In Korea, gender segregation measures are currently on the rise. Women opt for single-sex facilities due to the fear of being victimized by rape, stalking, voyeurism, and other sex-related offenses.
A 31-year-old female office worker living in Gwanak District, Seoul, switched her gym membership to a women-only fitness center, making her workouts more satisfactory. She reasoned that in a women-only gym, she didn’t need to worry about unwanted stares from men, and there was freedom to wear whatever workout outfits she liked without being self-conscious.
In Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, a camping site was launched, open only to women who want to enjoy a peaceful time without men.
Even the Korean government has gotten into gender segregation. In June, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport allowed taxi ride-sharing services for the first time after the practice was prohibited in 1982. Ride-sharing is limited to same-sex passengers only and is not applicable for van-type cabs.
The ministry explained that this measure alleviated people’s anxiety about sharing a ride with strangers and concerns about potential crimes.
Sex crimes in Korea are on the rise. In 2018, sexual crimes occurred in South Korea at an average rate of 3.4 per hour and 80.4 per day, a Statistics Korea report calculated. Date rape reports, in particular, have increased by over 10% per year since 2015. Since 2017, an estimated 5,000 cases of illegal filming using hidden cameras have occurred each year, according to the National Police Agency.
Yun Ji Yeong, a professor of philosophy at Changwon National University and an expert on gender-related issues, explains the rationale behind the rise of gender segregation.
It is regretful that women search for such spaces and are willing to spend money specifically to stay away from men. But at the same time, it shows how our society has been failing to provide a safe environment for them.
Women are very concerned about becoming the targets of gender-based crimes which seem to take place anywhere, anytime. Illegal filming using hidden cameras, for instance, occurs not only in public restrooms but also in places like libraries, hotels, or even at home.
— Yun Ji Yeong
A professor of sociology at Hallym University, Shin Kyung Ah, agrees with this sentiment.
It is a fact that women are more vulnerable to violent crimes than men. Data shows that over 80 percent of victims of violent crimes are female. In that sense, women-only spaces seem to offer respite from such concerns.
—Shin Kyung Ah
Although both experts agree that gender segregation can offer a sense of security for women, it wasn’t the solution to eradicating sex crimes.
The separation of genders is not a fundamental solution. What women need more are robust laws and measures to tackle gender-based violence along with adequate protection measures.
— Yun Ji Yeong