South Korea is one of the few developed countries in the world that bans abortion under most circumstances. For more than six decades, women who illegally underwent the procedure and doctors who illegally performed it could face fines and jail time. But a landmark court decision this month has relegated the crime of abortion “to the byways of history,” as Sung-hee Yang, an editorial writer for a Korean daily newspaper put it in a recent column. By the end of next year, the law criminalizing the procedure will be overhauled.
HuffPost Korea, which has been closely following the abortion case, published Yang’s column this week. In it, the writer notes how rapidly positive changes are taking place in the country, thanks to young women who aren’t willing to put up with injustices. “From the 2018 Me Too movement to the decriminalization of abortion, the clock of feminism in the Republic of Korea has been ticking fast,” she writes.
HuffPost Korea’s Sanga Kwak, who closely follows women’s issues, agreed that the pace of change has been remarkable. “Thanks to the international feminist wave and uprising in social media, many women and men have risen up in the previous few years,” she said.
She pointed not only to the Constitutional Court’s recent abortion ruling but also to the conviction this year of a former senior prosecutor, who was jailed for crimes related to sexual misconduct. Despite his position of power, Kwak said, his behavior is no longer considered acceptable.
“I can happily say that feminism has become a new social norm in Korea, and I think that these positive changes are thanks to the relentless struggles of feminists in the past,” she added. “This is something I am very proud of, and we will continue our fight.”
HuffPost Her Stories will continue to cover the progress and challenges women are facing in South Korea and beyond as the newsletter travels around the world. HuffPost U.K.’s Lucy Pasha-Robinson will be taking the pen for the next few weeks as the newsletter embarks on a global journey.
Lucy is a commissioning editor with HuffPost U.K., focusing on opinion, first person and special projects. She’s a champion of diverse voices on the biggest issues of the day, from the gender pay gap to abortion rights. (Check out her latest series, “The Case I Can’t Forget,” which hears from those working on the frontlines of the U.K.’s beleaguered public sector industries.) Previously, Lucy was part of a core team of staff reporters at The Independent, covering everything from Trump’s election to Brexit, and leading the reporting on the Grenfell Tower fire.
I hope you’ll enjoy the fresh voices and perspectives and, as always, thank you for reading.
Signing off from Washington, D.C.,
A new study supports what women already might suspect: Celebrity fat-shaming affects ordinary women’s attitudes about weight. Researchers at Canada’s McGill University found a correlation between high-profile “celebrity fat-shaming moments” — like when the late fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld called singer Adele “a little too fat” — and “anti-fat thinking” in women. The authors of the study pinpointed 20 fat-shaming moments from 2007 to 2015 and compared them to the results of a test measuring women’s attitudes over time about weight. More than 90,000 women had taken the test during the same time period. “As predicted, fat-shaming led to a spike in women’s implicit anti-fat attitudes,” researchers wrote. HuffPost Canada spoke to the study’s authors, who noted that the results also showed anti-fat attitudes increasing over time. “These cultural messages appeared to augment women’s gut-level feeling that ‘thin’ is good and ‘fat’ is bad,” said Jennifer Bartz, one of the authors. “These media messages can leave a private trace in peoples’ minds.”
The U.K.’s National Health Service does not routinely offer third-trimester pregnancy scans. Instead, doctors and midwives often check to make sure the baby is in the correct position by feeling the mother’s stomach. A new study shows that a simple sonogram, which instantly and accurately shows which way the baby is facing, could spare thousands of women trauma and frustration and save the lives of up to eight babies in the U.K. each year. HuffPost U.K.’s Victoria Richards writes that she’s “lost count of the number of friends who’ve been through hours – sometimes days – of painful labor, only for it to end in an inevitable emergency caesarean” because of the baby’s size or positioning. Imagine, she writes, if they could have known this ahead of time. The NHS cautions that the study has limitations and that more research must be done before late-term scanning becomes routine.