Being a Woman in South Korea and Mexico

I was shocked as I realized that authorities in Mexico would have never worried about my friends the way the Korean government now did.

Story by Olga Mata. Edited by Rick Scherpenhuizen
Mexico, Central America
Published on August 22, 2020

Reading time: 4 minutes

This story is also available in de kr



In the picture: Mexico City’s famous monument “Minerva” tainted in red to symbolize femicides 2020 vs. Me too movement in South Korea, 2019. 


A change is in motion whenever a woman speaks out to declare she is a feminist.

A few days before traveling to South Korea for my academic exchange, I received a couple invitations from my college friends to assist the annual protest for gender equality, which takes place every March 8th in Mexico City[1]. Here, thousands of people condemn the violence which we, as Mexican women, must go through every day in forms that range from sexual harassment in the streets to rape and sex-based hate crimes such as femicides.

As I was in South Korea, this time I would not be able to attend and express my discontent. Nevertheless, I experienced something else that formed my thoughts around violence of women’s rights. When I had just arrived in South Korea for a couple weeks, I found myself at a police station in the Korean city of Busan. I was there with two of my new friends, because they were reporting an older man who had taken two non-consent pictures that day of them in bikinis while we were having fun at the beach. Turns out that the act of taking compromising pictures is considered a sexual violence felony in South Korea which can be punished with imprisonment or a fine up to 7,000 USD[2]. I was shocked as I realized that authorities in Mexico would have never worried about my friends the way the Korean government now did.

After doing a little research, I found that these procedures were recently implemented in December 2016 after several protests of mostly young Korean women fighting against illegal spy-camera filming as a form of gender violence[3]. This example showed me that we, women, can be successful in influencing public policy to tackle the problem of gender violence.

Even though Mexico has also implemented policies to fight gender violence[4], women’s rights continue to be violated and impunity remains. Unfortunately, most Mexicans still consider it to be “normal” for men to take unconsented photos of women in public transportation or in the streets. After all, the police is not going to punish our aggressors anyway. But as long as we do not report these events, impunity will remain as a constant.

It’s not that we don’t take action. During International Women’s Day, Mexican feminists were staining public fountains in red, to represent the women murdered every day, and to raise social awareness, as you can see in the picture.

In South Korea, although massive public gatherings were impeded due to COVID-19, the first Feminist Party of South Korea was launched as a symbolic commemoration[5] on March 8th. At the end, women will keep on struggling for their right to feel safe everywhere.

Both in Mexico and South Korea, International Women’s Day will therefore stay as a day to speak up, rather than to celebrate, at least for a couple more decades to come, until culture starts to change.


Footnotes

[1] Averbuch, M. (9 Mar 2020), “'We'll disappear': Thousands of Mexican women strike to protest femicide”, in The Guardian, from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/09/thousands-mexican-women-protest-violence-murders-femicide-government-inaction

[2] This is established by the Act on Special Cases concerning the punishment, etc. of sexual crimes. Chapter II, Article 14. Detailed information available at: https://elaw.klri.re.kr/eng_service/lawView.do?hseq=40947&lang=ENG

[3] For further information, consult the link: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-50582338

[4] Initiatives include the “National System for Prevention, Attention, Sanction and Eradication of Violence Against Women”, and coordinated efforts made by UNWomen with the “Mexican Women Institute”. Further information available in the link: https://mexico.unwomen.org/es/nuestro-trabajo/eliminar-la-violencia-contra-mujeres-y-ninas 

[5] Further details available in: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/03/03/south-koreas-first-feminist-party-launches-on-international-womens-day.html


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Olga Mata

Olga Mata

Hey! I'm Olga, an International Relations undergraduate at Mexican Autonomous Institute of Technology (ITAM). I have a special interest for international politics, gender and environmental studies. I'm a deep conversations fan, constantly questioning, discussing, reading and traveling to find answers. Dancer by heart, world citizen by choice.

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