Retalls (24.2.2019)

#KoreaToo. E. Tammy Kim. The New York Review of Books

It is curious that a book not primarily focused on sexual violence has become a cultural touchstone for Korea’s version of the Me Too movement. (...) Porn is illegal in Korea, and thus exchanged through underground networks—this was nothing new—but consumers were now downloading countless images of women and girls that had been obtained secretly, without their consent. Revenge porn and footage from spy cameras in women’s bathrooms and changing rooms were being streamed on smartphones and bought and sold on various websites, on a scale few had previously understood. (...) Across the country, it’s common to see women’s bathroom stalls whose every crack and crevice is plugged with tiny wads of toilet paper. (...) Several fiction writers I spoke with called the book “middling” and “uninteresting” as literature, yet its very accessibility may be its source of power for many readers. The diction is simple, the writing artless; the world of the novel, told in a basic third-person voice, claustrophobic. To read the book is to imagine being a restive, aggrieved millennial and to trace her path through everyday misogyny. (...) Ji-young’s brother is treated like a prince. He gets his own room, eats better food, and wears finer clothes than his sisters. (...) He might, in fact, have had a third older sister, were it not for his mother’s secret decision to abort a female fetus. “Nothing was Mother’s choice, but everything was her responsibility,” the narrator observes. “She was sick, in body and soul, but had no one to comfort her.”(...) Ji-young at last gets an interview but finds two identical competitors in the waiting room: “All three have their hair cut to an ear-length bob, pinkish lipstick, and dark-grey suits, as if agreed upon in advance.” A male manager interviews them together and asks a hypothetical question: “You’re out to meet with a corporate client, and a bigwig gets handsy. He rubs your shoulders and keeps touching your thigh, you know what I mean. So what would you do? ” Ji-young is horrified but responds mildly: “I would excuse myself by going to the bathroom or fetching some documents.” (...) A few days later, when she receives a rejection by e-mail, she calls the office to ask for feedback. “It probably just wasn’t a good fit,” the human resources manager tells her. Ji-young hangs up and thinks, “Damn, if I wasn’t going to get it anyway, I should’ve just said what I felt.” She stands in front of a mirror and imagines herself back in the interview, being asked how she would respond to the handsy client. “I’d break that son of a bitch’s fucking wrist!” she yells, and then tells the interviewer, “You’re part of the problem, too. Asking a question like that is itself sexual harassment. You’d never say that to a man!” (…)