an interview with the Telegraph, Tarana Burke, the founder of the Me Too campaign, argued that the intention was not to start a fight between males and females, but rather to create a platform for people who have survived gender-based violence to speak out and to protect them. In other words, it is clear that the Me Too campaign was intended to bring about positive change to protect all people from gender-based violence. However the Korean Me Too campaign and the public’s reaction to it, leaves something to be desired, it should be connected to ‘With You’ a call to sort out problems together, instead of just saying “it’s all on you!”
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