July 25, 2024, 7:39 am

Rising Tensions: The Discontent of Young Men in East Asia

Sarakhon Desk
  • Update Time : Saturday, June 29, 2024

Kim Woo-seok, a 31-year-old chef in Seoul, once identified as a feminist, empathizing with his stay-at-home mother. Recently, however, his perspective has shifted. Encountering derogatory comments about men from some female activists online, he felt his masculinity was being undermined. Kim now believes that Korean society has become more discriminatory against men than women, a sentiment shared by many in the region.

Gender Divide in Modern Society
In many advanced countries, there’s a growing divide between young men and women. This trend is especially pronounced in East Asia, where men struggle to adapt to a society where women are better educated, compete for jobs, and are less inclined to have children. A 2021 survey found that 79% of South Korean men in their 20s felt they were victims of “reverse discrimination.” Similarly, 43% of young Japanese men expressed disdain for feminism.

Economic Struggles and Gender Dynamics
The economic landscape has worsened for East Asian men compared to their fathers’ generation. South Korea’s 1997 economic crisis and Japan’s burst bubble economy in 1991 left lasting impacts. Young people now face slower economic growth, fewer stable jobs, and rising inflation. These economic challenges contribute to feelings of frustration among young men, who see women excelling in education and the workforce.

Impact on Dating and Marriage
The dating scene has also become more competitive. Marriage rates are declining, and many young men remain single longer. In Japan, 42% of men in their 20s had never had sex in 2022, and 40% had never been on a date. Similar trends are seen in South Korea and Taiwan, exacerbating demographic declines as fewer children are born.

Rising Anti-Feminist Sentiment
Anti-feminist sentiment is growing, fueled by online influencers like Bae In-gyu in South Korea, who label feminism as a mental illness. Derogatory terms for women have become popular, and movements like Japan’s “weak men” highlight the frustrations of men who feel marginalized in the dating market.

Political Exploitation
South Korean politicians have begun to appeal to these disaffected young men. President Yoon Suk Yeol, for example, campaigned on abolishing the gender equality ministry, arguing that feminism harms healthy gender relations. The mandatory military service is another point of contention, with many young men viewing it as a waste of time.

Future Implications
The increasing anti-feminist sentiment poses a challenge for improving birth rates in the region. While a majority of young South Korean men see marriage and children as necessary, fewer women agree. This growing gender divide raises questions about whether East Asian men and women can find common ground in the future.


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