Violence against women in South Korea is increasing: Women are even afraid of breaking up with their boyfriends because this decision is fraught with danger. A feminist group named Megalia fights for women’s rights in Korea and attracts the world’s attention to this problem.

In Korea, one woman is murdered every three days. Because of economic changes after the Asian finance crisis in the late 90th, a lot of men are very frustrated of being unemployed and not earning a livelihood. Their fears are projected onto women. Violence against women in Korea is increasing; women are even afraid of breaking up with their boyfriends because this decision is fraught with danger. ‘We don’t have guns, but it’s more dangerous in the home,’ says Song Ran-hee, secretary general of the Korea Women’s Hotline. ‘The notion that Korea is safe only applies to the streets’. A response to this frightening reality has been online activism of one of the newly-formed feminist groups called Megalia.

 

Megalians support men’s change

 

Founded on August 6th, 2015, independent feminist group Megalia represents a new type of feminism – one that uses the Internet to promote gender equality and humorously fights misogyny in South Korea.

The name of the group was created by combining ‘MERS gallery’, the online forum where the movement was born, and ‘Egalia’, of Gerd Brantenberg’s satiric novel Egalia’s Daughters. The band’s activity became so successful that the name was filed for trademark registration by one of its users. Megalia’s members, they call themselves ‘Megalians’, have created a real provocation in the Koren Web which could make their lives unsafe. That is why Megalia functions only on an anonymous basis: All members post under the same nickname. Even the few interviews conducted with Megalia members or admins have not revealed any personal information. This anonymity is both Megalia’s advantage and drawback since it guarantees full freedom of speech to members while decreasing the possibility of blocking users.

Megalia’s logo reflects its satiric nature and was inspired by the feminist novel Egalia’s Daughters by Norwegian author Gerd Brantenberg. In this influential work, Brantenberg describes the world where gender roles are entirely reversed – not only socially (women are by default given the upper hand due to their power to give birth) and sexually (men are at constant risk of sexual violence), but even linguistically (women are called ‘wim’, men –‘menwim’, which turns ‘man’ into a suffix). The logo alludes to South Korean men’s judgmental attitude towards women’s physical appearance and sexuality and mocks the size of South Korean men’s penises. ‘They are just not good enough‘, Megalians argue.

Megalians’ mission is to fight hate back with hate and to show the ‘acceptable’ in South Korea misogyny in its real, honest form – as discrimination. People call them men-haters, but why don’t they call men being irreverent to women ‘women-haters’, Megalians ask. The main Megalia’s main task is to make the world accept women as important members of the equitable society, and they are aiming to it from the very beginning.

 

The great feminist movement

The Megalia’s movement began in May 2015, after the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a disease which was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. In June, two Korean women who apparently contracted the disease while traveling from Seoul to Hong Kong were attacked by users of a popular Korean message board called ‘DC Inside’ despite the fact that the MERS outbreak was actually linked to a Korean man returning from the Middle East. Those users, especially men, said they damaged Korea’s reputation abroad and called them selfish ‘Kimchi bitches’ (which indicates women who are obsessed with wealth). Some women began to comment back and to simply replace the words ‘women’ with ‘men’, a tactic that female activists promote as ‘mirroring’. They ‘mirrored’ men into ‘Kimchi men’ and mocked them for having ‘6,9cm penises’. After those women created their own page on the Web, and that’s how Megalian.com was born.

Megalians also played a crucial role in the 2015 Maxim Korea scandal. In September 2015 the Korean edition of a men’s magazine Maxim ran a cover showing an actor Kim Byeong-ok posing with a cigarette in his hand next to a car and a naked woman’s feet dangling out of a car boot. The headline read ‘The Real Bad Guy’, the slogan proclaimed: ‘This is what a real bad man is like. How do you like me now?’. Megalia shared the cover with media and feminist groups from all around the world in order to make it public and to force Maxim US to issue an apology. The magazine first took a defensive position on the charges but after a spokesperson for Maxim US deplored the image the Korean bureau had to had to issue an apology. And this is not the only triumph of the Megalia feminists.

Megalians also shut down the sale of ‘hidden cam’ type devices on a South Korean e-commerce platform Ticketmonster (Tmon), after what the Tmon issued an official apology. Megalia contacted the Hanshin University’s student council due to a series of on-campus banners containing degrading women slogans, all banners were removed. The feminists stopped a sale of high-concentrate hydrochloric acid which was used as a weapon in cases of the hate crime committed by men on women. In addition, their activities include helping single mothers by, for example, over 6 million KRW (more than 5,000$) to a humanitarian NGO named Aeranwon.

 

‘No uterus, no opinion’

Since December 2015, the site runs several fundings and media campaigns and a YouTube channel connected to it uploads videos about hate crimes in South Korea with English, French, Japanese, Mandarin, and Spanish subtitles. From that time Megalia has continuously received criticism on their lack of transparency, but no official statement has been released. Today the association still functions and fights for women’s rights in South Korea.

However, it is unlikely for Korea that gender wars will disperse anytime soon since one girl was fired from her job as a voice actress for sharing a photo of her wearing a Megalia-designed shirt with the slogan ‘Girls do not need a Prince’. ‘Megalia has done wonders for bringing attention to feminism,” says Koo Se-woong, a former university teacher and an editor of a news site ‘Korea Expose’. ‘But Megalia is to feminism what North Korea is to opposition activists—it’s a scarlet letter, a very useful tool for shutting up feminists’.

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