Saturday , July 13 2024

South Korea politician blames women for rising male suicides


SEOUL: A politician in South Korea is being criticized for making dangerous and unsubstantiated comments after linking a rise in male suicides to the increasingly “dominant” role of women in society.

In a report, Seoul City councilor Kim Ki-duck argued women’s increased participation in the workforce over the years had made it harder for men to get jobs and to find women who wanted to marry them.

He said the country had recently “begun to change into a female-dominant society” and that this might “partly be responsible for an increase in male suicide attempts”.

South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates among the world’s rich countries but also has one of the worst records on gender equality.

Councilor Kim’s comments have been criticized as the latest in a series of out-of-touch remarks made by male politicians.

Councilor Kim, from the Democratic Party, arrived at his assessment when analyzing data on the number of suicide attempts made at bridges along Seoul’s Han River.

The report, published on the city council’s official website, showed that the number of suicide attempts along the river had risen from 430 in 2018 to 1,035 in 2023, and of those trying to take their lives the proportion who were men had climbed from 67% to 77%.

Suicide prevention experts have expressed concern over Kim’s report.

“It is dangerous and unwise to make claims like this without sufficient evidence,” Song Han, a mental health professor at Seoul’s Yonsei University, told the BBC.

He pointed out that globally more men took their lives than women. In many countries, including the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.

Even so, Prof Song said the reasons behind the sharp rise in men attempting suicide in Seoul needed to be scientifically studied, adding it was “very regrettable” that the councilor had made it about gender conflict.

In South Korea there is a substantial gulf between the number of men and women in full-time employment, with women disproportionately working temporary or part-time jobs. The gender pay gap is slowly narrowing, but still women are paid on average 29% less than men.

In recent years an anti-feminist movement has surged, led by disillusioned young men, who argue they have been disadvantaged by attempts to improve women’s lives.

Appearing to echo such views, Councilor Kim’s report concluded that the way to overcome “the female-domination phenomenon” was to improve people’s awareness of gender equality so that “men and women can enjoy equal opportunities”.

Koreans took to the social media platform X to denounce the councilor’s remarks as “unsubstantiated” and “misogynistic”, with one user questioning whether they were living in a parallel universe.

The Justice Party accused the councilor of “easily shifting the blame to women in Korean society who are struggling to escape gender discrimination”. It has called on him to retract his remarks and instead “properly analyze” the causes of the problem.

When approached for comment by media, Councilor Kim said he had “not intended to be critical of the female-dominated society”, and was merely giving his personal view about some of its consequences.

However, his comments follow a number of unscientific and sometimes bizarre political proposals aimed at tackling some of South Korea’s most pressing social issues, including mental illness, gender violence and the lowest birth rate in the world. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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