“Ways to swear righteously” and “How to respond to nonsense” are just one of the many practical tips author Choi Seo-yoon mentions in her books. Dignity of Discontent, one of her five published books, has gained huge popularity for her honest thoughts on social issues including unemployment and bigotry.
Choi’s journey of becoming a professional social justice warrior all started when she first published Monthly Ing-yeo, an independent magazine, in 2012. The term “Ing-yeo,” originally a Korean economic term meaning surplus, is commonly used as a self-mocking slang to describe one’s worthless state. In fact, the title exactly expressed her feelings at that moment.
“I was devastated after two years of failing to get a press job, but I soon realized it was just because I tried too hard to fit into society’s standards,” Choi said. “So, I decided to organize a media company myself, where I could accuse and criticize the society that sometimes shifts their responsibility to individuals rather than facing the structural problems and fixing them. I felt youths have had extremely limited space for speaking out their voices.”
The magazine was a success, especially among readers in their twenties who empathized on issues including unemployment and limited living space in Seoul. After publishing the magazine in a total of 18 volumes over the four years, Choi suspended publication due to financial difficulties. Instead, Choi started to write books, where she discussed ways to respond and act towards rude people. Many readers have praised her straightforward and sarcastic style of writing.
“One of my important beliefs is that no one will ever understand my point of view if I don’t speak up and express my thoughts,” Choi said. “Being an adult, not many people will speak up for you, so you have to learn how to fully explain your position. This belief actually motivated me to write one of my books, Dignity of Discontent.”
As Choi’s content reflects on current issues, she further shared her opinions on misogyny and the Korean society filled with various forms of hatred or prejudice. She says that although many women are standing up to voice their rights and trying to prevent hate crimes, there is still a lack of understanding and communication among genders.
When asked about how to solve this problem, Choi answered firmly that we must create a social atmosphere where people who ignore the existence of misogyny should be treated as outdated and be left behind, as it is difficult to change their views.
“I also think enforcing stricter laws regarding spycam crimes and abortion can be a way,” Choi said. “If you think about it, isn’t the man who ‘accidently’ slid his sperm the one to blame? Why are only women held responsible for the abortion?”
Choi hopes to continue raising awareness on how to stop people from blaming themselves on everything. The writer is currently producing an indie documentary film which deals with the Korean society’s prejudice against women and minorities, which she aims to release in 2019. Also, collaborating with other authors, she is planning to publish another book at the end of the year. Her journey of contributing to a better society will continue through TV programs and lectures.
Choi finally emphasized the importance of individuals’ views for a better society.
“One last thing I want to encourage is to always put yourself in other people’s shoes and listen to them,” she said. “Every person is different in their own way, so sharing each other’s experience and understanding their background helps create a more diverse and understanding society.”