Women in Korea- Gender Discrimination?

So…I want to touch upon a rather sensitive topic: women in Korea. Admittedly, there are many things I want to discuss such as discrimination, sexual harassment, and more, so please bear with me ranting about something I believe strongly in…


I want to talk about this because in my Advanced Korean class today at orientation, we had to discuss a few topics, in Korean of course, and one of them was about how Busan recently implemented a women-only subway car. Another Korean-American girl spoke up first, saying how she didn’t understand why only women had a subway car reserved specifically for them and that she thought that if women had one, there must be one for men too because otherwise it’d be “gender discrimination.” I honestly couldn’t help but to roll my eyes at this. I had so much I wanted to say but I couldn’t express myself in Korean that well so the teacher gave me permission to speak in English. I had so many thoughts because what she said really set me off and therefore I could barely say everything I wanted to. I wish I could have said more and I regret not having the confidence to speak my full mind in front of the class. As such, I’ve decided to write this post…

Before I begin, I highly recommend reading this article. It’ll give a brief overview of gender equality in Korea. Now, please understand that it’s not like Korea is filled with misogynistic values. There are many people in Korea who believe in gender equality and it has made numerable accomplishments in moving forward since a long time ago, but what I’m talking about is based around what I’ve read/heard about and experienced. So, I’ll discuss a bit about Korea’s gender inequality for a bit before discussing the women-only subway car.

Basically, Korea is still centered around old traditions in which women are expected to take care of all household duties and to bear sons. I can’t even begin to tell you how irked I would sometimes get when my dad, after finishing his meal, would just leave without even taking his plate to the sink. It’s like what, 5 feet away from his seat? But he doesn’t do anything because he’s a man and we women are expected to clean everything up.

Women are also expected to look “beautiful” but are judged as being vain when they show any interest or attempt to improve their looks. I would go a lot further into this but then this rambling would become a full discourse…

BUT, women nowadays are more educated than they were compared to Korea from like 100 years ago and Korea even elected its first female president, Park Geun-Hye (who is  however currently facing impeachment). But, there are very few women in higher seats of power and women still face many issues such as a pay gap and more.


Also, even though Korea is regarded as a safe country with very little violence, there are still many cases of women being beaten, raped, and assaulted. Oftentimes women in these cases will have no ally and many people online will blame the victim, saying they were wearing skimpy clothing or that their actions have brought shame to their town/school, which just sets my skin on fire. Many women have reported being harassed on rush hour trains, such as men using cameras to take pictures up women’s skirts or copping a feel on super crowded trains. In response, Korea decided to test run the women-only subway cars during rush hour, which leads to what I really wanted to talk about today.

This concept was actually tried in Seoul before Busan and was meant to provide women (especially those who are pregnant or have young children) with a safe place to obtain a means of accessible transportation, but it was met with mixed reviews. Some women felt it was necessary and others said it was discriminating against men (rolling my eyes rn). I however, believe that these subway cars are absolutely necessary in areas with severe rush hour crowding, and maybe even in remote areas.

The main criticism about the women-only subway cars, as I stated before, is that they discriminate against men. They probably think, “If women can have a car all to themselves, men should have one too!” Oh, I’m sorry, let me play the world’s tiniest violin for you boohoo. Get real. It’s not that men don’t face sexual harassment either, but it’s just that women are more highly targeted and need a safe haven. It is specifically women who are looked upon condescendingly and are attacked simply because they are women, which is why men don’t need their own little car specifically because it would then only serve to cater to their sense of male superiority and other misogynistic tendencies.

Personally, I’ve met with many, many weird men approaching me on the subway back in the States and was even followed once. Many of my friends have said they’ve experienced similar events. Therefore, having a women-only car would make many more women feel safer. It’s not to say that this is a fix to the problem that is sexual harassment caused by male superiority. It’s simply a temporary band-aid until we can slowly convince others about the importance and necessity of gender equality. We need to teach society to not tell girls not to go out at night because it’s dangerous, but instead tell people, namely men, not to rape/assault others. It should be a given that we as humans teach and learn that hurting others is not okay in any form.

So yeah…I had a lot to say. I was actually surprised that the majority of people in my class were nodding and agreeing with what the other girl said. I almost thought I was crazy for my opinions but I was like NO. I need to get my opinion out there. Also, shoutout to my BFF and women studies pro Megumi-chan for her second opinion in all this <3.

Anyways, I promise to write about something a bit more light-hearted and relevant to EPIK next. Please do write in the comments what your thoughts are about women in Korea because I will gladly participate in some civil conversation regarding this topic 🙂


One thought on “Women in Korea- Gender Discrimination?

  1. chaxmi says:

    While I personally haven’t had a situation like that on a metro, I totally understand where you are coming from. It is very crowded in the Korean metro during rush hour, people are crushed up against each other in the busiest trains. That leaves it open for anyone to have the opportunity to sexually harass a woman. I agree that this is a temporary bandaid that will only work for so long, as long as we as a society teach one another that it is wrong to do these kinds of thing to any gender. As a man, no you can’t “grab a woman by the pussy”. As a woman, no you can’t “grab a man by his dick”. The same concept applies both ways, it is just generally more frequently done to women. It is also much easier to take an up-the-skirt shot of a woman than it would be for a woman to take an underwear shot of a man.


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