One of the biggest global movements that has come to the forefront of 2018 is the #MeToo movement. The #MeToo movement has sought to bring attention to the sexual harassment and assault women experience across the globe and bring an end to the cycle of violence. However, are the acts of violence women face throughout the world universal? Or do the cultural backgrounds affect not only the way a nation portrays sexual misconduct, but also the fight to end it? The #MeToo movement in South Korea and the United States, are facing similar problems. However, they both have been differently shaped by greater cultural values, and must be addressed accordingly.
In South Korea, sexual violence and harassment appear to be prevalent but concealed. A significant amount of harassment, like the hidden bathroom cameras, are not direct actions but are covert. The perpetrators are concerned with their social image, and thus hide behind technology to perpetuate their crimes. Harassment is also extremely prevalent in the Korean workplace. According to The Irish Times, South Korean women on average make less than 65 percent of male coworkers’ salary. Due to this wage gap, women in the workplace are already systematically inferior, to begin with, making it easier for male superiors to take advantage of them. According to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, more than half of all sexual harassment cases occur in the workplace, with around 60 percent occurring between boss and employee. The problem of sexual harassment in the workplace is extremely prevalent, but fear of termination prevents those in inferior positions from voicing these grievances. Statistically, those with lower positions in South Korean workplaces tend to be women, Thus, women are facing the greatest danger from workplace sexual harassment.
One would argue that a strong feminist movement would help bring about greater equality to South Korean society. However, any display of feminism tends to be met with backlash from conservative figures. For example, when celebrity Son Na-Eun, member of the girl group Apink, appeared on Instagram holding a phone case with the phrase “Girls can do anything”, the star was bombarded with hate and accused of “promoting feminism”. Apink’s entertainment company later issued a statement after Son removed the photos, stating that the phone case was just a gift from an American fashion brand event. What is wrong with promoting feminism? Why does feminism have such a negative image for some individuals? In Korean society, feminism has a different connotation and is seen as delinquency by conservatives, as something associated with sexism towards men rather than creating an equal society. Korean women have made significant progress with the #MeToo movement, especially considering how they live in a society where the problem is something that would rather not be addressed due to the hope of saving face. However, there is still room to grow as Korean women have to fight the battle of raising awareness to a topic that would rather be left untouched.
In the United States, sexual harassment and violence is a topic that has been frequently discussed in recent years, and that most of the youth are educated on today; however, despite being talked about, it is something that continues to go unpunished. The current name being brought up in connection to the #MeToo movement in America is Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh is President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee and was confirmed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court by the Senate with a vote of 50 to 48. However, according to Business Insider, he was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women during his high school and college years. Parties held by “party colleges” like the one Kavanaugh attended are extremely predatory in nature. These parties, if held by a fraternity, will only let males in if they bring multiple girls with them. They serve strong alcohol that is masked by fruity mixtures with the intention of getting everyone drunk. The nature of these parties are well known and are consistently portrayed in the media as an essential aspect of college life. This toxic environment has translated into a system where the victims of sexual assault are rarely trusted and the perpetrators are given a second chance. Dr. Christine Ford, who was the first accuser to come forward, has since faced many death threats herself and an overwhelming backlash of hate. As of October 8th, she was still unable to return to her home because of these threats. Sexual harassment victims and accusers constantly face backlash, making it hard for them to come forward with their stories in a system that favors the white man. The problem with the U.S. is not lack of awareness like in Korea, but rather not taking the next step and doing something with that awareness. Americans may be aware of perpetrators of sexual violence, but these perpetrators are not receiving just punishments due to the entire system being flawed and biased.
The different cultural backgrounds of South Korea and the United States have led them to face distinctly different problems in regards to the #MeToo movement. South Korea, a culture defined by saving face and preserving image, must overcome these boundaries to help bring awareness to sexual harassment as well as stop it. In America, the #MeToo movement may have already brought awareness to the existing issues, but Americans still need to work on fixing a system that “protects” the white male perpetrator. Hopefully, with the growing support for the #MeToo movement in both nations, the problem will no longer be ignored. Instead, both nations will need to implement systematic changes that prevent as well as punishes sexual harassment, as to not let the #MeToo movement be in vain.