Hundreds of activists and citizens gathered at the Gwanghwamun Plaza in central Seoul for the Women’s Day ceremony on Mar. 8, holding slogans written “#MeToo” and “#WithYou.” The #MeToo movement in Korea was ignited after public prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun accused a senior prosecutor of sexual assault two months ago. Follow-up disclosures were then made by other victims from different fields including entertainment, art industry and even politics. This movement is now currently spreading among university students, who are voicing support for #MeToo and #WithYou.
The disclosures of university students have been made through social media and online communities. While some students have chosen to remain anonymous, a few students have publicly posted on their Facebook pages demanding harsh punishment for professors who have committed sexual violence against them.
Several professors have admitted their wrongdoings and stepped down from their positions, which is something that has been rarely seen before. Previously, making any manner of disclosure was difficult and even potentially damaging for students themselves due to institutional problems in universities, especially for students majoring in the arts. They have to encounter these professors even after graduation and they are evaluated by professors daily, so they fear that their disclosure of the professors’ wrongdoings might affect their grades or even be harmful for their careers
Students are beginning to take action in participating in the #MeToo movement. Student councils are collecting reports from students who have been victimized by sexual violence on campus to cope with the problem systematically.
Penguin Project, which is an organization that raises awareness on sexual harassment that could easily happen around campus and takes action, also showed their support for the movement. With the title “#Sexual harassment_campus #ME_TOO #WITH_YOU,” Penguin Project will also support those victims through #WithYou. As penguin is the mascot of their organizations, the Penguin Project will stand and make a huddling circle with the first penguins who have made their #MeToo disclosures.
Moeum, the 29th female student council of Yonsei University also supported the courage of the victims and promised to stand on their sides. The supporting paper which was posted on their Facebook page on Mar. 9, criticizes the inappropriate ways that society have dealt sexual harassment incidents and the victims, how the rape culture was so prevalently situated and how previous disclosures were considered as gossips. Also it added that everyone should look back on themselves and reflect whether one was an onlooker or also an assailant in any ways.
However, some students worry that this movement might just end as being an issue without establishment of harsher legal punishment.
“#MeToo and #WithYou movement has created atmosphere that victims are encouraged and are supported by others with their brave decisions,” said Choi So-young, a junior of Korea University.
“But I am worried that their disclosure could end up being one of the gossips rather than leading it to harsh punishment of assailant. I think people should be more conscious on strengthening legal punishment of the sexual harassment if they truly support the victims on top of participating #WithYou movement.”