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South Korean presidential candidate's feminism remarks generate controversy

South Korean presidential frontrunner Yoon Seok-youl suggested Monday that feminism was interfering in “healthy relationships” between men and women, according to local press reports. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
South Korean presidential frontrunner Yoon Seok-youl suggested Monday that feminism was interfering in “healthy relationships” between men and women, according to local press reports. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Aug. 2 (UPI) -- A South Korean presidential front-runner is under fire for comments about feminism after he suggested the movement is responsible for low birth rates.

Yoon Seok-youl, 60, said Monday at a meeting of the main opposition People Power Party that the advocacy of women's rights has been too politicized, Segye Ilbo reported.

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"Some say feminism is too politically exploited [to the point] it prevents healthy relationships between men and women," Yoon said. "From a social standpoint, the conditions are ill-suited for having and raising children. This is not a problem that can be solved by giving out government subsidies."

Yoon's rivals in the ruling Democratic Party condemned the remarks Monday.

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Former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, a presidential candidate, said in a Facebook post that Yoon was "promoting misogyny."

"To hear [Yoon] say that feminism is the cause of low birth rates, and prevents healthy relationships between men and women, is saddening," Chung said.

"It is incredible these are the words of an individual who has pledged to take charge of the country."

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Feminist activists have pursued a range of causes in South Korea. Protests against spy cameras in public restrooms have led to legislature making voyeurism illegal in the country.

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Other more anonymous movements, including "Megalia," have drawn condemnation for popularizing on social media platforms a hand sign that demeaned the size of the average Korean male genitalia.

Ruling party lawmaker Rep. Park Yong-jin said Monday that Yoon misunderstands a movement to recognize the need to improve the rights of South Korean women, Newsis reported.

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Feminism strives for universal equality, Park said.

"The key is not to take sides with the issues of men and women and gender conflicts, but to find a point to improve the economic and social conditions for our society to advance to a higher level," the lawmaker said.

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