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South Korea's lawmakers speak out against 'harmful' comments about woman athlete

Politicians in South Korea are defending Korean Olympian and archer An San (R) after anonymous comments attacked her for her style of hair. File Photo by Diego Azubel/EPA-EFE
Politicians in South Korea are defending Korean Olympian and archer An San (R) after anonymous comments attacked her for her style of hair. File Photo by Diego Azubel/EPA-EFE

July 29 (UPI) -- South Korean politicians are condemning comments about a Korean Olympian as hurtful and misogynistic after archer An San's hairstyle became the source of controversy online.

Lawmaker Park Sang-hyuk of the ruling Democratic Party expressed "deep regret" about remarks that were posted on local social media platforms about An, the 20-year-old athlete who took two gold medals for the South Korean team at the Tokyo Olympics last weekend, News 1 reported Thursday.

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Online commenters "inflicted indescribable wounds on an Olympic athlete who brought us national pride," Park said on Facebook, according to the report.

The controversy began after an online post suggested that "women who attend women's universities [and] have short [hair] cuts are 90% likely to be feminist," according to Korea JoongAng Daily Thursday.

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An's haircut is a sign the athlete is a feminist because she also attends an all women's college, Gwangju Women's University, the commenter said.

"That's why I don't support her," the anonymous posting read.

Feminism in South Korea has come to be equated with radicalism and misandry. Gender-based discrimination in the country is banned under its constitution,

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But feminist activists in South Korea have captured public attention with their protests against high beauty standards and rallies against voyeurism made possible by tiny, hidden cameras in places like public restrooms. Spycams are now illegal.

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Activist demands for gender equality are coming into conflict with traditional notions of gender norms that include expectations about physical appearance.

Ryu Hyeong-rim, an activist with Womenlink, said that in Korea "long hair is a visual symbol of a woman's conventional femininity."

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As gender tensions simmer in the country, An was "perceived by some as 'violating' society's idea of what a woman should look like," Ryu said, according to the JoongAng.

South Korean women lawmakers are also showing their support for An after the incident online. Lawmaker Ryu Ho-jeong of the progressive Justice Party said that a woman's dress or hairstyle should not become the topic of debate. Ryu also uploaded a past photograph of herself with a cropped haircut.

"Whether it's a long, short, dyed or shaved, a woman can choose whatever style of hairstyle she wants, if she is a feminist," Ryu said, according to News 1.

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