On February 2nd, a nation-wide press conference was held, contending that the prosecutor Seo's case should be investigated thoroughly.
/Photography from the Korea Sexual Violence Releif Center
“Are you not lonely? You look pretty these days. It makes me feel I am in a trouble.” This statement was revealed when the prosecutor Seo Ji-hyeon disclosed her experience of the senior prosecutors sexually harassing her. Other than the senior prosecutor mentioned above, there were other prosecutors who also sexually harassed her. On top of this, she claimed that she did not get any apologies from the violators and instead was passed over for promotion. Likewise, sexual crimes are prevalent in the universities such as the case of sexual harassment from Kakao Talk (SNS) of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations in Dongguk University, and the cases of the Freshmen Camp in other universities. Usually, victims are so afraid of upcoming revenge that they become silent and suffer alone. However, from Hollywood to the rest of the world, the “Me Too” movement has been started to show the sufferers that they are not alone. Right now, in Korea, as part of the change, a lot of victims from all walks of life have started to divulge their own experiences regarding sexual violence.
Standing together: definition of the movement
Back in 2006, a social activist Tarana Burke founded the “Me Too” movement to aid the victims of sexual violence, especially those from the low-income bracket. By showing them empowerment through empathy, she expressed her stance that she would like to support victims and tell them that they are not alone. However, unlike the initial purpose which was limited to victims from the low-income bracket, the “Me Too” movement has widened its range to all sorts of people.
The outset of the “Me Too” movement
A well-known actress, Alyssa Milano carried on the movement tweeting, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” This was the starting point of the “Me Too” movement.Since last October, the “Me Too” movement has become hugely influential. From Hollywood, more voices have been heard. Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and other actors made allegations about the sexual misconduct of Harvey Weinstein, an influential American film producer. Several other testimonies were disclosed by other actors, models, and employees of his film company. As a result, Weinstein was kicked out of his own company. Furthermore, at the Golden Globe Awards, unlike usual flamboyant outfits, a lot of Hollywood actors showed up in black costumes as a way to support the “Me Too” movement. Also, “The Silence Breakers,” who have stepped out to reveal their experience of sexual harassment were chosen as the Person of the Year.
“The Silence Breakers,” are chosen as the Person of the Year.
/Photograph by Kim Ji-min
This movement has transferred worldwide. In the United Kingdom, several cries were heard from politicians. The former Secretary of Defense had to resign due to his sexual assault scandal. Also, including the Deputy Prime Minister, the Conservative’s previous and current Cabinet and the House of Commons were involved one after another. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party was in uproar as the figures of the scandals were publicized with the sexual harassment.
Additionally, in Canada, not only denunciation but also governmental action has been taken. According to the Sexual Assault and Assistance Centers (CALACS), from October 16th to 26th, the period of the “Me Too” movement, the number of requests asking for help made by casualties has risen by 522 percent. At first, the center had insufficient capacities to accept everybody. However, for the sake of Quebec government’s aid, CALACS is getting one million dollars of support.
The background of the Korean “Me Too” movement is caused by bystander culture
A lot of people in the workplace suffer from sexual harassment. However, even though many people acknowledge that they are being victimized, they just gloss over violators’ misdeeds. According to the research done by Korea Institute of Criminology, 54 percent of office workers just glossed over the problem without doing anything. Several of them said that although they reported it to the company, a disciplinary action from the company was the only outcome, so they had become silent.
As universities mirror the society, sexual misdemeanors are endemic in the universities. According to a survey conducted by Survey Monkey with students of 100 universities in Korea, 20 percent of the respondents said they have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment. Although the numerical data might not look huge, it still shows that students are vulnerable to sexual crimes. During the school year, the sexual crimes in the universities have been mentioned intermittently. Additionally, students lack recognition of the school counseling center or human rights center, where students can get counselling service. As reported by the analysis by Survey Monkey, 68.1 percent of students answered they are not aware of the counseling center or the human rights center.
The fever of “Me Too” movement has spread to universities in Korea
A poet, Choi Young-mi showed up in JTBC news program, and denounced colleague in the same industry. At first, such outcries were only made by the worker population. However university students started to speak out about their experiences.
With the lead of University Female Solidarity, several other universities upheld the “Me Too” movement by making a public statement and promoting the idea. As for Dongguk University, Yun Won-jeong, the chairperson of the General Coed Student Council (GCSC) also supported the “Me Too” movement. She commented, “Soon after the prosecutor Seo’s confession, Sookmyung Women’s University’s Women’s Study Club, SFA suggested to be in solidarity with them. So, we also decided to join the movement. The 'Me Too' movement is a chance to shift bystander culture, we decided to be in the same boat.
Correspondingly, there have been steps to change the university community. In this regard, Choi Yoon-hee (Sophomore, Department of International Trade) revealed, “Nowadays, a lot of people are joining the movement and showing that such sexual crimes are not limited to the sufferers’ problem. Throughout this movement, I wish our society could be somewhere victims can be free from the pain and assailants be punished orderly.”
There are organizations for assistance students can get at their universities. Several universities in Korea, including Seoul National University and Sungkyunkwan University already have their own well-organized human rights center. Yeom Boa, the professional counsellor of the Center for Human Rights of Dongguk University, explained that Dongguk University has the system of counseling both in the Center for Student Counseling and the Center for Human Rights. When it comes to issues regarding human rights or sexual misbehavior, students can easily contact the Center for Human Rights for consultation. She added, “However, it is true that there is low awareness for the center. Since the center was founded only three years ago, many students do not know us at all. If they want to get psychological assistance, it will be beneficial for the students to visit us.
Attitudes should be changed to answer the “Me Too” movement
These days, at least one article regarding the “Me Too” movement is updated. A lot of eminent people from several fields are accused of their sexual misbehavior. However, there are occasions which violators sue victims for libel. With reference to libel suit, over 30 thousand people petitioned for abolishing it at Cheong Wa Dae. Currently, the government and the ruling party agreed to come up with government-wide control tower for such crimes.
Still, as the early stage of the movement, improvements are still needed in many aspects. There are some occasions victims stop themselves from accusing the violators due to the fear of secondary damage. The term “secondary damage” could either refer to the disadvantages taking place during or after the trial, or by people. During the police investigation, especially sexual crime cases, there are some occasions the investigator tries to shift the responsibility of the crime to the victims. Such atmosphere makes the victims have hardship when they have to talk about their experience.
Hence, Oh Mae, an activist of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center commented, “There should be a manual to obey, when it comes to the investigation, and should keep an eye on whether the regulation is well abided by or not.” Also, Oh Mae revealed that the society has the mood of blaming the victims. The commentaries such as “Why did you have that kind of outfit,” and “Maybe you gave culprit the chance to do so” are frequently mentioned. She added, “However, this kind of act only denounces victims and hinders them from asking for help. Thus, proper education and the enhancement of recognition are needed.”
As the “Me Too” movemet has transmitted to the nation-wide in Korea, the President Moon Jae-in commented that, “I strongly support the campaign. Hence, by all means, there is a desperate need to come up with measures for the secondary damage.” The “Me Too” movement has not only given people a sense of solidarity, but also the magnitude of sexual violence. The movement has spread widely with the hope of the assailants facing proper punishment. In this manner, the activist Oh added, “Through the ‘Me Too’ movement, the atmosphere of the society is letting victims to stand out more than the usual. Consistent movement would draw public keen interest so that it can finally lead to propose legislation dealing with the matter of preventing sexual violences.”
Kim Ji-min email@example.com
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