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Government website under fire for sexist content

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/Courtesy of Ministry of Health and Welfare
/Courtesy of Ministry of Health and Welfare

By Choi Sung-jin

A public health information portal, made and run by the government, has come under severe criticism from the public for content that vulgarizes and commercializes women's bodies.

On the website in question entitled "Beautiful breasts," the document enumerated conditions for what it described as ideal breasts for women.

"Women's breasts are organs that hand over life's essence to babies, distribute affection to men and express esthetic values for women themselves," it said. "Breasts are the expressions of self-esteem for women such that they can be called the ‘second genital organ.'"

It went on to present even specific figures as the conditions for beautiful breasts. "From the standards of modern women, beautiful breasts should be moderately voluptuous, elastic and conical," it said. "Each breast should be about 250 cc, the distance between nipples and the middle of the collarbone should be 18-20 centimeters and the diameter of an areola should not exceed 4 cm with its color being light red."

The National Health Information Portal posted the document, created and supervised by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Korea Academy of Medical Sciences and the Korea Academy of Aesthetic Surgery and Medicine, and was last updated on Nov. 12, 2013.

The document was made public in 2010 but had not drawn much attention until a tweeter summed it up and introduced it to an online community recently. Many Internet users said it was awful for the government to rate women's bodies from only sexual and aesthetic aspects and present what it saw as ideal conditions.

"The health ministry's mentioning of ideal female breasts is like advice on how to select fresh fish at markets. Does it think of women as animals?" one netizen said. "This is too insulting. Are breasts not parts of my body but articles of consumption?" another fumed. "We are living in a country where the government presents standards for women's breasts. Why does it present no conditions for men's bodies, then?" a third wrote.

Faced with the controversy, the ministry said it has struck out the problematic document. "We will also reexamine about 1,300 other pieces of information posted on the portal," an official said.

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