SEOUL (Reuters) – This month, three South Korean companies and Seoul police have had to remove advertisements and more content after men’s rights groups claimed insulting “small penis” symbols were used.
The offensive images? Hands with thumb and index finger coming closer as if to illustrate the size of an object. The gesture is also often used to indicate something small in size and in South Korea it is associated with a strident feminist group, now defunct, that used the image in their logo.
To compound the problem, an advertisement and menu involved also promoted sausages.
After his announcement, at the headquarters of South Korea’s largest chain of stores, GS25, a handful of men from the “Man on Solidarity” group protested. The group’s YouTube channel, which publishes videos of its demonstrations, received more than 200,000 subscribers in just two months.
GS25 withdrew their ad and the fried chicken chain Genesis BBQ changed their menu, issuing an apology and stating that they had no intention of disparaging the men.
Kakao Bank Corp apologized for a similarly drawn hand in one of its advertisements, and the Seoul Metropolitan Police also removed a hand from a traffic advertisement to avoid any misunderstandings.
The controversy is the latest outbreak of tension over gender rights in South Korea, which has clashed groups of men and women and prompted police to investigate comedian Park Na-rae for a vulgar joke she made in March. .
The joke in a YouTube video involving a Stretch Armstrong action figure, whose arms reached up to his genital area, resulted in a storm of complaints that a similar joke from a male comedian would never have been acceptable.
Park, 35, and her agency JDB Entertainment released statements apologizing and her YouTube channel was canceled. Police are required to investigate the matter after a lawsuit was filed on a website created to address citizen complaints, although it is unclear whether they will press charges.
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Park and his agency did not respond to Reuters requests for comment on possible police action.
Kim Garo, director of the women’s policy division at the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, said that while the problems of misogyny and misandry were not new to South Korea, recent attacks on companies and individuals were.
He added that it was difficult for the government to interfere when the protests took the form of consumer action, but that it will continue its outreach programs that invite young men and women to discuss issues such as gender equality and employment.
(Seoul Writing Report; edited in Spanish by Lucila Sigal)