Women’s rights groups protest against presidential campaign pledges to abolish gender ministry

SEOUL-- A group of women's rights organizations on Friday staged a rally in protest of campaign pledges by two opposition presidential contenders to abolish the gender equality ministry.

Activists from three women's rights groups -- Korea Women's Political Solidarity, Korea Cyber Sexual Violence Response Center and Network of Women Politics -- denounced the pledges as fanning conflict and hatred between genders during the rally in front of the headquarters of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) in western Seoul.

Yoo Seong-min and Ha Tae-keung, both competing to win the PPP's ticket to run in the March 9 presidential election, pledged earlier this week to dissolve the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family as part of their campaign promises.

Yoo argued the duties of the gender ministry overlap with those of other government ministries and pledged to use the leftover budget, incurred by the ministry's abolishment, to fund a GI bill benefiting men who completed military service, if he is elected president.

During the rally, Shin Ji-yeah, head of Network of Women Politics, pointed to the steady growth in sexual crimes over the past 10 years, as opposed to falling cases of murder, arson and other violent crimes.

"Such a situation is like a disaster for women," Shin said. "Urging for the abolishment of the gender ministry at a time when assistance for sexual violence victims and gender education are needed more than ever is tantamount to calling for removing the control tower at the time of a natural disaster."

She argued the gender ministry rather needs more budget and authority to intensify its role.

"If you were sensible politicians, you would be deploring the stubborn presence of sexual discrimination in South Korean society and seeking to find what you should and can do with your positions," according to Shin.

Shin Yoo-jin, an activist affiliated with the Korea Cyber Sexual Violence Response Center, accused the PPP politicians of drumming up misogyny to lure voters.

"Women and misogyny are again being mobilized for politicians' maneuvers to woo voters," she noted.

A day earlier, a group representing female lawyers, Korean Women Lawyer Association, also denounced the campaign pledges by Yoo and Ha, accusing them of trying to use growing gender-related social tension for political gains.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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