Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Right Solution?

Kudos to the city of Seoul for acknowledging that there is still a problem regarding women and sexual harassment.

Seoul to Reintroduce Women-Only Subway Cars in 2008

Women-only subway cars will be reintroduced in Seoul next year as part of the local transportation authority's efforts to crack down on sexual harassment of female passengers, officials said Wednesday.

The Seoul Metro and the Seoul Metropolitan Transit Corp., which operate eight subway lines in the Seoul metropolitan area, said they will designate the cars in 2008 on all of their lines.

"Seoul's subway system first introduced the women-only cars in 1992, but the system was immediately suspended after undergoing some operational problems," an official at the Seoul Metro said.

"This time, two cars of each subway train on all the lines will be designated exclusively for women. There might be some side effects, but the advantages of the cars in terms of crime prevention will surpass the disadvantages. We will work to reduce the negative effects," said the official.

He said the subway operators aim to maximize the convenience of female passengers by providing some amenities in their exclusive cars.

Last week, the National Assembly's construction and transportation committee asked the Seoul metropolitan government to consider the reintroduction of women-only cars, saying that incidents of sexual harassment account for nearly half all subway crimes here.

"The Seoul government has to take all possible measures to help protect women passengers in the subway," said Rep. Lee Jae-chang of the main opposition Grand National Party.
Are women only subway cars the correct way to solve what is not just a behavioral problem but a deeply ingrained social problem? I understand that Korea has a different culture and, therefore, a different way of approaching and solving problems. However, why not launch programs to change the way society views sexual harassment so that you don't have to separate the boys from the girls? This seems to be nothing more than a band aid slapped on a broken leg.

It just seems to be a very superficial and rudimentary solution to a problem that is inherently norm based which means societal norms have to change. In the States it took years to get to where we are now regading gender issues, and we're still working on it.

What do you think? Is this the right way to resolve sexual harassment? I seriously wonder about that.

BTW, the pictures are from the CINA blog. The pictures are of a protest last year by female train attendants on Korea's high-speed KTX train line: URGENT APPEAL for INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY
Simply by being women, KTX train attendants are subject to lower wages, harsher working conditions, and heightened job insecurity. In addition, women workers face the perpetual threat of dismissal if they speak out against unfair conditions and sexual harassment in the workplace.
As I wrote a few days ago, Korea was classified by the OECD as a "danger country" for women. Of course, the powers that be will react and try to make it a better place. I just wonder how effective it will be to send the men and boys to the naughty corner instead of teaching the men and boys that it's simply wrong to harass women.

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  1. Hi, Jane. Japan has this problem too, big time. I don't think I could count the number of times I either experienced this myself, saw someone else getting hassled, or heard the stories from other women.

    I agree, the boys (I won't honor them by calling them men) ought to be the ones who have to modify their behavior, which is simply not acceptable. But this practice of viewing -- and treating -- women as pretty packages is ingrained in the culture, and I suspect it will take some time before the problem is resolved.

  2. I'm not poo-pooing the solution. To be honest, I can't wait until the cars are here. I'll be using them for sure.

    However, I would have been happier to read "women only subway cars and social programs to change behavior".

    It's a bandaid and we'll still end up with KTX train attendants protesting in chains and women being slapped around on the street.


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