After the Gangnam incident and the Korea University (KU) Kakao Talk sexual harassment incident, many South Korean women were dismayed at how they have been treated within society. People have continually tried to strive for gender equality; yet the term feminism has more often been tainted, as some people still associate it with misandry. That is why many feminist clubs within Korean society have been rising from the ashes. Yeojung, being one of KU’s exclusive feminist clubs, aspires to ensure gender equality and empower women.
Yeojung is a club for students that are striving for gender equality within KU and society. The club was established last year and it holds diverse activities such as organizing debate meetings, watching documentaries related to women’s rights movements, visiting history seminars, and even conducting interviews with female members of the society in the labor force. If anyone is wondering what feminism is and enjoys sharing his or her ideas, Yeojung welcomes them.
Yeojung is openly looking for people that are interested in feminism and those who have hope that change is possible within KU and society. Last year, the club’s session was held every Thursday. Here, the club would freely discuss controversial feminist topics and proceed to participate in rallies calling for gender equality. One of the biggest activities it engaged in was when they put up a campus wall poster right after the Gangnam incident. Before posting the campus wall poster, Yeojung conducted a survey on campus to aggregate as many opinions of KU students as possible and merged it into one wall poster.
The club’s name is derived from two meanings as the origin of the name comes from Korean pronunciation. The first meaning denotes women’s politics and originates from the combination of the Korean words yeo and jung—women and politics. The second and more literal name means journey— journey between both male and female to live happily in society. When the club first tried to come up with a name, its priority was to add the consonant yeo as it means female in Korean. In addition, it wanted to have a short yet profound name to attract people.
On last year’s overflowing feminist issues, club leader Lee San (’13, History Education) asserted that given the fact that men and women rarely have the chance to talk about gender equality issues in KU, Yeojung members wish to be pioneering in the field of feminism and provide a broader and healthier environment for people who do not have the platform to voice their opinions. Occasionally, Yeojung also collaborates with other groups, both in and outside of KU, by encouraging others to have more awareness of feminism. To illustrate, last year the club held a conference and invited nursery teachers to come and share their experiences and difficulties in the workforce and arranged Question & Answer gatherings.
▲ Photographed by Park Tae In
Furthermore, Yeojung tries to make sure that KU students are more educated about the controversial feminist issues that go beyond campus. To fulfill this objective, Yeojung organized a debate session on abortion. While the main participants were from KU, students from other universities also participated in the discussion and shared their concerns, which allowed Yeojung members and other students to deepen their knowledge and understand the diverse perspectives on this topic.
As mentioned above, Yeojung is a relatively new club that was established in 2016. Not only is Yeojung a perfect club to discuss gender equality but it is also a place to enhance speaking and research skills. Indeed, while the club does various hands-on activities such as participating in rallies and having seminars, the club also focuses on the theoretical aspects of feminism. During training seminars in summer breaks, Yeojung members learn about the history and traditions of the family system, attend conferences, and even study about feminist terms to further expand their knowledge about the subject.
As much as the club values education and diversity, Yeojung hopes that the perception of feminism changes to something more positive. “Even though it may be difficult to reach an ideal solution,” Lee said, “Our goal is to make a change, no matter how big or small. We want to provide a space where anyone including victims of sexual offenses can come out and express their feelings freely.” This adage and attitude of the club members bring gratification when a stranger comments on the club’s hard work. When asked when the club members felt the greatest sense of pride, they all said when they got positive feedback through Facebook comments and campus wall posters during unexpected occasions.
Sometimes, people put Post-it sticky notes on the campus wall poster and state that the information they posted was useful and helpful. This is when the club felt most excited and hopeful about feminism. “Feminism was not a big issue when I was a freshman,” said Lee, “But now I have the opportunity to share my opinions with diverse groups of people, which brought so much new perspective.” As new as the club is, it is excited about how much capacity it has to grow and develop into a moral society.
Current members are both surprised and pleased about how far feminism has reached in South Korea. Just a few years ago, the word feminism was unfamiliar among South Korean citizens. However, feminism is starting to have more prominence and is also spreading throughout the world faster than ever. The members of the club are now starting to see a possibility of change. Even though there were difficult obstacles that they have confronted and many that they are yet to encounter, the club is happy with its first year. Yeojung, just like its name, is looking forward to this year and its journey to recruit new members and bring change in society together.
▲ Provided by Yeojung Facebook page
Location: 315, 316 Student Union Building Recruitment Period: March 17, first seminar
Contact Information: – Lee San (010 8909 4671) – firstname.lastname@example.org