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South Korean politician blames women for increasing male suicide


A Seoul City councillor has sparked controversy in South Korea after suggesting that the country’s shift towards a “female-dominant society” may be contributing to an increase in male suicide attempts.

A member of the Democratic Party, Kim Ki-duck, made these claims in a report analyzing suicide attempt data from bridges along Seoul’s Han river.

The report, published on the city council’s official website, noted a significant rise in suicide attempts, from 430 in 2018 to 1,035 in 2023, with the proportion of men attempting suicide increasing from 67% to 77%.

In his analysis, Councillor Kim argued that women’s increased participation in the workforce had made it “harder for men to get jobs and to find women who wanted to marry them.” He further stated that South Korea had “begun to change into a female-dominant society” and that this might “partly be responsible for an increase in male suicide attempts.”

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These comments have drawn sharp criticism from mental health experts and women’s rights advocates. Song In Han, a mental health professor at Seoul’s Yonsei University, told the BBC: “It is dangerous and unwise to make claims like this without sufficient evidence.” Professor Song emphasized the need for scientific study of the issue, adding that it was “very regrettable” that the councillor had framed it as a gender conflict.

Yuri Kim, director of the Korean Women’s Trade Union, accused politicians of scapegoating women instead of addressing real challenges. “Such comments encapsulate just how pervasive misogyny is in South Korea,” she said. “Blaming women for entering the workforce will only prolong the imbalances in our society.”

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The Justice Party has called on Councillor Kim to retract his remarks and “properly analyse” the causes of the problem.

When approached for comment, Councillor Kim stated that he had “not intended to be critical of the female-dominated society” and was merely giving his personal view about some of its consequences.

This incident occurs against a backdrop of ongoing gender inequality in South Korea, which has one of the worst records on gender equality among developed nations. Women in the country face a significant pay gap, earning on average 29% less than men, and are disproportionately represented in temporary or part-time jobs.

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The controversy also highlights a broader trend of South Korean politicians making unscientific proposals to address social issues. Recently, another Seoul councillor suggested that young women should practice gymnastics and pelvic floor exercises to boost the country’s low birth rate.

As the debate continues, many Koreans have taken to social media to denounce Councillor Kim’s remarks as “unsubstantiated” and “misogynistic,” reflecting growing concerns about gender issues in South Korean society.