The Truth About The South Korean

The Truth About The South Korean Feminist 4B Movement – Does It Really Represent The General Korean Female Population?

In today’s cultural landscape, TikTok is at the core of virality. It is the birthplace of new trends, home to every niche imaginable, and, unsurprisingly, the main source of news for many young people. Unfortunately, this also means there is a lot of misinformation floating around on the internet that can be traced back to the social media app. In this article, we’re talking about the South Korean feminist “4B Movement” that has taken over TikTok in recent days and how it may be misrepresenting Korean women on a global platform.

The Truth About The South Korean Feminist 4B Movement - Does It Really Represent The General Korean Female Population?


For those who might not know, the 4B Movement is a South Korean feminist movement with 4 primary tenets: bisekseu (no sex with men), bichulsan (no child-rearing), biyeonae (no dating men), and bihon (no marrying men).

4B Movement proponents Jung SeYoung and Baeck HaNa point at heteronormative marriage as the “root cause of patriarchy in South Korea” that continues to reinforce toxic gender roles in society. The movement is said to have been inspired to some extent by Cho NamJoo‘s disruptive and revolutionary feminist novel “Kim JiYoung, Born 1982”, which also set off the #MeToo and “Escape The Corset” feminist movements in South Korea.

In essence, the 4B Movement is a response to the patriarchal oppression prevalent in South Korean society, as well as issues like systemic discrimination against women and girls, the wage gap (women earn 31% less than men, as of 2022), high rate of sex crimes and violence against women (cases like the Sillim-dong hiking trail murder case and the murder of a woman by her fiance stabbing her 190 times, shook the nation), unmanageable cost of living, housing, education, economic anxiety, as well as societal expectations like destructive beauty standards, and so on. It is an attempt to reclaim autonomy in a traditional patriarchal society and calls for change on a structural level but is, in turn, being used as a scapegoat by anti-feminists to blame the decline of South Korea’s population on.


Understanding The Cultural Context Of The 4B Movement

Contrary to what TikTok will have you believe, the 4B Movement is not a new revelation. It has its roots back in the late 2010s and has been slowly gaining momentum ever since. It came into the global spotlight when it was revealed that South Korea has recorded the lowest birth rate in the world (0.72 per woman, projected to drop to 0.68 in 2024). With global attention focused on Korea, thanks to Hallyu, this news was quickly picked up by TikTok as particularly shocking and eventually directly linked to the 4B Movement.

South Korea is currently the most rapidly aging society in the world. This means, the proportion of senior citizens in the country (aged 65 and above) is on a constant rise, so much so that it is estimated that by 2025, South Korea will become a ‘superaged society’. A superaged society is one where over 20% of the total population is aged 65 and above.

The Truth About The South Korean Feminist 4B Movement - Does It Really Represent The General Korean Female Population?

The repercussions of such a decline in population pose an existential threat to South Korea. In response, the government’s pro-natalist policies aim to provide incentives for childbirth, such as childcare support, longer maternity/paternity leaves, healthcare support, low-interest mortgages, and so on. Earlier, in 2023, the South Korean government revealed plans to bring in minimum-wage domestic help from foreign countries in an attempt to alleviate economic and childcare burden, but only for working couples between their 20s and 40s, single-parent households, or households with more than one child. Recently, the company “Booyoung” offered a $75,000/per child bonus for employees if they decided to have kids.

However, historically, not only have such incentives not worked, but they may have endangered female reproductive health, according to an article published by scholar Kim SunHye in “Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters” called “Reproductive technologies as population control: how pronatalist policies harm reproductive health in South Korea”.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that despite the unprecedented nature of incentives provided by the pro-natalist government, Korea’s birth rate keeps declining. Why? Because the root causes behind more and more young people choosing to live a child-free life, are not being addressed. Instead, anti-feminists are shifting the blame to what they call “man-hating” feminists, who refuse to have children.

Men’s Rights advocates in South Korea continue to accuse feminists of misandry, and while previously, their anger was directed at women for the competitive job market and economic recession because women had more opportunities now than before, this time, they are spewing hatred at women who choose to have autonomy over their bodies and their lifestyles without letting society treat them like livestock. Such misogyny is the very reason why radical movements like the 4B Movement came into being, and the continued politicization of women’s bodies only serves to strengthen their resolve.

The Truth About The South Korean Feminist 4B Movement - Does It Really Represent The General Korean Female Population?

Studio South Korea

However, it’s not that these women are completely opposed to having children. They are simply creating a “safe” space for women by disengaging from the patriarchy and its prescribed values, such as a traditional family model. According to feminists who associate themselves with the 4B Movement, the only way for them to be safe from the perils women have to face, such as revenge porn, spy cams, domestic violence, date rape, and so on, is to stay away from men altogether.

As such, members of the 4B Movement distance themselves from their male friends and reject beauty standards and the consumerism that comes with it. They work twice as hard to ensure a secure future financially and live alone, with their families, or with their girl friends.

Even if they wanted to have a child, the crushing pressure from work and ungodly work hours would barely leave them with time to sleep, let alone take care of another human being. If, despite that, they were to get pregnant, they would be discriminated against at work or may even be forced to quit, and their careers would be halted indefinitely. In a society that does not favor mothers in any way but instead puts them at an irreversible disadvantage, it makes sense that some women may want to abandon maternity altogether!

Still, there are many who would love to become mothers, if only that did not involve men or come with a whole set of new difficulties and patriarchal expectations. In South Korea, unmarried women are not permitted to utilize sperm banks for conception, and as same-sex marriage is not legal in South Korea, a lesbian couple may not be able to conceive a child through sperm donation because they are unmarried women. Yet, these issues remain unaddressed.


What TikTok Doesn’t Tell You About The 4B Movement

The 4B Movement, with most of its followers choosing to remain anonymous, has between 5,000 and 50,000 members. Despite TikTok’s clickbait-y suggestion that Korea’s birth rate is dropping because of the 4B Movement and is a marker of its success or that Korean women are collectively saying no to motherhood in spite of the country’s declining fertility rate, adherents of the 4B Movement are still a minority in the Korean society, and their views do not represent that of the general female population’s.

The Truth About The South Korean Feminist 4B Movement - Does It Really Represent The General Korean Female Population?


Again, this comes as no surprise because it is not exclusively Korean women who are behind the virality of the 4B Movement on the internet. It is largely being picked up by non-Korean influencers on various social media platforms. Even celebrity Julia Fox showed her support of the 4B Movement, wanting someone to “start one of these in the US”. This is particularly counterintuitive, as a narrative unique to South Korean women and society stands the risk of being hijacked.

While it is true that it is because of social media that the 4B Movement went viral, a lot of the content online includes misinformation and the misrepresentation of Korean women and Korean feminism (which is much more than just the 4B Movement). We pulled and analyzed thousands of posts from all across the web and ran a sentiment analysis, and just as we expected, this misrepresentation has created an overwhelmingly negative sentiment around the 4B Movement globally, especially in recent days.

The Truth About The South Korean Feminist 4B Movement - Does It Really Represent The General Korean Female Population?


What this “trend” is doing is sensationalizing and inadvertently faulting the 4B Movement as the root cause of the declining fertility rate of South Korea, just like most anti-feminist rhetoric in the country, and drawing attention away from the core issues that this Movement aims to highlight. It is not simply because women don’t want to have children as a retaliation against the patriarchy that the population is declining. The conversation is much more complex and nuanced than that.

It is because the Korean society does not have the right infrastructure to support its young people that the fertility rate keeps dropping. The 4B Movement, like several other Korean feminist movements, is a channel for women to fight against the system, uphold women’s rights, and create a safer country for them to live in. However, it’s not just women and, in particular, only those who agree with the 4B Movement, who suffer under this system, causing the fertility rate to fall.

Many Korean female influencers have recently come out to admit on social media that they do not agree with the 4B Movement, that it is still quite obscure in Korea, and most importantly, that they would still very much like to have a family in the future. However, it is simply not easy and their environment is not conducive to raising a family while growing and advancing as individuals. That is the truth about the 4B Movement.

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