On August 4, approximately 70,000 women sat through a record-breaking heat wave in Seoul to protest the digitized objectification of their bodies, participating in a campaign known as “My life is not your porn”. Hahae takes a look at the still male-dominant society of Korea.

Imagine receiving a knock on your door, shortly after having returned from a long day at work. You open it , and there stand the police. They inform you that you’ve been identified in a video, in which you are stark naked. You watch it. Moving pixels combine to show your body in the nude, walking around casually in the comfort of your own home after the warmth of a hot shower.  

The revulsion and shame of this experience would be an exponentiation of the overwhelming, compulsive need to fearfully scan every nook and cranny of any public restroom you deign to enter, the latter situation being a reality that South Korean women must face on a daily basis.

On August 4, approximately 70,000 women sat through a record-breaking heat wave in Seoul to protest the digitized objectification of their bodies, participating in a campaign known as “My life is not your porn”. This was the largest rally for women’s rights in Korea to date. Colloquially known as “mol-ka”, or hidden cameras, the number of cases where men illegally film women have been steadily on the rise. This can be in contexts such as changing in a locker room, standing on the escalator in a skirt, using a public toilet, or even “revenge porn”, where ex-partners film and upload sex tapes of their previous significant other. These videos can be filmed with smartphones, or spy cameras installed to blend in with the surroundings. In 2011, the number of such cases in a year was 1353, while in 2017, this figure was recorded at 6470. Technology’s pervasive reach has rudely intruded into the intimacies of lives in the world’s most digitally saturated nation.

The subsequent shame of discovering oneself in one of these videos is a powerful emotion, one that leads women to cover or disguise their faces in public protest, get plastic surgery, or in some extreme examples, commit suicide. The actions of these tech-savvy peeping Toms can be labelled as nothing less than an attack on human dignity, or even a complete disavowal of the female’s worth. Such blatant reduction of the individual to a cheaply garnered method of sexual self-satisfaction has been met with lukewarm response by the Korean authorities, with the police taking a week or more to respond to reports. By then, the videos reach the point where they can no longer be completely removed from the stubborn grasp of the Interweb. Even when the original video is taken down, they can continue to spread on other porn websites, visible to anyone with access to the Internet.

Unfortunately, the initially mentioned scenario was in fact, a real one. A woman who wished to be identified only as Choi, had been filmed inside her apartment on the 22nd floor in downtown Seoul with a telephoto lens from a roof in the area. The man in question was only briefly interrogated and ultimately released without charge, on the grounds that he had willingly accompanied the police to the station and surrendered the material.

According to the statistics of the Korean National Police Agency, 98% of offenders are male. This is yet another reflection of the male-dominated society that South Korea remains, one that has had a poor track record with regard to women’s rights. As an illustration of the complacency of law enforcement in this area, out of the 20,924 male suspects between 2012 and 2017, only 2.6% were detained. In an interview, Chang Da-hye, a researcher at the Korean Institute of Criminology who studies online sex crimes, states that the fear that women have towards spy cameras is completely rational. She reflects on its most notorious online manifestation, known as Soranet, where men go so far as to “upload photographs of their girlfriends or wives, and ask others to rate the women’s genitals”.

Thankfully, there are measures being taken such as the deployment of an all-female task force that conducts daily searches of public restrooms and changing rooms. However, this can also be tricky as the offenders are strategic and swift with the placement and removal of their spy cameras. The government has also pledged $4.5 million to local authorities to aid the increase of these patrols. Whether these efforts will materialize in the long run is still yet to be determined. On the other hand, whether the female fear of shitting in public will abate is an entirely different issue in itself.

Cover: Charles Deluvio 🇵🇭🇨🇦 on Unsplash/Final Editor: Mana Stutchbury

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