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South Korean feminist party plans school to train 'winning' candidates

by Seulki Lee | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 24 April 2020 08:35 GMT

A woman wearing a mask to prevent contracting the coronavirus leaves a voting booth to cast her absentee ballot for the parliamentary election at a polling station in Seoul, South Korea, April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Heo Ran

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The party fails to win any of the four seats it contested, despite a growing feminism movement in the Asian nation

By Seulki Lee

SEOUL, April 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - South Korea's first feminist party is set to launch a political school to train aspiring female candidates, as it vowed to fight on after failing to win a seat in national elections.

The Women's Party was unsuccessful in its attempts to win four parliamentary seats in the April 15 poll, despite a growing feminism movement in the socially conservative nation.

Although disappointed by the result, the party has now begun preparations for local municipal and provincial elections due in 2022 by setting up a political school.

"We want to plan for our winning strategies," Kim Eun-ju, a veteran women's rights activist and one of the party's founders, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Friday.

"We hope this school will provide training to our candidates on how politics work. Although our members are passionate in feminism issues, they lack political skills," she added.

The school in Seoul, which is due to be launched by July, will recruit former local government heads to train candidates.

Areas of study will include how to organise political campaigns and women's rights issues.

President Moon Jae-in's ruling party won a landslide victory in last week's poll, which saw 57 women lawmakers elected into the 300-seat parliament, its highest ever female representation.

Launched on the International Women's Day in March, the Women's Party with more than 10,000 members campaigned on a platform to end widespread voyeurism against women and push for equal pay.

The voyeurism or "spycam porn" epidemic, where victims are filmed urinating or having sex, sparked mass street protests in 2018 and led to a growing feminism movement that has since gathered pace in other areas.

South Korea's gender wage gap meanwhile is the worst among developed nations, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Female voters like Ahn Yun-hui, a 32-year-old designer in Seoul, said although she wanted greater gender equality, she was sceptical about the fledgling party's experience.

"I wasn't convinced on what this party could actually do on issues such as women's safety," she said.

The country's electoral system traditionally favours major parties, according to political analysts. Women's rights groups have called for changes to increase female political participation.

"The April 15 poll was the first election after Korea's #MeToo movement, but female candidates were exposed to hate speeches, violence, and discriminations," said the United Korea Women's Association, an advocacy group.

South Korea was ranked 108 out of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum's 2020 Global Gender Gap Index.

Park Geun-hye was South Korea's first female president who served from 2013 until 2017, when she was ousted over a corruption scandal.

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(Writing by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Michael Taylor. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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