Hyehwa Station Protest
On May 19, 2018, over 12,000 women dressed in red rallied at Hyehwa Station in Seoul, South Korea against discrimination of women and spy camera crimes. The initial rally fighting for anti-sexism and anti-violence of spy camera cases had sprouted into a series of rallies. The Hongik University spy cam case sparked the first rally. A male nude model was secretly photographed by another female model, and she was immediately arrested. However, many male spy camera perpetrators are not condemned and many cases go unsolved. Spy cam cases also called molka, a word for illegal and unconsented filming, in South Korea are common and many go unreported.
From this incident, women gathered at Hyehwa Station to rally against women's discrimination and for reformation of the judiciary system against molka crimes. Following the initial rally on May, the participants increased to over 20,000 in June and July. The fourth rally in August had over 70,000 participants and took place in Gwanghwamun Plaza, a common venue for protests. Hyehwa Station Protest is continuous in 2019 as certain cases surface that question gender equality.
Hyehwa Station Protest has evoked different responses from the media and government. Certain South Korea media has strong connection to certain government parties and their coverage ranges to different perspectives on this protest, which contrasts with coverage on American media of the topic.
People in South Korea are losing faith in the authorities because of the lack of law enforcement and punishment of crimes. Beyond public restrooms, locations outside their homes are potential places of crime for both men and women. The Hyehwa Station Protest raises awareness about gender discrimination and sexual violence against women. Hyehwa Station Protest is an essential event that contributes to women's movement in South Korea.
Spy Camera in South Korea
Hongik University Spy Camera Case
On May 1, 2018, a male nude model, remaining anonymous, in Hongik University's life drawing class was photographed without consent. Ahn, the 25-year-old female offender, was also a nude model working with the victim for a life drawing class in Hongik University's lecture room. During the break of the class, Ahn gets into a dispute with the victim. Ahn secretly photographed him, and later on the same day, she uploaded the photograph on a radical feminist site called Womad. After the photograph was uploaded, the victim was stripped of his personal information and encountered cyberbullying. After the release of the photograph, she was arrested 2 days later and sentenced to 10 months in prison.
This case raised the controversy of double standards and gender inequality leading to Hyehwa Station Protest where activists protest for fair investigation. The state data shows that 98% of spy cam offenders are men and 80% of the victims are women. The male offenders have various titles such as professors, teachers, pastors, and even police officers. Under the Act on Special Cases Concerning the Punishment of Sexual Crimes, spy cam crimes is punished with up to 5 years in prison or 100,000 won, equivalent to 10,000 dollars. Many reported spy cam cases are unresolved because of lack of evidence or the difficulty of investigation. Many viewed Hongik University Spy cam Case as unfavorable investigation with a male victim, and 300,000 people signed a petition to the Blue House for a fair investigation of the case.
Jung Joon Young Spy Camera Scandal 2015-2019
In March 2019, Jung Joon Young, a 30 year old South Korea singer-songwriter was accused of secretly filming women and sharing the footage in a group chat with other male celebrities and public figures. One of the male celebrities is Seungri, a male K-Pop idol who is one of the key figures of the Burning Sun scandal. The victims were around 11 women, some who are female K-Pop idols. Part of the group chat conversation was leaked March 12, 2019. The content involved derogatory terms and phrases for women and sexually objectified them. Jung Joon Young was arrested March 21, 2019 for spy cam video scandal and is scheduled to stand in court on June 27, 2019.
During the investigation, the group chat was traced back to 2015, a time close to his scandal in 2016. In September 2016, Jung Joon Young was suspected for a spy cam scandal for filming his ex-girlfriend without her consent. On August 6, 2016, his ex-girlfriend pressed charges against Jung Joon Young for secretly filming her body and sexually assaulting her. On September 25, Jung Joon Young held a press conference stating that his ex-girlfriend had agreed to the filming when they were in a relationship. He claimed that they were involved in a fight because of his busy schedule and she had pressed charges against the use of the videos as a spy cam crime. After the press conference, his ex-girlfriend dropped the charges and clarified how they had resolved the misunderstanding. She also emphasized that she does not want to see Jung Joon Young punished. On October 10, 2018, the case was closed with Jung Joon Young as not guilty.
After the uncovering of Jung Joon Young's Spy Cam Scandal in 2019, the 2016 case is being reinvestigated. After he is pressed with charges, the police brings him into questioning and demands him to submit his mobile device for inspection. However, Jung Joon Young first stated that he lost his phone and then reported the second time that he had found his phone but it was not functioning. He added that he would submit his phone after it was fixed, and then changed his claim again stating that he cannot recover any data on his phone. The police claimed that it would take long to recover and fix the device, so the case was transferred to the prosecutor. Although the device was never submitted for investigation, the case was closed.
The victims were unaware that they were secretly filmed and even shared on the chat. One of the victims pressed charges stating she was sexually assaulted by Jung Joon Young and four other people. She realized that she was one of the victims after encountering the screenshots of the group chat conversation as well as voice recordings online. The last memory she had was drinking with them in a hotel suite after a fan meeting on March 2016. When she woke up, she was unclothed on the bed with a member of the group chat, also a male K-Pop idol named Choi Jong Hoon. During that moment, she states she did not understand the situation and quickly left the location. She only realized that she was sexually assaulted after the uncovering of Jung Joon Young's group chat. After the scandal, many female K-Pop idols were accused of being the victim, which was damaging their career. Their entertainment companies had to clarify to prevent any gossip around the issue. Many celebrities who were the victim of this case stayed quiet to protect their careers. This event evoked anger within the public and on March 2, 2019, activists gathered at Hyehwa Station bringing awareness not only to spy cam issues but also use of sexual assault drugs.
Illegal Motel Filming 2019
From November 24, 2018 to March 3, 2019, spy cams in motels were broadcast live on the internet. Live broadcasting of spy cams to international site was unprecedented and placed many citizens in fear. The two offenders were Park, 50 years old, and Kim, 48 years old started to plan in June 2018. They were abroad running the international site to obtain international IP address, avoiding suspicion and IP address tracking. Within South Korea, they had two accomplices Im, 26 years old, and Choi, 49 years old. The spy cams were located in 10 cities, 30 different sites, and 42 rooms. The spy cams were 1mm in size and their locations were TV boxes, wall sockets, and hair dryer holders. There were around 1,600 victims; half was male and the other was female. Some may still not know that their videos were leaked live. After 3 months of investigation, Park and Kim was arrested and sentenced to 4 years in prison with 1.26 million dollar fine. The two accomplishes, Im and Choi, were not arrested, but the spy cameras have been removed.
Spy cam cases in South Korea go unreported or undetected, and they do not lead to prison sentences. In 2017, more than 5,400 suspects were arrested, but fewer than 2% were sentenced to prison. In September 2018, the government officials announced for 8,000 employees’ inspection of 20,554 public restrooms. The authorities warn guests and public space users to pay attention to certain locations. Through surfacing of spy cam cases, activists hold signs with “My Life is Not Your Porn” protesting against spy cam uses. Women inspectors search 20,000 public toilets for spy cam as a response to this case.
The media coverage of the Hyehwa Station Protest differs in perspectives. Many people in South Korea shorten the word feminist as “femi” (페미). In some cases, the definition of feminism is misinterpreted as radical feminism. The different perspectives of the Hyehwa Station is split into a part of women's movement and the other as radical feminist movement. The different news coverage of the Hyehwa Station Protest reflects on civilian's perspective on feminism and the Hyehwa Station Protest.
Some South Korean news coverage mentions the Hyehwa Station Protest's criticism of President Moon and states the violence of the protests and adds that these violent criticisms may deter the protest from reaching their primary goal. Many of the reporters of the news media had a particular experience at the Hyehwa Station Protest held on June 2, 2018 shining a light onto a new perspective. This protest had a restriction of the male press reporters asking questions. Male reporters were only allowed behind the police line for questioning and taking photographs. The male reporters state how they were frustrated that they couldn't get the best photographs or even interview the protesters. At the protest, the police line was a symbolic representation of how women cannot cross the gender boundaries in society. Another reporter, Lee from Hankook Ilbo, states that the gender discrimination was mirrored and was frustrating for him, but also thinks this was a great strategy to express one of Hyehwa Station Protest's primary goal, gender equality.
The news reporters from BBC interviews the civilians witnessing the protest and their viewpoint. A middle aged woman states how she understands the gender inequality when she looks at her daughter, but is unsure when she thinks about her son. Another male bystander thinks that protests are necessary but needs to be cautious about the strategy and actions. A policeman at the scene interviews that he is afraid that there may be conflict between passing by civilians and protesters.
Women's Movement in South Korea
Gangnam Post-It Note Protest
On May 17, 2016 a 23-year old woman was stabbed in a restroom close to Gangnam Station exit 10. The assailant stated that he killed her due to his disgust for women and because he had been "murdered by a woman in his social life". After the murder occurred people gathered at the station exit to leave flowers and leave post-it notes expressing mourning, forming the Gangnam Station Post-It Note protest. The focus of the protest was to raise awareness about gender discrimination, misogyny, and gender inequality.
The protest continued with protest marches and one week after the incident, at 7pm, protesters wearing black clothing and face masks gathered at the Sinnonhyeon Station, a subway station adjacent to Gangnam Station. Posters carried by attendees featured slogans such as “stop misogyny" and "we will be safe when we are equal." Many young female activists participated in a large demonstration similar to Hyehwa Station Protest.
Comfort women were the first form of #MeToo movement in South Korea that has allowed for the following rallies and campaigns against sexual harassment. The #MeToo activism coincided with the Hyehwa Station Protest where a mass of young female activists are participating in a large demonstration in public.
Sexual violence was one of the prevalent topics in the #MeToo movement in South Korea. The young female protesters in this movement became aware of the spy cam crimes and reacted to this issue. Many of these activists were also part of the Candlelight Protest to impeach President Park Geun Hye. Like Hyehwa Station Protest, #MeToo movement is pushing for reformation of the state and justice, acting against gender inequality. The #MeToo movement is connected to the global women's movement but in South Korea, the women are asking for specific reformation addressing government's unfair justice system and lack of enforcement of laws.
- Me Too movement
- Gangnam Station Post-it Note protest
- Hidden camera
- Jung Joon-young
- Burning Sun scandal
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