Have you heard about HeForShe? HeForShe is a global campaign of UN Women, which began in 2014 to urge men to support gender equality and take actions. In Korea, since Womennews established “HeForShe Korea Movement Headquarters” in 2015, it has been running a variety of campaigns. The Women Marathon Festival is one of events which are held by Womennews. On May 5, The Argus took part in the women’s marathon race in Sang-am World Cup Stadium and thought about what people can do to achieve sexual equality.
8:30 a.m.: Ready to run
On a subway heading to World Cup Stadium station, some people wore pink shirts with the phrase “The 18th Women Marathon Festival” written on them.
Arriving at the station, the reporter could see the volunteers guiding the way to the marathon start area. People went to the Peace Square, where the marathon is held behind World Cup Stadium, along a path that volunteers told them about.
At the Peace Square, there were a huge number of participants. Some balloons, tents and cheerful runners including women, men, elderly people, kids, and foreigners made this marathon a festival rather than a competition.
After switching into a pink marathon shirt, the reporter’s belongings were put into a locker. Then the reporter moved to the stage and started warm-up exercises with other participants, following the people on the stage.
9:30 a.m.: Start to run
The marathon consisted of three courses: a 10km, 5km and 4.5km course. The 10km course runs along a river; the 5km was a course which even beginners could join without much pressure, and the 4.5km is a walking course where participants could take a walk at a sky park. Many family marathon runners joined the 4.5km course.
When it was time to start, the marathon began with the longest course opening first. At the starting point, legislator Sim Sang-jeong, actor Ra Mi-ran, broadcaster Sayuri Huzita and skater Kwak Yoon-gi, an honorary ambassador of HeForShe cheered the runners.
Because the marathon was held in the park, the courses were in harmony with nature. Runners could take pleasure on a metasequoia road. Later, when runners came upon the road with bubble machines, they stopped and enjoyed the moments with some bubbles.
As 50 minutes passed, many people reached the finish line. Beyond the finishing line, there were tents waiting to provide medals and some snacks for participants. People were sitting there, taking a rest and celebrating their completion of the race.
The reporter had a talk with a citizen who was taking a rest in the welcoming shadow of a tree. Kang Yu-jin, a high school student from Bucheon, said “I ran in the 5km course because my friend asked me to join. It was my first time to join this marathon. Actually, I don’t have much interest in a marathon, but I participated this time because I do have interests in the women’s movement and feminism.”
10:35 a.m.: After the running
After the marathon was over, additional events were held. After taking a rest, the reporter moved to the stage, and there a UN gender equality campaign HeForShe flashmob was in full swing. Kwak Yoon-gi, a short track speed skater and two-year HeForShe campaign promotional ambassador, danced in the flashmob together with others. Anyone who wanted to dance with him could step up to the stage and dance together. Listening to the song of flashmob, the reporter moved to the HeForShe booth. At the booth, volunteers were giving some tattoo stickers to people. If people wrote their names and emails a piece of paper and took a picture holding the paper, they were given HeForShe scarfs.
The reporter asked some questions about HeForShe to Sin Dong-oak who is working as an internship at Womennews.
Sin said, “Even though I am a woman, I didn’t know well about how women are discriminated against and how much they suffer in such a situation. However, I realized that I was so ignorant, after reading a cartoon book “Maybe My Story” which includes some stories of sexual violence of women in their daily lives in Korea drawn by a French male cartoonist. While something that we took for granted as women could somehow be unconscious violence, I was so indifferent to them.”
She then said that when she was looking for information on the HeForshe campaign to run the booth, she realized that when men work together while women raise their voices, the right gender equality could be achieved.
11:15 a.m.: Who finished the race first?
The closing ceremony was held after people rested for a while. The first-place runner’s record in the women’s category of the 5km course was 19 minutes 49 seconds. The reporter asked the winner Lee Yoon-joo, a HUFSan from Dept. of Spanish, what she felt about this marathon. She said that she was worried about the Sang-am course and the weather, but she did not relax until the end, and she did not give up because her mother encouraged her, cheeringly, at the finish line.
Lee commented, “Even if this marathon's name has the word women, men could participate in the marathon. I think this is not merely for women, but also allows men to have values for equality or to behave accordingly.”
11:40 a.m.: Do you know what day May 11 is?
After the awards ceremony, a variety of independent booths continued to remain open. With the square in the center, a total of 40 booths were stuck in rows, two lines on both sides. In addition to the necessary medical booths, there were some campaign booths, university booths (such as one from Eulji University), many companies who want publicity, and booths for children take part in the marathon. The reporter went to the booth of “the Single Mother’s Day” which has participated in the Women Marathon Festival in the past.
Korea had been an orphan-exporting country for some time, especially two or three decades ago. In order to encourage domestic adoption instead of exporting many children overseas, the government adopted May 11 as “adoption day” in 2005. However, against the adoption day, unmarried mothers, single parents, overseas adoptees, and advocacy groups for children’s rights have been campaigning to designate May 11 as “Single Mother’s Day” since 2011.
The reporter met Choi Hyeong-suk, the representative of the single mother’s association “Intree,” and asked her about Single Mother’s Day. According to Choi, the solidarity associations are working hard to make May 11 the Single Mother’s Day. She believes that it is not all about sending children overseas for adoption, but that society should make an environment where a single mother can raise a child.
She said, “Intree will continue to combat the discrimination against single mothers. We are currently managing a cafe to help mothers become more independent, and provides education on women’s studies. When a mother is happy, the child is happy, and a woman’s life as a woman is important as well.”
She seemed happy while working in her association. It may be the result of loving herself first before loving her child.
The reporter went to a booth where people dressed in yellow volunteer clothes had gathered. It was a booth from Eulji University’s Department of Physical Therapy. The reporter talked with Baek Sun-woo, the president of the club “Primera.” “It is a long-standing volunteer work in my department. I have been involved since I was a freshman. I am working with the belief that I can contribute to my community via my major. I feel most rewarded when people say thank you to me,” he said.
12:00 p.m.: What are you trying to do?
The reporter had a talk with a citizen who had joined in the marathon. Han Hye-in said that it was her first marathon. she knew about this women’s marathon by Twitter.
She follows accounts that are interested in women. She said, “I am so proud that I finished the 5km course marathon. By participating, I learned about campaigns like HeForShe. So, I plan to participate in this marathon in the future and I want to join with more friends.”
Kwak Yoon-gi, a short track speed skater and HeForShe honorary ambassador, said he did not even know the purpose of the HeForShe campaign well when he started as an honorary ambassador last year, but now he has learned a lot about HeForShe by doing activities and talking with people through his second year of volunteering. “The word gender equality is in fact a very natural word and it is a matter of course. But I think it is not taken for granted as such in Korea yet. By raising my profile through more exercises, I will try to make people think about HeForShe too when they think about me.”
The marathon and gender equality are all about making our lives better. This year’s slogan for this marathon was “I support my daughter’s better life.” Supporting one’s own life can help support a daughter’s life, too. When you can love yourself first, whether you are a woman or a man, that love can be manifested in the children being raised and nurtured. Why don’t you try running for a better life, and for a better life for others?
By Han Byeong-ji
Reporter of National Section