- Author, Jean Mackenzie
- Rolle, From BBC News in Seoul
4 hours ago
Vacancies were closer to listings
South Korea’s capital Seoul removes women’s parking spaces 14 years after they were introduced as protection.
The exclusive areas were created in 2009 after a series of violent crimes mostly sexual offenses against women in underground car parks.
But city officials say those spaces are no longer needed and are being converted to family parking spaces.
Critics say her ouster is just the latest example of antifeminist politics in South Korea.
Chung Eunjung, 55, says she uses women’s spaces whenever possible.
“I feel safer using them because there aren’t that many dangerous people around,” she says. “When I get in my car, I always lock the door right away.”
She adds that she is aware of parking crimes that are frequently reported in the news.
Her daughter says she is upset that her mother will feel less safe.
“It’s strange that they’re striving to do away with something that makes women feel safe,” says 27yearold Park Youngseo.
“It’s not like half the parking lot is dedicated to women, it’s just a couple of spaces,” she says.
In Seoul, South Korea’s largest city, parking garages with more than 30 parking spaces had to allocate 10% to women in 2009 almost 2,000 of the 16,640 public parking spaces are reserved for women.
The rooms are located near the building entrances so women don’t have to go underground in the dark.
Government data from 2021 showed that more than twothirds of violent crimes committed in city parking lots were sex crimes: rape, sexual assault and harassment.
It seems odd that they would go out of their way to do away with something that makes women feel safe, says Park Youngseo
Seoul Mayor Oh Sehoon, who instituted the womenonly rooms, is reversing his own policy. He said it was time to “think about families.”
The new family offers are made available to pregnant women or travelers with children. The city council confirmed that women who did not meet these criteria would not be allowed to wear them.
Such a move feeds what critics say is a culture of antifeminism that has shaped South Korean politics in recent years.
A significant proportion of men in South Korea believe that measures to increase equal opportunities for women “discriminate against men”.
The current government has removed the term ‘gender equality’ from its school ethics syllabus and is seeking to shut down its Department of Gender Equality.
Oh Kyungjin of the Korean Women’s Association is disappointed with the space removal but is more concerned about the broader antifeminism trend.
“The federal government is trying to implement antifeminist policies, and now we can see these backward policies spilling over into local governments,” she said.
Women’s seats, first introduced in Germany in the 1990s, are controversial in South Korea.
Because some of them are longer and wider, critics have argued that the gaps reinforce the stereotype that women find parking more difficult. The real reason they’re larger, however, is because it was thought that women — who do the majority of childcare in South Korea — would appreciate the extra room to get their children on and off.
The town hall wants to enforce the new spatial regulations at the end of March.