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Women Behaving Badly

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In Korea there has been a recent spate of "women behaving badly" news reports that have surfaced on the Internet and splattered all over the media. The perpetrators are often referred to as 'ㅇㅇ girl' stories, and they are essentially reports of women acting indecently. Recently there have been a number of women on the subway that have irked the Korean public. With such a technologically advanced culture any indiscretion is quickly filmed or pictured on the latest 4G-connected smartphones and blasted onto the Internet for other Internet users to gawk over and comment on.

Recently there was a lady who received vicious criticism as she smoked and drank on the subway. The video was posted on YouTube and her scuffle and lack of respect for other passengers was clear for all to see, which caused a backlash on Korean message boards. Another 'ㅇㅇ girl' report surfaced recently and caused another stir on the usually clean and efficient Seoul subway system. This girl was delightfully named the "poo-poo girl," as she had squatted on a train with a number of bystanders who did not intervene and took a poo on the floor. May 7 produced another story, as "nudity girl" decided to spoil a weekend afternoon. She was intoxicated and argued with fellow passengers then proceeded to strip naked before being dragged off the train and arrested.

With a flood of stories coming thick and fast, Korean message boards have become awash with discussions about the deluge of recent female misdemeanors. To some, this is an epidemic of outrageous acts and many bemoan how uncivilized these women have become. It's interesting why women are specifically targeted in this criticism as there is no shortage of indecent acts by men -- so why only show a series of solely women behaving badly, if this is a serious problem is it not a unisex issue? A likely cause could simply be coincidence as media outlets scramble to create a story or theme to some separate events and group them under one overarching series of acts. Others, however, delve deeper and cite that women are being vindicated in these news stories and perhaps this is due to a male-led backlash. It could be a response to the reversal of gender roles within Korean society and the bitterness of the male population as they struggle to fulfill the high expectations of Korean females. The stories help to address the built-up angst of a male population that gets to openly criticize and release its frustrations with women over stories that individually have little meaning or importance. While Korean netizens bleat over these acts, there may be a broader issue that is not receiving as much coverage, buried underneath criticism of these women.

The women concerned in these stories have been found out to suffer from mental health issues, which may help to explain why they may behave in such a manner. There is an abundance of criticism to be found expelled on the Internet but little compassion. These stories should highlight the failings of care for the disabled; people confronting a bigger issue of how might a nation and society protect those who are in need. Instead, the women are dismissed as rabid crazies. It might be argued that these acts reflect badly on the lack of integration and care given to those who suffer from mental health issues in Korea. Despite being a developed, First World nation, there still appears a lack of empathy and coherent care for those with disabilities. These stories should perhaps highlight that more needs to be done in Korea to aid those with problems rather than lampooning them for the acts they commit.

In Korea the most common response to those with disabilities is to ignore them. Those with disabilities are often shunned, looked upon as untreatable. While those affected with disabilities may garnish sympathy from some it still seems that there is a lack of effort to try to assimilate the disabled population into society. These recent reports show that overwhelmingly subway users chose to try and ignore any uncomfortable situation or confront an issue otherwise these situations may not have gotten so extreme. In Korean culture it is impolite to recognize or draw attention to a humiliating act and losing one's dignity is a difficult pill to swallow. This may explain the lack of intervention in some of these acts and how these cases have escalated to become major incidents.

Unfortunately, if events begin to get out of hand it may take a more forthright older citizen to intervene as they are the oldest and most likely to confront a fellow passenger. As many of the videos portray this intervention is often not done very tactfully and can only make the situation more distressing. Also it is important to note that in a society such as Korea's, if those with disabilities are constantly shamed and ostracized from their own close-knit society, it is bound to have a negative effect. A society that is founded on acting as a unit instead of an individual it will not harness much sympathy to relentlessly chastise these acts without thinking of the bigger picture. Deeming these women as simply demented offenders and casting them out, shaming them in public does not cure the situation -- if anything, it only inflames it. Senior figures within government or the media should perhaps make greater efforts to guide the coverage into a more reflective realm. You cannot enforce someone to feel sympathy for these women but perhaps you can shed more light on the struggles they face and the need for greater care and social awareness.

Sadly, nearly 10 years ago an incident transpired that highlighted the dissatisfaction of treatment of those with disabilities within Korea. On Feb. 18, 2003, Kim Dae-Han started a fire while riding the subway, killing nearly 200 passengers. Riding the subway in a city named Daegu, where the World Athletic Championships were held last year, he became so malcontent with how he had been treated after suffering a stroke years earlier that he decided to take action. His initial desire was to commit suicide publicly, perhaps hoping to draw attention to this struggles that his society had placed him under. He boarded the train with cartons of flammable liquid that set ablaze after a struggle and spread to other carriages quickly. The trains were inadequately prepared for such an emergency, as there were no fire extinguishers on the trains and the stations were not equipped well enough to deal with the blaze. The event did spark a lot of soul-searching with the nation but perhaps this recent spread of videos should highlight an issue that may still need addressing. Many have been quick to condemn the acts but there may be a deeper question that needs to be asked by those on message boards. These women may be a product of their environment; a nation that is not adequately supporting its disabled population rather than single acts of indecent women.