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#MeToo in South Korean Politics: An Update.

Cover photo by 불편한용기 via Sisa Journal

In 2018, I talked to Arte’s “Tous les Internets (French) | Alle Internetze” (German) about the current state of affairs in South Korea: The spycam crimes, social hierarchy, Soranet, and much more. (You can read about that more in detail here).

In 2018, Ahn Hee-Jung, then governor of South Chungcheong Province and presidential hopeful, was accused, eventually found guilty, and sentenced to 3 years and 6 months for rape and sexual harassment (BBC Korean). The similarities between Ahn and Park are uncanny: Both governors and presidential hopefuls endorsed by their “progressive” party. Both seen as supporters of women’s rights. Both ousted for their hypocrisy from their secretaries, who had been sexually harassed and/or raped while they put on their façade and championed women’s rights outside.

Ahn, now a convicted rapist, made the news again this week when it surfaced that President Moon Jae-In sent flower to Ahn’s late mother’s funeral – the flowers bearing Moon’s title as President (The Hankyoreh). The accusations made by Kim Ji-Eun, his then secretary, particularly shocked the media, as he raped her the same day he spoke on national television endorsing the #MeToo movement.

The memoir “I am Kim Ji-Eun”, details her two-year ordeal
since denouncing Ahn Hee-Jungfor his rape and sexual harassment

South Korean women are newly angry at the news of Park Won-soon having harassed his secretary for years and lament the state of affairs – Adding on to the other headline news this week: The 18-month sentence given to Son Jeong-Woo, the man behind the world’s largest child sexual abuse website. The Seoul High Court denied the US’s request for extradition (BBC), where Americans who downloaded videos from Son’s website have been sentenced to between five and fifteen years (BBC Korean). Son and his father thanked the Court and Judges Kang Yeong-soo, Jeong Moon-gyeon, and Lee Jae-chan’s “wise decision”to deny extradition (DongA Daily).

Yes, really.

But while things are still pretty much terrible for South Korea’s gender inequality and there’s a long way ahead, much has happened since 2018.

  • On March 14, 2020, South Korea’s first feminist party was launched and took 0.74% of the votes (about 200,000 – It did not win any seats)
    While I do not personally support this party, I find its establishment and political activity meaningful
  • It did climb up the World Economic Forum’s Gender Equality Index, coming in at 108th in 2019, from 115th in 2018, out of a total of 152 countries surveyed. South Korea comes behind Russia, Nepal, and China.
    To illustrate, China only defined sexual harassment in law this year albeit with no enforcement mechanism (Reuters), nearly 40% of girls marry before they turn 18 in Nepal (Human Rights Watch), and Russia voted to decriminalise “domestic violence that does not cause serious bodily harm” in 2017 (AP).
  • On April 11, 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled that the abortion ban, in place since 1953, must be lifted by 2020 (BBC).
  • In 2018, books on feminism topped the charts throughout the year (Women News), including “Egalia’s Daughters” by Gerd Brantenberg (1977, Norway), “We Need a Language” (우리에겐 언어가 필요하다) by Lee Min-kyung (2016, South Korea), “Bad Feminist” by Roxanne Gay (2016, US) and Kim Ji-Young, Born 1982 (82년생 김지영) by Jo Nam-Joo (2016, South Korea).
Yes, that really is my thesis. Full text via ResearchGate:

What has changed most drastically between when I left Seoul in 2014 and now is the widespread understanding that the problem of gender inequality exists and is embedded in South Korean society. And once the women have taken to the streets, there is no going back.

South Korea has a gender inequality problem – And if there’s one thing we are good at, as proven by the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s how fast we adapt to crises. The hard part has been toiled – that of defining the problem in the status quo. Movements such as Megalia changed South Korean society, regardless of the criticism they faced (see this article I published at Korea Exposé). Just to name a few changes, among the many:

  • Media: Now words like “misogyny”, “date rape” “feminism” are part of the mainstream – As you can see in my research cited in ARTE’s Tous les Internets, the appearance of the very words “feminism” and “misogyny” jumped sixfold in the South Korean media between 2014 and 2017 (Data source: Naver News).
  • Labour: Researchers like Sejin Um at NYU are currently writing about how young women and men leave South Korean conglomerates due to gender inequality and social hierarchy (NYU | UBC).
  • Marriage: Cartoonist Mikkang explores why young women reject marriage and the demands imposed upon women through it in her oeuvre Marriage, Is It That Great? (하면 좋습니까?).
  • Fashion: FUSE Seoul rejects the pink tax and creates a line of unisex clothing which put women’s comfort at the forefront (FUSE Seoul).
  • Entertainment: Rapper Sleeq, late k-pop idol Sulli (may she rest in peace), and k-pop group AOA brought feminism to the forefront in the k-pop scene, most notably with this performance by AOA:
AOA performs “Egoistic” at MNET’s Queendom Competition
12 Sept 2019

This performance is largely seen as the first gender-swapping performance in contemporary South Korean pop history, with the girl group donning suits and strutting, while male dancers are sexualised in a fashion usually reserved for female performers – A fine example of “mirroring” which defined Megalia, all those years back.

* * *

The ARTE video ended with this sentence:

“Les sud-coréennes ne lacheront rien”.
“Die Südkoreanerinnen werden nicht locker lassen.”
South Korean women will not let things go.

* * *

French: Les femmes à l’avant garde de #MeToo
(Women at the Forefront of #MeToo)
German: Südkorea und seine Vorkämpferinnen der #MeToo-Bewegung
(South Korea and it’s forefront women of the MeToo Movement)


Seoul Mayor Is Found Dead After Harassment Complaint Is Filed
July 9, 2020

‘웰컴투비디오’ 사용자들은 어떤 처벌을 받았나
8 July 2020

South Korea rejects US extradition request over child abuse website
6 July 2020

손정우 부자 ‘美송환 불허’에 눈물터져…父 “현명한 판단 감사”
6 July 2020

In nod to #MeToo, China codifies sexual harassment by law
2 June 2020

20만명이 선택한 ‘여성의당’… “여성정치 역사의 진보”
16 April 2020

South Korea’s first feminist party holds out hope of election miracle
14 April 2020

안희정: ‘비서 성폭력’ 징역 3년 6개월 확정
9 September 2019

South Korea must end abortion ban by 2020, says court
11 April 2019

Sex abuse scandal hits South Korea’s elite skating scene
22 January 2019

서점가는 페미니즘 열풍… 2018년을 달군 페미니즘 도서는?
18 Dec 2018

2019 Update

Hi everyone!

It’s been ages. Really. I’ve started a new job – in human rights, turned down the PhD offer from Edinburgh due to funding issues (the UK is very, very stingy on non-UK funding), and started taking classical singing, drums and modern dance lessons.

This year I’m hoping to revamp Real Koreans, and to continue writing about Korea, but to also write more about me in general, and about my life as part of the Korean diaspora. I’ll also be submitting a co-authored article on South Korean feminism and gender (in)equality to an academic journal – Exciting!

This year, I’ll be travelling to (for work and fun)

  • Austin, Texas
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Cologne, Germany
  • Oslo, Norway
  • Reykjavik and elsewhere in Iceland
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Taipei, Taiwan
  • The Hague, The Netherlands
  • Somewhere in Poland
  • And maybe to South India

Otherwise, I hope you’ve had a Happy Independence Day (if you’re in Korea, and a very happy Karneval (if you’re near the Niederrhein). Cheers!

Seoul City paves way for a South Korean Welfare Model

Image caption: “The lives of our youth cannot be annulled” – Seoul Metropolitan City’s Youth Benefit Scheme! An investment for the future.

Social Welfare. Gangnam Style.

The Seoul Metropolitan City (henceforth, “Seoul”) is paving its own path of social welfare beta-tests in a nation seldom recognised for social safety nets. South Koreans have been persistently demanding improvements in social welfare – notably the younger generations. The younger they are, the more they know that change is possible (See: Korea Exposé’s article on the Sewol Generation).

Despite the progress in social development made by the two consecutive progressive governments of Roh Moo-hyun (2003-2008) and Kim Dae-jung (1998-2003), such as the inauguration of the Ministry of Gender Equality and of the Human Rights Commission of Korea in 2001, a conservative turn in the 2008 elections set South Korea down a neo-liberal, pro-corporate road with presidents Lee Myung-bak (2008-2013) and the now impeached/imprisoned Park Geun-hye (2013-2017). (Interestingly, Park’s transitional cabinet included Prof. Ahn Sang-hoon of Seoul National University, who has extensively studied the Swedish model of social welfare, and continues to advocate for a “Korean social welfare model”).

Free Lunch Rules (Or: How a Mayor Came to Be Elected Over Free School Lunches)

How Park Won-soon, current mayor of Seoul City, came to be elected, is an interesting (and sad) and hilarious story. The previous mayor Oh Se-hoon (2006-2011), had been at heads with the City Council and Superintendent of Education for Seoul City (Gwak Roh-hyun) about how to provide free lunches at schools. Oh pushed to have only 30% of all school children’s meals free (with plans to extend this to 50% by 2014), while the City Council and Superintendent advocated for a free-for-all scheme. The City Council eventually passed legislation for the free-for-all scheme. Then-mayor Oh vetoed the decision. Then the City Council vetoed his veto and went through with the scheme anyway. I know you’re losing track here.

Eventually, then-mayor Oh Se-hoon decided to put the free lunch scheme to a referendum, adding that he would step down if his he lost the vote. Which he did. Because the voter turnout was so low, the Council’s decision was upheldSince 2012, all primary and middle school lunches are free in the city of Seoul (Mandatory education ending at middle school).

The Youth Benefit Scheme: An Ambitious Yet Cautious Move

In 2016, Seoul Metropolitan City’s government decided they would roll out the Youth Benefit Scheme. However, the Ministry of Health and Welfare decide to annul the programme a day later the City began rolling out payments (“직권 취소”, or “direct ruling to annul”). The reasoning? The City government did not follow procedure.

Seoul City’s project marks a significant step in a country which continues to see high youth unemployment rates.

Along with the Youth Benefit Scheme, the city government runs 8 job-seeking seminars at the Seoul Youth Guarantee Center (서울시청년활동지원센터) under the category “내일탐구” (“Searching for Tomorrow”):

  1. #.취오해: ‘취업의 오해를 풀어드립니다.’
    Helping you resolve misconceptions about job-seeking (i.e. Should I work for a conglomerate, or start working at an SME and then move to a conglomerate as an experienced worker?)

  2. #.직무학습: ‘이 일이 내 일 일까?’
    Helping you find the right line of work (i.e. marketing, sales, HR, accounting, CSR…)

  3. #.현직자사람책: ‘그 일을 하면 어떤 삶을 살까?’
    Having people in your desired line of work talk to you about how they landed their job and how they experience their working life

  4. #.현직자멘토링: ‘좋은 선배 만나고 싶다.’
    Having the opportunity to ask anything to people in my desired line of work

  5. #.자기정리: ‘자기 정리가 필요해’
    Helping you structure your life story, so you can prepare mentally for your job-seeking process

  6. #.자소서글쓰기: ‘자기소개서 1도 모르겠습니다만’
    Helping you write a resume/CV and giving you one-on-one feedback

  7. #.면접스피치: ‘면접만 들어가면 머리는 백지장’
    Helping you prepare for a job interview through voice coaching, attitude adjustment, mock interviews and feedback on video recordings of your mock interviews

  8. #.취업포트폴리오: ‘나를 브랜딩 해볼까?’
    How to find your brand and to create your job-seeking portfolio

In addition, the Youth Guarantee Center runs support groups for those on the Youth Benefit Scheme – where young people meet up with those living in their neighbourhood to discuss their goals and dreams. The Center also has 4 group counseling programmes in order to help those who are under pressure from their job-seeking life. Unrelated to job-seeking, the Center runs 7 programmes where young people can learn more about gender equality in relationships, basics of labour law, difficulty in finding accommodation in the city, politics,  art, and even a programme where people can travel together.


Youth unemployment rate (gray line) and number of unemployed youth (yellow bar). Source: Statistics Korea

Hard facts:

  • How many people will be selected? 7,000 Seoul youth (3,000 in 2016)
  • Eligibility:
    • Must not be currently enrolled at a college or university, or in their final semester
    • Must be between 19 and 29 years old
    • Must not be working for more than 30 hours per week
    • Must not have previously received Youth Benefits
  • Duration: 2 – 6 months
  • Amount: 500,000 KRW per month (About 380 EUR / 460 USD / 330 GBP)
  • How is the money received? In a Woori Bank debit card
  • For what can people use the funds? For living costs (food, transport, telecommunications) and for job-seeking expenses (exam registration costs, course enrollment costs, transport to/from job-related exams and interviews, etc.)
    • Interestingly, is had to be specified that recipients may not use funds at top-tier hotels, casinos, bars, and massage parlours (often synonymous for prostitution services).


청년수당이 바꾼 청년의 삶 (Young Koreans' Lives Changed by Youth Benefits). 
14 March 2018. SisaIN Magazine. 

Youth Benefit Scheme webpage (Korean). Seoul Metropolitan Government. 
Accessed 19 March 2018.

The Sewol Generation: Young South Koreans Open Their Eyes to Politics.
20 November 2016. Jun Michael Park.

‘박근혜·유시민 복지론’ 밑그림 제공 안상훈 서울대 교수 인터뷰 
(An Interview with Ahn Sang-hoon, the SNU Professor Who Provided Blueprint
for Park Geun-hye and Rhyu Si-min's Social Policy)
02 April 2011. Cho Tae-Sung. Seoul News.

지난해 못 받은 청년수당 지금 신청하세요
(Apply For Last Year's Youth Benefit Scheme)
12 September 2017. Song Ok-jin. Hankook News.

취업자 수/실업률 추이
(Trends in Number of Employed Citizens and Unemployment Rates)
Accessed 21 March 2018. Statistics Korea

프로그램 안내
(Introducing Programmes at the Seoul Youth Guarantee Center)
Accessed 21 March 2018. Seoul Metropolitan Government.

[Documentary] North Korea’s Secret Slaves: Dollar Heroes

The Why, A Danish public media agency, has released an investigative documentary into North Korean slavery labourers in the world – in Poland, Russia, Norway, and China.

It is currently available for viewing on national outlets (on NPO in the Netherlands, for example) The film will be released worldwide on their project page (Why Slavery) on December 2nd, 2018.

Here is a 5-minute version edit of the documentary

The film has also been screened at the European Parliament (9 Oct 2018), and at the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (18 Oct 2018).

Updated: Here is the full-length film (59 minutes).



Dollar Heroes - Valuta voor de dictator (Dutch language version)
North Korea's Secret Slaves: Dollar Heroes
NPO, 7 Feb 2018
59 minutes

Noord-Koreaanse dwangarbeiders bouwden mee aan Nederlandse schepen 
(en hun loon ging naar Kim Jong-un)
North Korean Slave Lavourers build Dutch ships
(And their salary goes to Kim Jong-Un
De Correspondent, 6 Feb 2018

Parallel 38/Part III

Parallel 38/Part III

Remember I told you I was split two ways:

My grandmother’s father was a Freedom Fighter in colonised Korea
When we were Korea
Not Korea, South/North
Not Korea, Republic of/Democratic People’s Republic of
Not South Korea/North Korea
Like we see on the census slips and dropdown boxes

He and his country fought back against the Japanese
The people who told us
We could not use our own names
We could not utter our own language
We could not wear our own clothes
But we must dress like the white man
Because that’s who they learned their tricks from
A sadomasochistic cycle of submission and domination

On 15th August, 1945
We were made a free country
On 17th July, 1948
We declared our Constitution
On 15th August, 1948
We became a Republic

And when my country became a Republic my great-grandfather became a criminal
Because he was
A Communist

One of Them

Granny said, then they came and took all our land and our money
I went from going to school in American flower dresses and bento boxes
To telling policemen I didn’t know where my father was
And I really didn’t know
Because he left me and mum and sister and brother and he ran for his life

I didn’t finish primary school
Because I had a younger sister and brother and I was the oldest one
But I remember, one day, I met an American missionary, a Jesuit, who told me
You are a very smart girl, Jung-seon, come with me to America
But what was I to do
Leave them
Like my father did

* * *

When I think of Seoul
I think of my aunt Yoon
Who speaks with a feathery sweetness
Who knows the cool but cozy bistros South of the Han River
Who always smiles and has perfectly curled hair and who never raises her voice

A devout Catholic who married a staunch Atheist
Whose husband drives her and her daughters to church every Sunday
And when I drive back with him, he says, Because I’m a man of science, Emily!
Seoulites navigate different opinions and people with a gentle voice
In a city of ten million
They’ve had to

So it came as a surprise
When my mother told me
Aunt Yoon’s father
Whose name I’ve never known
Came from North Korea during The War
Lost his family fleeing from bombs
Built a business empire in the capital
Had three daughters and three daughters only in the sixties

(You must remember, I was born in 1990
That year, a million girls were aborted
So three daughters in the sixties
What that must have meant
For gender equality)

But back to Aunt Yoon’s father
His new family in the South
Meant everything to him
I don’t mean his wife and his children
More like his wife and his children
And his children’s husbands and their siblings
The grandchildren from his children’s husbands
He would take everyone on a holiday
To faraway places

I told you
I don’t even know his name
I remember him as the grandfather who’s not my real grandfather
But who gives me too much money
Who always smiled from ear to ear
Asked me what was going on in my life
More often than my own grandfather did

So when you ask me with your innocent eyes
Why do you hate North Koreans
Why don’t your countries become one again
Why is it that you won’t bomb them, start a war, you know they will lose anyway
I say
Why is it that you want us to rape and slash and shoot at our own kind and our own land
Wasn’t the last time enough
Why do you assume a randomly assigned line divides our heritage
What is seventy years in the scheme of five thousand years
Why do you assume that I hate anyone
Unless they tore my heart open

Like those people did to my people

Parallel 38/Part II


Parallel 38/Part II

For three Christmases I had a German lover

We spent
Summers sitting on the balcony grilling Bratwurst
Christmases eating deviled eggs and saying, Mahlzeit
New Year’s Eve shooting firecrackers into the sky and screaming and kissing

He told me
Did you know
It took twenty years
For us West Germans and East Germans
To marry amongst ourselves
In the same numbers
As we married foreigners

We’ve been told our whole life, look at this country across the world
Remnants of the Cold War, testaments to ideological warfare
Your twin

We know how it feels
When people walk all over us with their dirty boots and say
Thank us, beg us, revere us
For pitting your people against your neighbours
Because they’re wrong in the head
And implant a seed of doubt for the coming three generations

They tell us
If the Germans can do it, you can
You hardworking Koreans who rebuilt your country
The only OECD foreign aid receiver turned donor, at the turn of the millennia

But they sweep under the rug

The part where an East German family with nine children
Turn up at an Embassy in India and say
None of us have passports, because we ran away when we were still called DDR
And we became farmers, in love with this hot, arid land
But now we heard our grandmother has died
And we don’t know what to do

Children who speak better Bengali and Tamil than German
Who don’t know anything about their own country
And most importantly, who don’t want to
Face the pain their parents had to
Uprooting their whole lives
Because nothing compares
To your own people
Judging you and
Your roots

The part where my lover doesn’t know where his family comes from
Because his grandmother left on the last ship from Königsberg in April 1943
Before the ten-thousand-pound bomb wiped it clean
The family registrar at the Church
The city hall records
And she asked to be buried in a nameless mass grave
Because her homeland had been not only destroyed but rebuilt
Where she could not go without a stamp in her passport

And I cried my eyes dry at the funeral
For a woman who never knew me
Who didn’t recognize my lover
Because it made me think
Of all the division
My family had
To endure

Parallel 38/Part I

This is part one of three in a series I wrote while watching the Inter-Korea Summit broadcast on JTBC.

Parallel 38/Part I

It is only natural for me to be split
Two ways

It started when foreigners split the country of my mother and my father
Two ways
Took a yardstick and swung it across
Arbitrary lines of their own science
And called it

Told us we were free
To run around in our little divided up cage
Asked us to play nice and to obey
In return we would get
For what they did to us, raping our souls and pitting us against one another

Threw money and milk and honey our way
Put their feet up
Told us
This is freedom
You have newspapers
You have shipyards the size of mountains
You have free elections and banks and delegations in The Hague

Leaving out the part where they
Split up mother and daughter, brother and sister, grandfather and grandson
Dug up trenches along the heart of our motherland with barbed wire and explosives
Told us to shoot at our mirror image and to call them Commies and Fascists and Murderers
Made us think all twenty-five million of our brethren across the border had steel for souls

Forgetting the part where they
Drooled over the piece of pie that was our unified peninsula since they discovered us on their seafare
Forced our borders open and made us sign papers with guns to our heads
Too convenient for its location and its acreage
Too good to not be taken hostage
To embody their ideological stage

I’m not saying
They did not invade us first
I’m not saying
The French, the Aussies, the Kiwis, the Canadians, the Dutch, the Filipinos, the Turks, the Colombians, the Belgians, the Thai, the Greeks, the Ethiopians, the South Africans, the Luxembourgish, the Norwegians, the Italians, the Swedes, the Danes, and the Indians who fought for us died in vain
I’m not saying
The fat man and his dancing men and his progeny after did not do what they did and let millions of whom they called their people die from starvation

I’m saying
Did they really need to do all this
Bring in a Harvard-educated puppet who made our national flower the hibiscus
Nothing wrong with hibiscus, just, it doesn’t naturally grow on our peninsula
Brainwash us into thinking our aunts and uncles were the devil incarnate
Make us report our neighbours as spies because they sound funny
Support our bloody dictatorships and call it development
Development for what
Development for whom

All the while as we
Hid our family trees so we wouldn’t be reported for our northern lineage
Lied about our grandfather who was an Independence Fighter because he was also a Communist
Cut off the parts of our souls that ached for our mother and grandmother and even our wife, long lost

And our young were
Raised competing to draw the best Kill the Northern Commies poster at school
Made to recite an A4 length declaration which stated It is our way to eradicate the Commies from age nine
Tortured for reading Marx and fighting for democracy because they decided to label them Communists

I have seen
Young women
Collared to statelessness and absolute poverty and not knowing they had the right to say no
Sold and beaten and raped and filmed and distribute and sold again and rendered mute
Young men
Broken to the bone and fed tree bark and spat on and laughed at
Torn apart
By barbed wire, by gunshots, by starvation, by deaths without funerals

Full-grown women the size of thirteen-year-old girls
Adult men as tall as my pre-teen cousin
Whose bodies hold more anger and sorrow and trauma than you and I could ever imagine

So when you ask me with your innocent eyes
Why do you hate North Koreans
Why don’t your countries become one again
Why is it that you won’t bomb them, start a war, you know they will lose anyway

I say
Why is it that you want us to rape and slash and shoot at our own kind and our own land
Wasn’t the last time enough
Why do you assume a randomly assigned line divides our heritage
What is seventy years in the scheme of five thousand years
Why do you assume that I hate anyone
Unless they tore my heart open

Like those people did to my people

“My Body My Choice” – My Story of Reproductive Privilege


Tomorrow I’m getting the second IUD (Intra-Uterine Device) of my life. Something going into my uterus is as personal as it gets, but as a researcher who should be starting a PhD on Sexual Health and the Internet in South Korea (one of the cases being the IUD) next year, it is, as we say: “The Personal Is Political”.

With under 20mg of levonorgestrel, the Kyleena (and the Skyla/Jaydess) emits 1/10 the amount of hormones than do oral contraceptives. They’re cost-effective (130€ in NL and FR), and once they’re installed, they last five years – bringing their monthly cost to a mere 0.5€. For many women, they come with fewer side-effects than does the Pill. It is particularly effective for young and sexually active women because of its low failure rate and because of the convenience it offers. IUDs are offered fully free of cost to women under 21 years of age in NL and FR.


As opposed to the Mirena, the Kyleena contains silver, so it can be easily identified on an ultrasound.

*  *  *

In France and in the Netherlands, I am free to choose a contraceptive method. I am free to not bleed every month. Even if I am dating a woman. Even if I haven’t yet given birth. Should I get an unwanted pregnancy, I will be free to terminate it on my own or with my partner and it will be reimbursed in full to me. Not every woman has the luxury I do.

I can talk to my friends about abortion and different contraceptive methods and sexual health and sex and orgasms and everything in between (And I do. A lot). One of the first conversations I have with partners is, “So, what is going to be our method of contraception?”, and then “If I unexpectedly fall pregnant, what are we going to and how are we going to bear the costs, and will my/your insurance cover this?”.

My friends in South Korea do not have this luxury. A girlfriend’s first method was not “prayer” (like Grace from Will&Grace), but to starve herself until she fell underweight so she would stop having periods. Another friend would take the bus or the subway to a nearby neighbourhood and buy condoms because she was afraid people she knew would recognise her and call her “a whore”. A friend told me she does not dare ask her male partners to use condoms because they keep saying it is a breach of trust if she does, and they’ve been “pulling out at the perfect time” for years – and why does she have a problem?

There are hundreds of thousands of abortions being conducted in South Korea, every year. None of them are legal, so none of them are administered according to any standard. None of them are reimbursed. If a young woman goes to a regular gynaecologist, they’ll look her up and down and ask “Why have you been whoring around?” And tell them “We don’t do those kinds of procedures” and redirect them to a much shadier place. Youth under 19 are barred from buying condoms online. Convenience stores and adult stores will (wrongly) tell them it’s illegal for them to buy condoms altogether. They are told: “No – you slut”. They are systematically, and illegally discriminated from having safe sex.

I did not choose, and am not choosing an IUD for solely contraceptive purposes. I am choosing to have one for two reasons:

  1. I currently live in a country where it is reimbursed by national health insurance (basisverzekering). And I may be going to a country where it is not even offered as an option to nulliparous women;
  2. The IUD stops periods for 50% of women who use it. And it’s been great. I am fine with being a woman. But I HATE PERIODS. Fucking hate ’em. I’m a swimmer. I’m an equestrian. I’m a traveller. And I do not plan on having children in the near future. Periods are a nuisance. I’ve been blessed to only bleed lightly without cramps for eleven years, but it’s still hours lost and stress spent on something that’s unproductive. And now technology can help me live life without it. If you’re an ecofeminist who is opines that “women were born to bleed and it’s beautiful to do so”, that’s your opinion. I respect your decision. You respect mine. If you’re a man, it’s not up to you to decide what a woman does with her body, the same way I don’t tell you to get a vasectomy.

Even in the Netherlands, where the NGO Women on the Web currently helps South Korean women terminate unwanted pregnancies in a home-administered, safe way by way of medication (which they smuggle by hiding in creative ways into seemingly innocuous parcels), discrepancies exist:

When I called my GP yesterday to check my to book an appointment, I was told that my usual GP was “unavailable” because “he doesn’t do IUD insertions because he is, you know, not a female doctor”. Even though I had said “To me, it doesn’t matter, a GP is a GP”. So now I have to wait an extra day, which is not the end of the world, but it shows how women’s bodies are still seen as something “sacred”, not to be touched by any other man who is not “her man”.

It’s still better than in Seoul, where, as part of routine health check-ups, young women undergo an ultrasound and are asked “Are you a virgin?”. If you say yes, the doctor will administer the ultrasound via the rectum. Which is, at least to me, the most uncomfortable thing in the world. Let’s also face it: How many young women who have had sex in a culture which shuns premarital sex, will admit they’re no longer a virgin, in front of their parents who must accompany them to the doctor’s appointment?

*  *  *

On May 25th, our Irish sisters and brothers overturned the 36th amendment, making abortion legal. Abortion remains illegal in 25% of the world. They’ve been made legal by the women and men fighting to gain their rights for years, even decades. South Korean feminists have been holding pro-choice rallies since October 2016.

I’ve had the privilege – of not having to go through an illegal abortion. Of having a French doctor taking an half an hour to talk to me about the different contraceptive options, and having the 300€+ fees (STD tests, hereditary cancer screening, ultrasound, cost of the IUD, and consultation fees) reimbursed to me. Of having European partners who grew up thoroughly studying what sexual consent, contraceptive options, and their partner’s rights to reproductive health talk to me freely about the options, and us going to our GPs, gyno, and urologist without social stigma or financial burden.

But some women will have to through unsafe abortions. Some will be abandoned by their partners and will have to deal with the financial, psychological, and physical stress alone and in shame. Some of them will give up a child for adoption. Some of them will give birth in a public toilet and abandon the newborn. Some of them will have no choice but to quit school or university with little governmental or social support. Some of them will, sadly, commit suicide. Some of them will purposely fall on their tummy and induce a miscarriage. Some of them will have to face a rapist and get him to consent to them having an abortion, because this is the law in South Korea.

*  *  *

“My Body My Choice” is the slogan used by BWAVE, the South Korean feminist group which holds weekly pro-choice protests. All women should have control over their own body. The personal is political. And this is why I have written a long-ass post on my uterus.

*  *  *

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that the Kyleena’s monthly cost was 3.6€, based on a 3-year efficiency period. The Kyleena lasts five, not three years, which makes its monthly cost 0.5€.

Owner of Soranet, South Korea’s Biggest Porn Hub, Taken into Custody After Three Years on the Run

The Prosecutor’s Office states: “The [site’s] administrators illegally earned profits totalling tens of billions of KRW (approx. millions of USD/EUR) over the past thirteen years”

An owner of Soranet, a man identified as Mr. Hong, was taken into custody on June 18th, 2018. He is one of four owners, two couples identified as the Hong family and the Song family. The owners are accused of not only distributing pornography, but also engaging in its production. They have been on the run, living in New Zealand and Australia, since the South Korean police launched an official investigation back in 2015. They’ve also appealed and lost the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s decision to confiscate their passports and to stop them from re-applying for one. The remaining three owners will be served subpoenas for investigation.

The illegal website, which ran from 2003 to 2016, is known for brokering underage prostitution and drug trafficking, violence against women including genital mutilation and conspiracy in gang rape, defamation, and extortion (Read more about my account of Soranet’s activities here).

The site and a linked Twitter account were officially taken down by the owners two years ago (Link), although similar sites have popped up to replace them.

The Prosecutor’s Office is also working on forcibly restituting their illegal earnings.

[Exclusive] Owner of "Soranet", South Korea's Biggest Pornographic Website,
Taken into Custody ([단독] 최대 음란물 사이트 원조 ‘소라넷’ 운영자 구속)
25 June, 2018. KBS 

En Corée du Sud, les femmes à l’avant garde de #MeToo 
3 May, 2018. Tous les internets (ARTE)

Yeonmi Park becomes the first North Korean refugee to speak on Comedy Central

Follow this link to view the video at Comedy Central.

Yeonmi Park is the first North Korean defector to speak on Comedy Central, on Jordan Klepper’s The Opposition (Link). No, she isn’t debuting her career as a stand-up comedian. The humour game is subtle and strongly lined with political messages.

She discusses her disappointment at the Kim-Trump Singapore summit on June 12th, her life in North Korea being taught to “hate American bastards”, and feeling confused at the idea of people being able to love anyone else besides the Dear Leader when she saw the movie Titanic for the first time. When asked what pushed her to leave the country, she responds: “hunger”. She shows solidarity to displaced peoples by saying “Refugees are people too. No one should be punished for their birthplace”, and warns that “freedom is not free – we have to fight for our freedom”.

Ms. Park has already expressed her disappointment at the June 12th summit on Foreign Policy:

“He should have asked for some concessions from the North Korean side. If Trump really wants change, he should have asked [Kim] to open the concentration camps and let journalists go into the country”

And in a powerful video Opinion piece on the New York Times:

“When I saw the President of South Korea hugging Kim Jong-Un, I asked myself: Would he do the same with Hitler?”

“Kim is clever. He is using this moment to sanitize his global image, and prove how supreme he is at home. I’ve seen this show before”

And on her newly created YouTube channel:

“When Trump said […] Kim Jong-Un loves his people, is he out of his mind? What do you mean, Kim Jong-Un loves his own people? He uses starvation as a tool to control people. If he loves his people, he would not create concentration camps […]”

It’s refreshing to see North Korean human rights issues being discussed on a less serious channel such as Comedy Central, since the conventional media channels (newspapers, television interviews, panel discussions) target a very specific audience. More people, and people of different ages and interests need to know about what is happening inside North Korea, not just political science students, international relations experts, human rights activists and allies, and East Asia aficionados.


North Korean Dissidents Lament That Human Rights Are a Non-Issue as Trump Meets Kim
11 June, 2018. Foreign Policy

Additional Reading

What to Read if You Want to Know More About North Korea
1 Jan, 2018. New York Times