The MeToo movement was begun by Tarana Burke who engaged in a social movement since 2006 to advocate for victims of sexual assault or harassment. The phrase MeToo literally expresses empathy for the pain of victims. The nuance of ‘MeToo’ which means “I have also suffered from that,” may remind us of the current state of society because the sexual victims could not disclose their experiences easily due to the atmosphere of society.
The movement is gaining popularity on the social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram in the United States owing to claims against Harvy Weinstein in October 2017. Many victims of Weinstein uploaded their posts on their Instagram with hashtags like #MeToo. The MeToo movement is a big turning point all around the world as the movement encourages the victims to accuse their assailants who sexually harassed them.
In the past, even if women had been sexually assaulted, it was very hard to say so frankly themselves as sexual victims and to accuse their assailant. This is because sexual assault correlates with a difference of power between men and women in society. If a woman who had been sexually assaulted by her boss, who is a man, discloses her experience, she may suffer from hardship in the company. In addition to this, the victims are also tormented by online comments, leaking private information and sexual assault again. We call this secondary damage. For example, Yoon Chang-joong, the previous spokesperson of the president, sexually harassed an intern when he visited the U.S. to perform his official duties in 2013, but the woman was denounced by the public through abusive comments online after he was accused by her. We know there is a lack of general civil consciousness about sexual issues in Korea by looking at the case Yoon Chang-joong.
In Korea, Seo Ji-hyeon, a prosecutor, claimed that she experienced sexual harassment by her boss, Ahn Tae-keun, who was the previous director of public prosecutions. She said her boss touched her bottom at a funeral in a public place eight years ago. However, her colleagues, including women, kept silent about the incident or put her down, condemning her as a so-called ‘gold digger.’ It is not just a problem of the assailant but a problem of all related people around the victim. Advocating for the victims is very important in regard to the issue. After this event, dozens of interviews for the MeToo movement were released on TV from a variety of fields such as politics, entertainment, the art world and even colleges.
Many of the events related with sexual issues in a company arise from a coercive threat coming from a gap between social positions. The secretary of Ahn Hee-jung, the South Chungcheong governor until allegations of misconduct surfaced, appeared on TV and disclosed that the governor assaulted her sexually several times in private. Because she thought she could not avoid being harmed by Korea’s strong hierarchy and an authoritative order, she wanted to get support from the public and to protect herself by doing that. People were shocked by the broadcast andthe governor lost his good reputation and disappointed his followers in the political world.
Pence rule, which means men do not spend time alone with female colleagues, occurs in companies because men want to prevent women from sweeping the movement throughout the company. Women may be exposed to career demise, so this is kind of an extreme measure cannot be a good solution. We should harmonize together to resolve this common social problem, sexual harassment, not only in companies but elsewhere. Then, society will improve.
There is another essential reason why we should support the MeToo movement. We all know about the comfort women during the war. One woman who had been assaulted by the Japanese had the bravery to denounce the atrocities of the Japanese even though many people consider their experience from decades ago to be shameful. However, if she had not accused them, Korean history could not have developed to its current status. All Koreans support the comfort women because people have an ethnic connection to them. Thus, people should have a common feeling toward the development of the MeToo movement.
Citizenship has to be developed as society progresses. The movement could mark a new era in the world like the French Revolution, not just with simple online issues which are going to fade away shortly. Therefore, the National Assembly should legislate related policies, and people have to become aware of sexual issues. Then it will affect overall society and the consciousness of gender issues within 10 or 20 years. Also, all people including adults and students should take a class about detailed sexual issues to establish their own concept leading them in the right direction. Then women can have real dignity and not experience the disadvantages or harassment because of their gender.
By Jang Eun-ae