after the May 17 murder. (by Kim Bong-kyu
“I did it because women have always ignored me.”
This quote by a 34-year-old surnamed Kim after his brutal random stabbing murder of a woman in her twenties in the middle of Seoul’s busy Gangnam neighborhood has triggered a major response in South Korea. On May 19, growing numbers of mourners came to pay respects to or leave post-It messages for the victim in front of exit 10 Gangnam Station. The visits, which had begun the day before, left the area around the exit almost impassable with chrysanthemums and condolence wreaths. Students at Korea University and other schools have begun putting up posters and post-it notes bearing the hashtag “#survived.”
A post-it note to the Gangnam murder victim
Seoul’s Seocho Police Station, which is investigating the incident, said its preliminary profiler interview found “no specific cases of [Kim] having been victimized by women.”
“Mr. Kim, appears to have generally felt victimized due to paranoia,” the station added.
But many South Koreans are seeing the attack as an example of a crime motivated by misogyny.
For media activist Jang Su-jeong, 35, the incident resonated personally.
“A lot of times, you can be with a man and nothing happens, and then you’re walking alone late at night and get insulted by men or run into ones who have had a lot to drink and are acting up,” Jang said. “As you accumulate more and more memories like that, you always end up shrinking back.”
One of the messages left in front of the subway exit reads, “I survived only by luck.” Analysts suggested one of the reasons the murder has prompted such a wave of commemoration stems from the fear among many women that they could also be victimized. The fact that the attack took place at a public bathroom in the bustling Gangnam district has reminded many women of the ever-present threats they face.
“I find myself growing more and more terrified of others,” said radio writer Kim So-jeong, 34. “I’ve gotten more fearful of public spaces in particular. I think, ‘Don’t use the bathroom, don’t use elevators, don’t walk on side streets.’”
“Your luck was bad
mine was good. I’m angry at this reality.”
Hong Seong-su, a law professor at Sookmyung Women’s University who has researched hate speech and hate crimes, posted a Facebook message on May 19 saying, “The fact that [Kim] chose ‘some woman’ [as opposed to ‘some person’] as the target for his crime suggests it is not going too far to view this as a crime of hate against women.”
According to Hong, the attack was different from more indiscriminate crimes because “he chose a particular group in general [women], and now all members of that group must suffer the fear.”
Some observers have complained that the response has resulted in all men being treated as potential criminals and fanned hostility between women and men.
But behind the wave of commemoration is a mixture of both the awareness that hate toward women and the disadvantaged in South Korea has reached a critical point - and the fear that this hate could go beyond simple emotion and manifest in actual violence.
Indeed, a number of cases in recent years have involved vulnerable women being targeted for violent crimes. In 2012, a man named Oh Won-choon killed a woman during an attempted abduction and sexual assault as she was walking home. In 2014, a drunk man in his twenties fatally stabbed a woman multiple times with a knife while she was waiting for a bus in Ulsan.
Post-it notes to the Gangnam murder victim at exit 10 of Gangnam Station
The rate of women victimized in the four chief types of violent crime - which include murder, robbery, arson, and rape - rose 16 percentage points from 72.5% in 1995 to 88.7% in 2014. A Statistics Korea survey showed 67.9% of women responding that they felt “fearful” of crime in 2010. By 2014, the percentage was up to 79.6%.
Another factor behind the memorial wave is the widespread misogyny propagated by websites such as Ilbe Storehouse.
“In a society where general gender discrimination is tolerated, there are cases where women suffer violence because they are women,” said Lee Na-young, a professor of sociology at Chung-Ang University.
“This incident is being regarded not as a specific episode of a mentally disturbed man attacking a specific woman, but as a symbolic example of what happens in a misogynistic society,” Lee said. “That’s why it’s touched off such a passionate response.”
By Park Su-ji, Park Soo-jin and Lee Jae-uk, staff reporters
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