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Gender minister in hot seat over remarks on stalking murder

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Kim Hyun-sook, the Minister of Gender Equality and Family, speaks during a National Assembly session, Tuesday. Joint Press Corps
Kim Hyun-sook, the Minister of Gender Equality and Family, speaks during a National Assembly session, Tuesday. Joint Press Corps

By Lee Hyo-jin

Minister of Gender Equality and Family Kim Hyun-sook has come under fire for her inappropriate remarks on a recent stalking murder crime, which she views "is not a misogynistic hate crime."

A 28-year-old female employee of the Seoul Metro was stabbed to death by Jeon Joo-hwan, 31, a male former colleague of the victim, on the evening of Sept. 14 in a women's restroom in Sindang Station on Line 2 and 6 of the Seoul Metro.

The tragic incident came just one day before Jeon's hearing to be sentenced on charges of stalking, harassment and illegal filming of the victim, prompting public anger over the government's failure to prevent the crime, despite tightened laws on the punishment of stalkers.

In particular, the gender equality ministry has come under heavy criticism that its existing measures failed to offer timely protection to the victim, although she had filed two police reports; the first in October 2021 and the second in January of this year.

During her visit to Sindang Station last Thursday, in response to reporters' questions whether the crime should be seen as a misogynistic hate crime, Kim replied, "I don't think so. I do not agree that this case should be handled in the frame of men versus women."

This remark drew immediate criticism from women's rights groups, who argued that nearly 80 percent of stalking victims are women, and thus it is classified a crime of hate against women, an act of violence against women rooted in systemic gender inequality and discrimination.

Kim fueled further backlash with her remarks that the murder may not have occurred, had the victim been more aware of protection measures offered by her ministry.

"The tragic incident could have been prevented if the victim were aware that she could seek help via our ministry's 1336 hotline and were provided with protection in terms of housing and legal remedies," she said during a National Assembly session, Tuesday.

"That's not the point," said Rep. Kim Han-gyu of the Democratic Party of Korea. "The government's role should be focused on separating the stalker from the victim, rather than letting the victim know how she can receive protection. It sounds highly problematic that the gender ministry expects victims to protect themselves."

The minor progressive Jinbo Party and Green Party, along with members of feminist groups, held a rally on Monday denouncing Kim's insensitive remarks and urging her to resign.

Members of the progressive Jinbo Party and Green Party hold a rally in front of the Government Complex Seoul, Monday, calling for the resignation of Kim Hyun-sook as the gender equality minister. Yonhap
Members of the progressive Jinbo Party and Green Party hold a rally in front of the Government Complex Seoul, Monday, calling for the resignation of Kim Hyun-sook as the gender equality minister. Yonhap

"For whom is the minister of gender equality speaking? She should take responsibility (for her remarks) denying the essence of the murder and step down from the post," said Rep. Yoon Hee-sook from the Jinbo Party.

Meanwhile, the ruling People Power Party lawmakers defended Kim, saying that it is inappropriate to link misogyny with the latest stalking murder case.

"It is highly inappropriate to use the tragic incident to trigger gender conflicts," Rep. Kwon Seong-dong wrote on Facebook. "Heinous criminals can be both and men, and both genders can become a victim of violent crimes. It is a misinterpretation to call it a misogynistic hate crime just because the victim was a woman."


Lee Hyo-jin lhj@koreatimes.co.kr


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