The stigma against women is haunting many men in Korea and Japan, causing them to take extreme and violent actions against women.
In the 1990s, Japan emerged a remarkable phenomenon called “hikikomori”, which refers to young people who close themselves off from society. Two decades later, the pressures to alienate young Japanese from the outside world are becoming more acute. Alarmingly, a toxic mix of social isolation and changing gender perceptions has contributed to “incels” that tend to behave violently against women.
Incel is a new concept that appeared online, only for “involuntarily single” people. They define themselves as unable to find someone to love or have sex with, even though they always want to find the right person.
In neighboring South Korea, where changes in society have also created challenges for perceptions of traditional gender roles, legislators are grappling with the phenomenon of “semen terrorism” and the question of whether this should be considered a sex crime.
Last month, Yusuke Tsushima, 36, used a knife to attack passengers on a subway train west of Tokyo, Japan. The incident left 10 people injured, including a 20-year-old female university student who was stabbed at least 10 times in the back and chest.
According to the police, Tsushima developed a grudge against women after being ridiculed at social gatherings and denied using dating services. “For the past six years, I’ve always wanted to kill happy-looking women,” Tsushima told police. “Anyone can.”
Japan in recent years has witnessed many serious cases of discrimination against women. In July, an Osaka man was arrested for smearing his poop on a woman’s bag while she was walking down the street. He told police he was stressed and had “an aversion” to women.
In 2019, a man committed suicide after attacking a group of schoolgirls waiting for a bus in Kawasaki, killing two and injuring 17.
In 2018, an assailant killed a passenger and injured two on a bullet train on the outskirts of Tokyo. Ryuichi Iwasaki, 51, is a “hikikomori” who is unable to establish relationships, the perpetrator’s aunt told local media after the attack.
In May 2016, Tomohiro Iwazaki, a huge fan of pop star Mayu Tomita, 20, stabbed her 60 times while she was on her way to a concert in Tokyo. Tomita returned the book and a watch Iwazaki had given her, angering him, sending her 400 threatening texts in the weeks before the attack. Iwazaki was sentenced to 14 years and 6 months in prison.
Makoto Watanabe, a communications professor at Bunkyo University in Hokkaido, said the violence was a sign of the despair that Japan’s youth generation is facing.
“In the past, events like Tsushima’s attack were mostly unknown, but the media has coined a new term for the phenomenon, ‘kireru’, which refers to very young people who are very young. get angry easily and lose control,” he said. “Two decades ago, ‘hikikomori’ caused concern in society, but they were not prone to violence and just wanted to be alone. However, life in Japan is becoming increasingly difficult and many people are not alone. Young people think that the leadership doesn’t care about them. This mindset has thrived during the pandemic.”
“Life becomes hopeless for many people. They feel left behind by those around them. And they get angry. This is what worries me,” said Professor Watanabe.
Japan is not the only country facing violence stemming from “incels”. Earlier this month, a 22-year-old man from the town of Plymouth, England, killed four people and then committed suicide after posting angry messages online about women he called “arrogant”. He also feels “bitter and jealous” for not being able to find a girlfriend.
Unlike the UK, incel violence in Japan seems to be driven by changing expectations about men and women, especially among young people.
“I find Japanese women more free and less stressed than men of the same age,” said Watanabe. “Society holds that men have to study hard, get into a good university, and then get a good job with a high salary to support their family. These are traditional requirements of Japanese society. but at the same time, they had to do it in a very different era than their forefathers, with much greater work and financial pressures. They were sandwiched between old values and current circumstances.”
“On the other hand, today’s young women are no longer pressured by Japan’s old traditions, so they are more free than before,” he added.
South Korea is also going through similar changes. A campaign is being launched in the country to crack down on so-called “semen terrorism” where many men intentionally masturbate and ejaculate into women’s clothes and belongings.
In May, a South Korean civil servant was fined $2,500 after being found guilty of “causing property damage” for ejaculating into a female colleague’s coffee six times in six months.
In 2019, a university student was sentenced to three years in prison for “conspiracy to cause injury”. This man had 54 times mixed into a woman’s coffee a mixture of semen, saliva, laxatives and aphrodisiacs after she refused his confession.
In 2018, local media reported on a man who slipped a condom containing semen into a woman’s pocket while waiting for a train.
Courts prosecute such cases primarily with the charge of “damage to property” because it cannot be proven that this was sexual coercion.
However, campaigners are demanding that such acts be treated as sex crimes with harsher penalties. Baek Hye-ryun, a lawmaker from South Korea’s Democratic Party, proposed in July an amendment to the law to prosecute “semen terrorism” as a sex crime.
South Korea is also facing an increasing amount of hidden pornography, known as “molka”, whereby stalkers will secretly film and take pictures of female targets and then share them. their photos online.
According to William Cleary, director of crisis support services and TELL consulting in Tokyo, the fact that Japan and South Korea are high-tech, hyper-connected societies has exacerbated the problem.
“Technology makes us more connected than ever, but it’s also having the unintended effect of so many people now only focusing on their tech devices,” Cleary said. “The end result is that we’re more isolated than ever, and that can lead to an imbalance in some people’s behaviour.”
“Our society is less male-focused in recent years and those who are ‘left behind’ have no way to face reality,” Cleary commented.
In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the feeling of isolation of many young men.
“Covid-19 has created anger and aggression in some people who don’t have channels to help them deal with these emotions,” he said. “People have to have social interactions, at work, at school, in the wider world. And when that doesn’t happen, many people experience anxiety, depression, problems with their health. So it’s not surprising that we’re seeing more and more incidents of violence and mental disorders.”
After the attack in Tokyo last month, feminist groups have demanded that authorities take tougher measures against men who commit gender-based violence.
“Thankfully, cases like the recent train attack are still quite rare in Japan, although there is certainly an overall increase in violence against women,” said Tsumie Yamaguchi, a spokesman for the group. campaign titled “Women in a New World”, said. “It’s worrisome, but it’s impossible to completely prevent attacks of this type when they’re carried out by mentally unstable men. Even so, the police and the government still need to prevent acts like this one. so”.
“Anyone caught for such an assault needs to know that they will be severely punished. They need to know that they will be caught and jailed for a long time. 10 years is probably the lowest,” she stressed. .
Vu Hoang (Follow SCMP)