murder

Murder at Gangnam Station: A Year Later

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Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the murder near Gangnam Station in Seoul, South Korea. Nearly a thousand people — mostly in the younger generation — silently marched across the streets of Gangnam, paying tribute to a 23-year-old woman who died in the hands of a stranger in a public bathroom last year.

 

A 34-year-old man, surnamed Kim, was waiting for nearly an hour in a unisex bathroom near exit 10 of Gangnam Station. He let six men go by, but when the first woman entered, he stabbed her with a 32.5 centimeter-long sushi knife.

Kim claimed to have killed her because he “hated women,” especially for ignoring and humiliating him all his life. The court said this wasn’t a hate crime against women — citing his mental illness — and sentenced him to 30 years in prison.

One-year anniversary commemorations at Gangnam Station. (Seohoi Stephanie Park/Korea Exposé)

After the incident, exit 10 at Gangnam Station has become a symbolic site for South Korean feminism. The murder incited heated debates about misogyny, hate crimes and the lack of gender equality in South Korea — debates that are still continuing to this day.

What did some commemorators at the one-year anniversary think? How did the Gangnam murder change them — and how did it change South Korea?

From dusk to late at night, mourners and bypassers gathered around the station, where they left flowers and hand-written messages for the victim.

 

Despite the increasing prominence of women’s rights, “feminism” is still a contentious, even dirty, word for many in South Korea. It’s too often linked with the brand “Megalia,” associated with a feminism that many perceive as too aggressive and even man-hating. The murder at Gangnam Station aroused an incredible amount of sympathy, and intensified necessary debates about gender equality. But the debates are facing an uphill battle.  

 

Cover image: Exit 10 at Gangnam Station. (Seohoi Stephanie Park/Korea Exposé)

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Read more on the Gangnam murder, gender inequality and feminism in South Korea:

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Seohoi is an intern at Korea Exposé and an undergrad at Yonsei Underwood International College, where she studies political science and international relations.