Cho Jang-mi and Kim In-hyeok. The two 27-year-old stars committed suicide a day apart in early February. In addition to their tragic destiny, the youtuber and the professional volleyball player have long shared the same suffering, that of being the daily targets of ruthless online hatred. The latter is not an evil specific to South Korea, but the country is distinguished by the violence and especially the extent of the phenomenon as well as by its tragic consequences.
Two suicides are far from isolated
Jang-mi was accused of misandry for having made a sign considered humiliating by the men on a video published in… 2019. For two years, she suffered a constant torrent of sexual insults online. Jang-mi has spoken publicly about her depression and about her mother’s suicide following her harassment. She will even issue a public apology. Nothing worked. Kim In-hyeok, the athlete, was accused of looking too feminine, being gay and still using makeup.
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These two dramas are far from isolated. South Koreans have had the highest suicide rate of any OECD country for two decades, and the numbers have been climbing among young women since 2018. “There is a very particular culture of shame here, and suicide is an option for many South Koreans who face difficulties,” explains Kim Hyun-soo, professor of sociology at Ewha University in Seoul.
“Digital reputations influence people’s ‘offline’ lives”
Added to this sad trend is a privileged link to virtual communications. In the land of the Morning Calm, social networks are as violent as they are ubiquitous. “Online relationships and exchanges are very important among Koreans, explains Ji Sun-yun, professor of philosophy at Sejong University, herself a victim of online harassment. Digital reputations influence the “offline” life of individuals. »
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Kim Jin-ah knows something about it. Candidate for the municipal elections of Seoul in 2021, she is one of the figures of South Korean feminism. “Cyberbullying has been part of my daily life since my involvement in politics. People have searched every corner of my life online. » For a month, a digital torrent descends on her. “When I put a video on YouTube, the link was shared on masculinist forums and I received simultaneous attacks on all my social networks. » This is how cyberstalkers in South Korea, the vast majority of whom are young men, operate.
75% of men between 20 and 39 say they are opposed to feminist ideas
The process is as simple as it is effective: the identity of the target is shared on sites very frequented by federated collectives around several youtubers and notorious anti-feminism. They can then attack at the same time on different platforms (social networks, e-mail, telephone number, etc.).
In May 2021, 75% of men between the ages of 20 and 39 said they were opposed to feminist ideas. This resentment stems from multiple frustrations, according to sociologist Kim Hyun-soo: “Young men have the impression of undergoing economic, cultural and labor market downgrading. Now more women go to university than men,”he notes.
Thus the Internet becomes the outlet for a generation of people who use it as “a way to express their frustrations with social minorities, women, LGBTQ, foreigners, the disabled… analyzes the philosopher Ji Sun-yun. In their imagination, these populations rob them of their chances of success. » These tragedies have alerted Korean public opinion, but there is still no law against discrimination in South Korea.
Two candidates neck and neck for the presidential election of March 9
The two main candidates for the presidential election of South Korea (in a round) are neck and neck with a few days of the poll on March 9, with 38% and 39% of the voting intentions for the two politicians.
Lee Jae-myung, 57, the former child laborer. Raised in misery, the candidate of the Democratic Party, in power, made himself. Odd jobs, evening law classes, he became a lawyer, then in 2018 governor of Gyeonggi province, the most populous in the country. He embodies the “people from below” and proposes major social reforms for a population that is drowning in debt and suffering from unemployment.
Yoon Suk-yeol, 62, the curator, former attorney general. His political career was meteoric. Advocate General until March 2020, he entered politics in June 2021 without a label, before joining the opposition party “People’s Power Party” for which he won the primary in November. Its economic program remains very liberal, giving pride of place to large South Korean groups such as Samsung, Daewoo and Hyundai. In foreign policy, he advocates total alignment with the United States.