South Korea will remove women-only parking spaces in the capital Seoul, 14 years after they were instated as protection from violent male attacks, in the latest reversal of gender-based policies in the country.
Last year newly-elected President Yoon Suk Yeol began a push to remove gender quota guidelines from government hiring policies, and appointed just three women to his cabinet. He is also trying to shutter South Korea’s gender equality ministry, a key pillar of an election campaign that saw him court ‘anti-feminist’ male voters.
Seoul plans to convert the women-only spaces — demarcated with pink paint and a stick-figure image of a woman in a skirt — to family priority spaces from March, to be used by anyone regardless of gender.
The dedicated spots are generally closer to the entrance of buildings, usually brightly-lit in underground garages. They were implemented in 2009 after a series of violent crimes targeting women, often in basement car parks.
As of 2021, city data shows that more than two-thirds of violent crime in parking lots are sexual crimes, including rape and sexual harassment, the BBC reports.
The spaces have become a source of controversy with some South Koreans viewing them as discriminatory towards men. Men, however, seem to use the spaces with relative frequency, according to Bloomberg.
Other critics have pointed to the larger size of the spaces, which could perpetuate the stereotype that women are poor drivers.
Speaking to the BBC, 55-year-old Chung Eun Jung said the dedicated parking spaces made her feel more secure.
“I feel safer when I use them, that there are not so many dangerous people close by,” Chung said, adding: “When I get in the car, I always lock the door immediately,“ due to the prevalence of parking lot violent crime.
Women’s rights in South Korea are among the worst in the developed world, and young men are increasingly turning against feminist policies.
A 2021 survey found 79% of young men in the country feel they are discriminated against for their gender.
Working women in South Korea are often expected to care for their male coworkers by cooking lunches for them, or washing their hand towels. Women are also targeted in violent crimes, and represent more than half of the country’s homicide victims. Around 90% of violent crime victims in 2019 were women, The Korea Times reports.