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Gender equality guidelines cause outrage

Feb 20,2019
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Minister of Gender Equality and Family Jin Sun-mee, pictured above, has been criticized for the new broadcasting guidelines the ministry distributed on Feb. 13. [NEWS1]
After the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family’s new guidelines for gender equality on television broadcasting was met with fierce criticism, the Gender Ministry explained that heir intentions have been misread by the public and that they merely meant to be guidelines, not a regulation.

The guideline, which the Gender Ministry distributed to local television stations on Feb. 13, contained various methods in which television programs can improve gender equality. One suggestion was that TV programs “do not feature people whose appearances are exceedingly similar to each other,” leading some critics to say the Gender Ministry is seeking to censor how people look on television.

“Are all of the singers who appear on television music programs twins?” reads the controversial part of the guideline. “Most of the stars featured on music programs are from idol groups, whose musical stylings are just as limited as their appearances are […] most of the idol groups have similar skinny bodies, white skin, hairstyles, makeup and costumes that expose a lot of skin. The uniformity can be seen in both female and male [stars.]”

The guidelines have been criticized since they were released, and citizens took to the online Blue House petition board to make their opinions known.

“We should abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, who now even censor how female pop stars look,” reads one petition posted Monday.

“The ministry has dared to point out female idols for being too pretty, wearing the same clothes and being skinny. And they demand that they show fewer female idols […] They abandon what they really should be doing, and go down the path of [the dictatorship of] Chun Doo Hwan, starting with internet censorship and now appearance censorship.”

The petition, which has garnered 300 signatures as of Tuesday, includes the public’s fury over the Korea Communications Commission’s decision to block some foreign sites — especially foreign pornographic and gambling sites.

“Is Minister Jin Sun-mee the female Chun Doo Hwan?” wrote Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of the minor conservative Bareunmirae Party on Facebook Saturday.

“There are no objective standards to people’s looks, and why would the gender ministry want to censor that? It’s no different from the hair and skirt restrictions from the military dictatorship era.”

Even the ruling party is having trouble grasping the idea. An anonymous representative from the Democratic Party said, “I do not understand how gender equality and similar appearances are connected.”

On Monday, however, the ministry argued the guideline was only meant for television stations to take into consideration, and it’s entirely up to them to decide what happens on-screen.

“Television programs have been criticized for not properly conveying gender equality,” said the ministry. “Many are worried that they use their influence to reproduce and exacerbate inequalities and gender stereotypes, rather than fixing it.”

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]