Femicides in S. Korea are no coincidence

Posted on : 2021-09-01 18:03 KST Modified on : 2021-09-01 18:03 KST
Some say that Korean society needs to respond to the anxiety felt by women as they watch other women being killed because of their gender
(Getty Image Bank)
(Getty Image Bank)

Over the past month, South Korea has seen a spate of murders of women.

An infant girl murdered by her stepfather, a woman in her 20s murdered by her boyfriend, a number of middle-aged women murdered by a sex offender, and a grandmother murdered by her own teenage grandsons — the details may be different, but all these crimes against women derive from the patriarchal nature of Korean society.

That’s why some analysts think these crimes should be regarded not as coincidental but as examples of femicide, which is defined as a man murdering a woman, especially for misogynistic reasons.

One thread running through all the recent incidents is that the male murderers were in a close relationship to the victims — as stepfather, boyfriend, or friend — or at least had a passing acquaintance with them.

A 29-year-old man surnamed Yang, who is currently on trial for rape of a minor and fatal child maltreatment chose his 20-month-old stepdaughter to be the object of his crimes. Reports indicate that Yang had frequently assaulted his wife and made clear both through his words and behavior that he regarded his mother-in-law as a sexual object.

The man who beat a 26-year-old woman to death in an apartment in Seoul turned out to be her boyfriend.

In Korean society, femicide most frequently occurs in the context of close relationships. An analysis by Korea Women’s Hotline found that there were 97 cases of women killed by men in close relationships — and that was just those reported in the press. Another 131 women survived attempts on their life, bringing the number of incidents up to 228.

In other words, a woman is killed or almost killed by a man in a close relationship with her every 1.6 days.

Korea Women’s Hotline notes that men’s reasons for killing women “might look different at first, but basically, they’re all tied to a very simple reason: the woman didn’t do what the man wanted her to do.”

Kang started hitting his 20-month-old stepdaughter because she “was crying and wouldn’t sleep,” leading to her death.

When Korea Women’s Hotline analyzed murders of women last year, it found that the most common motives were the woman wanting to break up or get a divorce (23.4%) or a spontaneous urge during a fight or a fit of rage (22.8%).

The analysis also lists various other reasons, including that “I loved her too much” and “she didn’t fix me meals.” These reasons reveal that the fundamental motive for killing women is a patriarchal desire to control women.

Over the past few days, a 56-year-old man named Kang killed two women, tearing off a court-mandated electronic ankle monitor between the two killings. Women had also been the victims of his previous crimes, committed over a decade ago.

Kang was sentenced to five years in prison for robbery and sexual assault in 1997. Then in 2005, soon after his release, he and three accomplices proceeded to rob more than thirty women. One of his tactics was to pretend to scrape a car with his motorcycle and then, when the female driver got out of the car, overpower her, steal her jewelry, and assault her.

“In Kang’s case, we have a man who committed crimes both great and small against women that culminated in murder. We can attribute that to our society not taking crimes against women seriously enough,” said Lee Ra-yeong, a researcher in the sociology of art.

Some say that Korean society needs to respond to the anxiety felt by women as they watch other women being killed because of their gender.

“This recent string of incidents clearly represents femicide in the sense that, ultimately, they’re linked either to a patriarchal desire for possession or to Korean society’s tendency to downplay crimes against women. Our society needs to face up to the fact that these are not incidents in which women just happen to be the victims, but that women are vulnerable to these incidents because they’re women,” Lee said.

By Lim Jae-woo, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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