site banner

Culture War Roundup for the week of April 29, 2024

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

WTF is going on in Korea?

Meta: I haven't posted in the CWT in a minute, Life gets in the way. This post is going to be mostly copy pasted content from elsewhere. I will attempt to consolidate some of it here. It's probably going to be a very sparse list compared to all the relevant pieces of context, but I attempt to shed some light and discuss nevertheless.

TLDR: The "Gender War" is a significant aspect of the Korean culture wars. And it seems to be more pronounced in Korea than any other society. I really want to know why. I think this bears studying given gender relations are deteriorating globally, and if Japan is 10 years ahead in neetdom, South Korea is definitely 10 years ahead in whateverthefuck dom this is. Their infamously low birthrate is also an elephant in the room, whilst we have this discussion.

Exhibit A

This culture war survey:

Page 12, We can see that Koreans most of all nationalities think there is significant tension between men and women. Koreans tend to top the charts for other questions as well, so it might just be the case that the Korean social fabric is especially frayed, or Koreans are just especially neurotic or self-critical.

However, it does seem that the social fabric is fraying like no other on multiple fronts in Korea:

Exhibit B

Just simple web searching. If something is in the air, people are probably talking about it. Or inversely, if people are taking about it, it stinks.

It does seem that the Gender War is becoming more "interesting". Not especially so in Korea however. But try the search term "reddit war $COUNTRY", and lo and behold, you actually get posts about it when you try with COUNTY='Korea'.

Some examples from the first page:,,,,

Exhibit C

"The incel election" Enough said? I don't think there is much other evidence required that this is a significant CW front in Korea.

Youtube video - Gacha Drama and the Korean Gender War (You can disagree with thesis, I'm just linking to show its a thing people are picking up on)

Study - The Gender War and the Rise of Anti-family Sentiments in South Korea (You can disagree with thesis...)

Exhibited D

This is totally comprised of anecdotes, but I buy it.

Some comments from the reddit posts above: Common theme, Korean feminism dials the man-hate up to 11.

Answer: radical feminists are really, really, radical in Korea.

Interesting that you hear about how "young men are turning to right" all the time, but at least based on these, outside of SK the men are fairly stable, yes moving to the right but the graph is not very steep. On the other hand the women seem to be moving to the left at a much steeper incline, but nobody ever talks about this

Women's social media is a different breed of animal. Lab created.

Korea take feminism to ANOTHER level bro...

Being a westerner in Tokyo I've dated three Korean raised women and all three were absolutely, balls to the wall, rabid, men hating psychos who regularly voiced violent fantasies of what they'd like to do to Korean men.

All three were utterly confused when I'd tell them the kind of stuff they were saying wasn't acceptable in any way and would respond with "but you're a westerner, I thought you supported feminism".

Like no, woman, your idea of 'feminism' shouldn't be angrily ranting about cutting off dicks and sodomizing men. You can say three people isn't a large enough sample size to judge something by but I also think it's enough to be suspicious of whatever the hell they're branding feminism as over there.

So what gives? Why did the gender war hit Korea like a truck?

Korea is already on its way to extinction, so at least this won't be a problem for that long, but still, I am really left scratching my head. Are there any historical examples of this ?

One running theory other than the normie, "It's because they work really long hours hurr durr" (which does have a massive nugget of truth to it), is that Korea is especially unfathomably status obsessed. All that exam cramming, all that plastic surgery, it's all indicative.

I point out the above because most countries the gender war is more along the lines of "incel men" vs "feminists". Men are usually the active camp complaining about not getting anything from women, women complain about not getting anything from society, men take the aggressive stance. However, in Korea women are on the offensive as well, this seems unique to me.

Factors Playing Into Korea's Gender War

Korea is susceptible to outside influence for a few reasons.

  1. Korea was a nation that occupied and had much of its culture destroyed during WWII and suffered enormous losses and destruction during the Korean war.
  2. Korea saw rapid economic development, transforming from one of the poorest nations to one of the richest nations in a few decades.
  3. Korea is a relatively small country, with most business and culture highly concentrated in the capital city of Seoul. Nearly 50% of the population live in or near Seoul.
  4. Korea has rapidly adopted the internet. Almost 98% of Koreans own a smartphone today, the highest in the world. Korea was quick to adopt the internet when it was able to and it has become a major part of daily Korean lives.

There are some other factors to consider that tie into the Korean culture war:

  1. There are huge expectations from Korean society. From a young age, Korean children are bombarded with expectations about education, dating, looks, physique, social status, success, etc. There is a reason Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Korean women have one of the highest rates of plastic surgery in the world. For example, a lot of Korean women (and even men) have their jaw bone cut and removed to restructure their face.
  2. Korean web culture and gaming/webcomic culture is a huge part of Korean lives. There is a reason the first professional mass-scale competitive esports, Starcraft, arose out of Korea of all places. So a lot of users are susceptible to changes/things in those spaces.
  3. Many Koreans are struggling economically, a point which is covered in depth in @rokmonster's response.
  4. Mandatory military service for Korean men. All men have to serve 1.5 years in the military (used to be 2 years until very recently). The compensation for military service is very little, so Korean men feel like they are penalized when trying to enter the workforce. Factor in the increased amount of women entering the workforce and men are starting to feel like they are falling behind.
  5. Factor these together and you end up with many Koreans that go to video games, webtoons, etc as a means to escape their highly stressful lives. So anything that can be seen as an attack on video games/webtoons/ etc. is going to be highly impactful. Factor in the shared culture and Korean's time/access to the internet and this leads to more explosive results and drama that bleed into Korean culture and life.

Here is an interesting comment I found on reddit with some stats:

Have you heard about Japan's herbivore men? That a large statistic of men aren't having sex or dating? Korea is worse. From demo 19-39 of age, roughly 75% of respondents see dating as a fear or dangerous. Reasons include: possibility of inflicted violence, gender discrimination, gender related crimes like falsely accused of SA (men) or becoming a victim of illegal recording (women), record low interest in marriage etc.

On a question "Is Korea is more favorable towards men or women?" Each sex accused each other of having the advantage and both believe they are the overwhelming victim. Historically, legitimate sexism against women did exist prevalently. But today, it's really a grey area for most developed countries where gender-specific issues do exist but it's the most equal the 2 sexes have ever been. Compare gender equality 50 / 100 / 250 / 500 / 1000+ years ago where women were second class citizens.

75% of young people are afraid of dating. That's a huge number. Korea had its own version of #metoo across many politicians, celebrities, etc, with some cases even ending in suicide (for both victim/accused). People are too stressed studying and working, they don't have the time to date. No doubt Korean internet/social media is having similar effects warping people's perspectives the same way it is doing to people in the west, and you also end up with Koreans that have warped views of the genders.

It's also interesting that both genders view themselves as the victim and that the other gender has unfair advantages. There likely is an element of truth to their claims, and this is a classic case of the grass being greener on the other side.

Megalia's Legacy And Influence On How Feminism is Viewed In Korea

This isn't the first time Korea's gender war caused huge controversies in the country. Megalia was a highly controversial feminist website that had a large influence on shaping Korean views on feminism during 2015 and 2016. According to Wikipedia, 50% of women in Korea considered themselves feminists and 25% of them attributed Megalia as the reason for it. That's 12.5% of women being influenced by a singular group, and supposedly Megalia was extremely full of misandry, with statements wanting to kill all men, calling men bugs, if they had a boy they would abort, celebrating actual stories of men being murdered, and other standard anti-men statements take up to the next level of extreme.

Just some examples of things members in the community did:

  1. A teacher encouraging a male student in middle school to commit suicide.
  2. Poisoning men with antifreeze.
  3. Kindergarten teacher indicating she wanted to have sexual relations with a male child.
  4. A more comprehensive list in Korean:

To try to keep things fair, here are some points in support/defense of Megalia:

  1. Statement of Megalia was satire to highlight how men talk about/treat women in Korea. They were taking what men said and just changing the genders around.
  2. Megalia brought to attention issue of hidden cameras in women's bathrooms.
  3. They raised awareness of violence against women, organizing around tragic events such as the murder of a women from a man who claimed he did so because the hated all women.
  4. Megalia shut down sites such Soranet, which distributed illegal pornographic material.

Here are some related drama that happened around that time related to Megalia that the west got some exposure to:

To spare the details, there was a lot of controversy in Korea's internet, kdrama, gaming, webtoon spaces all tied to Megalia and feminism.

People made all kinds of attempts to tie Megalia and its influence to other related scandals. For example, in 2016 there was a huge political scandal involving then president Park Geun-hye being influenced/controlled by a shamanism cult. 2 million people ended up protesting and she later got impeached and arrested for the scandal. People online attempted to tie this to a conspiracy of hidden cabal of rich women in Korea using the media and politicians to support the ideas that came out of Megalia. Supposedly the Justice Party, the third biggest political party in outright declared public support of Megalia and members of Megalia infiltrated Korean news media, the Huffington post, politics to push their agenda. The source of this data is suspect so I would take this information with a grain of salt, but the point is that Megalia had such a huge impact on Korean internet discourse.

This is all past drama, but it had a huge net negative impact on Korean men's view of feminism. Even Korean women's support for Feminism began to drop due to all the controversy around it. More sensible feminists in Korea make sure to distance themselves from Megalia, but it seems to have left a permanent negative connotation of feminism in the eyes of Korean culture. If you look at recent trends, feminism has decreased outright support in Korea, such as the number of women in their 20s considering themselves feminist dropping to 31.3% in 2023.

Recent Korean Gender War Drama

I'm going to talk a bit more about the video brought up in the OP: Gacha Drama and the Korean Gender War

It's quite an informative video, although it misses some crucial context which is the information I covered above. It does seem like he covered the topic a bit in his follow-up video, but I don't have the time to watch it right now.

To summarize the video, there was controversy in a Korean gacha mobile game because a promised swimsuit skin (cosmetic purchase for a video game character) for the female character was a wetsuit, while the corresponding swimsuit skin for a male character was just a regular swimming trunk with his abs exposed. Gamers got angry and thought this was driven by feminist ideology and that their precious games were forced to be censored (remember how important games are to Korean culture?). They found a female artist on the project who had extremely feminist views (retweeting tweets from Megalia, except it was 5 years ago), blamed her for this, and pressured the company to fire her. However, it turns out this was completely false, the actual artist of the swimsuit skin was a male, and the main decision maker to give the female character the wetsuit was also a male. So to outsiders, it just looked like a group of gacha gaming incel men bullied a company into firing someone for political reasons even though said person's political views had no bearing on the decision the game company made.

Here is a decent writeup of another recent gender war controversy in Korea:

Take a look at the hand sign in Megalia's logo:

While the official stance on the meaning of the hand sign is that it represents an equal sign, in reality, it was used as a way to insult men's penis size. It's basically a dog whistle much akin to the ok sign being a white supremacist symbol. Unlike the ok sign, which was a hoax perpetrated by 4chan, the Megalia hand sign was used by actual members of Megalia to insult men.

An online shitstorm happened about 2 weeks ago when an animation studio Ppuri (뿌리) was under fire because netizens discovered the infamous hand pinch sign in the promo video of Maplestory's Angelic Buster Remaster. At first netizens thought it may have been just a coincidence but upon digging into this studio's previous contract works for various gaming companies, more and more hand pinch signs were being discovered to no end (games: Maplestory, Dungeon Fighter, Blue Archive, Epic 7, Eternal Return etc). In many cases hidden within a single frame of a trailer.

Gallery of these hand signs found recently from just this studio.

However this hand sign controversy first appeared a few years ago with GS25's camping poster and a few other companies. The biggest difference between the incidents from before and the most recent one is that one of Ppuri's lead animator (Datso) was dumb enough to tweet that she worked on the Maplestory project. Revealing her past tweets and retweets linked to feminism and general misandry. Her tweet "I've never quit feminism, I'll keep doing it" has become a meme because of her phrase "은근쓸쩍 스리쓸쩍." Which I think is a really funny phrase but I have no idea how to translate it to English. Sneakily cunningly? So if you've seen the gallery and knowing this particular lead animator's political views, I think it's safe to say that it's no coincidence. It's also inconclusive to say that this animator is a Megalia user. Nevertheless the backlash has been significant.

Personally, I think this hand sign thing is blown a bit out of proportion, maybe some of these are intentional but I also think from certain angles and resting positions that pinching hand gesture can just come out naturally. Regardless, it's become a tainted symbol and something animators/game developers have to be conscious of in Korea now. Outsiders looking into the current Korean gender drama just see a ridiculous controversy, but they don't have the contextual understanding of how tainted feminism and anything associated with it has become in the eyes of the general Korean public.

I also don't think their concerns are completely unfounded even if you ignore the context. If you've been following gaming, you'll know about all the controversies related to gender/beauty that have riled recent produced names, especially from Western developers. There were controversies regarding body types, characters made to look ugly (such as in Pokemon Go), progressive storylines/ideas being pushed via Sweet Baby Inc. the list goes on and on. These trends can be argued to stem from a Feminist perspective. Stellar Blade is a recently released title from Korea that opted to not play into those tropes and instead allows a main character to be a conventionally sexually attractive female, but even that game now has a controversy around censorship. For Koreans looking at these developments on the West, it's not far a stretch for them to want to protect entertainment being produced in their own country from meeting such a fate.

Ultimately what comes to the West is highly filtered and the only reason these stories even come here is because Korean games/webtoons/tv shows/drama/kpop has a fan following. Actual gender/political war issues are less likely to make their way to the West because the number of people who would care about such things is significantly smaller.