MeToo movement takes hold in South Korea Favorite 



Mar 8 2018



Young women in South Korea are fighting for a new future. The #MeToo movement which has highlighted sexual harassment and abuse around the world has taken a surprising hold in this socially conservative country.

In fact, barely a month before #MeToo enveloped Korea, K-pop idol Son Na-eun of Apink faced a storm of criticism for promoting feminism when she posted a photo of her phone cover that read “GIRLS CAN DO ANYTHING.” Up to this point, gender inequality was a facet that remained largely under the radar as most people chose to ignore it, and the rest feared the consequences of initiating a debate on the topic. Women have traditionally faced mockery for bringing up these issues and female victims of sexual harassment or assault had to overcome suspicion, with those in power, men, likely to try to silence or tarnish them.

Rather than remain in the shadows, however, women are standing up and letting their voices be heard. It took a few brave individuals to set the wheels in motion, with hundreds of Korean women coming forward to tell their stories of maltreatment at the hands of men. The key inspiration was Seo Ji-hyeon, who alleged during a live interview with a news channel that a former South Korean Ministry of Justice official, Ahn Tae-geun, groped her during a funeral in 2010. Allegations against a presidential hopeful, Ahn Hee-jung, an esteemed poet, Ko Un, and an award winning movie director, Kim Ki-duk, poured more fuel on the fire, which enabled the movement to grow week-by-week. As 2018 has progressed, both traditional and social media networks have become dominated by discussions about gender discrimination on the peninsula. Previously underreported facts such as Korean women receiving less than a third of men’s salaries, and women filling just 2% of Korean boardrooms have become common knowledge and topics of debate throughout the nation.

Changes are starting to take place with the Moon Jae-in administration announcing extensions to the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases, and a process that allows victims to report crimes anonymously. This is not an easy task but there is a clear determination amongst the young generation, particularly, to make a breakthrough and the #MeToo movement continues to be a key stimulus.

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How does this project help?

Timeframe For change

Male superiority and sex harassment are long-established problems in Korean society. The #MeToo Movement in 2018 can be considered as a key point in the long-time campaign with a clear goal to fight for women's rights.


This movement achieved great success both online and off-line. It made the Korean government change its policy and influence the feminist movements in other countries like China.