In South Korea There's a Witch-Hunt Against Female Game Developers who Align Themselves With Feminism

The sixth largest video game market is targeting female developers who are linked to women's rights groups, and gamers are calling the shots.

News by Matt Kim, .

Thanks to movements like #MeToo, sexism in the entertainment industry, including the video game industry, is being called out by consumers, creators, and the media. However, in Seoul, South Korea where gaming is a key entertainment market there are reports that a modern-day witch hunt is waging against women video game developers who align themselves with feminism.

According to a report by AFP News Agency, a controversy was kicked off in South Korea recently at Seoul-based video game company IMC Games. The company reportedly launched a probe into a female employee for supposedly holding "anti-social ideology." The accusation came after Twitter users found the female developer, Sung Hye-jin, followed several feminist groups on Twitter and retweeted a post which had a slang term for sexist men.

Twitter users called on the company to fire her, and called her a "cancer-like creature" that "followed a dirty ideology." It apparently was enough that IMC Games CEO Kim Hak-kyu addressed the complaints.

Sung apologized and vowed to unfollow the feminist groups. "I am so sorry that my reckless behavior caused such problems," Sung wrote on Twitter. Kim also announced that Sung will keep her job but he would "remain endlessly vigilant," against similar instances.

This kicked off a mass of condemnation from South Korean rights groups and the nation's top labor union against Kim and the investigation into Sung's Twitter activities. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions announced that, "This misogynistic action... has left many women in shock and fear." The organization also accused Kim and other game development studios of "thought policing" women employees.

Kim issued an apology for his actions after the trade unions called him out on his decision to investigate the female employee.

However this is not the first instance of what critics are referring to as a witch hunt in the South Korean video game industry. In 2016 Nexon fired a voice actress after she posted a photo of herself wearing a T-shirt that read "Girls do not need a prince," a T-shirt sold by the online feminist group Megalia.

Another studio in South Korea, Smilegate, declared last month that the company will remove images by female illustrators who are accused by gamers as being linked to women's rights groups.

Gamers are reportedly monitoring female developers to see whether any of their social media activities are about feminism or women's rights, and then threaten boycotts against the studio if they find anything.

One senior manager at an online game studio told AFT, "These gamers relentlessly attack whoever posts anything slightly related to women's rights issues, and label the person a Megalia supporter who should be sacked immediately." She added, "Game sales could go down very quickly if we don't cave in."

The games industry in the US has also been dealing with sexism rampant among the industry. At a DICE keynote this year, Microsoft head Phil Spencer declared that toxicity is a threat to the entire games industry.

It's not uncommon to hear about rape and abuse threats levied at women in the games industry. The situation exploded with gamergate in 2014 whose members took a hostile stance against supposed ethics in the games industry, but whose actions largely translated to threats against perceived enemies of gaming culture. And those targets were largely women.

The countering of sexual harassment in the games industry can be seen from several reports of various accusations of sexual harassment in several game related companies to varying results. Everywhere from French game studio Quantic Dream to US games media outlet IGN have been hit by allegations of misconduct.

But in South Korea the fight appears to be much tougher. One female CEO of a gaming company told AFP that Nexon's 2016 decision emboldened the "witch-hunt." She says, "It's common sense that one should not be punished at the workplace for personal beliefs that have nothing to do with work... But that common sense is not accepted at all in this industry right now, especially for women."

Header Image Source: IMC Games

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Comments 25

  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #1 WiIIyTheAntelope 5 months ago
    So after a small bit of investigation, it appears that Sung Hye Jin was being criticized for her activity in a group called Megalia. Which is about as much of a toxic and radical group as any could possibly get. Just a tiny bit of research shows me that among the favorite activities of this group are posting pictures of mutilated penises and mocking the men who died in the war. Seems to me like they aren't exactly the bastions of all that is good and just in the world as the article would make it seem. How curious. I'm sure that's just a coincidence.
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  • Avatar for rpgaymer #2 rpgaymer 5 months ago
    @WiIIyTheAntelope And after a bit more internet investigation, it's clear that Megalia is satire and a gender-swapped parody of similar anti-female web sites.

    Anyway, I agree that the article not mentioning the controversial aspects of Megalia is troubling, and it just fuels the fake news narrative when you omitt information like that. That's how you recognize a biased news article- not by the story itself, but by what it leaves out.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #3 VotesForCows 5 months ago
    Always another low that we gamers can stoop to, eh?
    When I was younger I used to have a really low opinion of football (soccer) mobs and hooligans. I could never have guessed back then that gaming would develop its own horribly prejudiced mobs too.
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  • Avatar for ericspratling56 #4 ericspratling56 5 months ago
    @WiIIyTheAntelope Interesting! However, after a couple minutes of Googling Sung Hye-jin's name I couldn't find anything to this effect. I found a bit about Megalia, but what little I did see seems to indicate its misandrist content is "satirical" (that is, it takes misogynist rants and switches out the pronouns to prove some kind of point).

    Can you share the links from what you're seeing? It wouldn't surprise me; if anything, it'd be almost comforting to learn that South Korea has the same "couch all critcism of your ugliness as bigotry" problems as the West does.
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  • Avatar for usgmatt #5 usgmatt 5 months ago
    @WiIIyTheAntelope Hi! Unpacking Megalia would've required a whole extra page of material on this news post. Unfortunately doing so would be venturing into a culture space we don't necessarily cover on USgamer.

    Here's a great report/commentary on Megalia
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #6 Flipsider99 5 months ago
    I definitely think that Sung Hye Jin shouldn't have been treated that way. I agree that it is "thought policing," definitely a huge overreaction to someone simply following some controversial twitters.

    "Witch hunting" seems to be going a bit far, though. The modern backlash against feminism is pretty understandable when there's just as much misandry going around as there used to be misogyny, and it's treated by so many people as completely invisible. Nobody should be harassed, but toxicity also need to be recognized.
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  • Avatar for terrytorres #7 terrytorres 5 months ago
    Isn't Megalia just 4chan for girls? You think gamers would get that.
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  • Avatar for Fourfoldroot #8 Fourfoldroot 5 months ago
    I find this article strangely lacking in detail. What did she say? Which ideological groups did she align herself with?

    This isn't to say there isn't a problem anywhere, but unless we are given the basic facts how can we put this instance in context? For all we know she said something terribly sexist and discriminatory and aligned with an extremist feminist group.

    Let's hear what she said. I'm sure it was completely innocent and then we can properly condemn those attacking her character.
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  • Avatar for Fourfoldroot #9 Fourfoldroot 5 months ago
    I don't personally think that putting one's article in the correct context should ever be outside of the remit of a writer, but thanks for being present and accountable anyway.
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  • Avatar for nerfviking #10 nerfviking 5 months ago
    I think it's pretty pertinent to point out that the "slang term for a sexist male" is literally translated as "Korean male bug", and is generally considered to be a slur against Korean men in general.

    Also, with regard to Megalia, here's a reddit r/GamerGhazi thread about some of the things they've done. It's most definitely gone far beyond "satire".

    For the record, GamerGhazi is about as anti-GamerGate and pro-feminism as you can possibly get.Edited April 2018 by nerfviking
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #11 Vonlenska 5 months ago
    So, I'm not Korean and don't speak Korean and don't know a whole lot about Megalia (so take with bucket of salt), but what little I've picked up from acquaintances who are/do is mostly about stuff like this; which, I don't know how exaggerated or twisted any of that is, but considering my sources for info have been Korean and Korean American feminists who've said much the same thing, I'm taking it at face value with the possibility of having to later put my foot in my mouth. It's not a good look. Even taken as satire, there's too much that's problematic there for it to fall under my personal umbrella of intersectional feminism, and would not want to be associated with rhetoric that potentially minimizes child abuse. That could be wrong, something might be lost in translation and it might be a case of in-group venting being taken for out-group attacking; that's a problem I've watched unfold multiple times across different axes in English speaking activist groups. I don't know; mirroring hateful rhetoric for the sake of venting gets sort of murky. Without deeper contextual understanding, I have no idea how to feel and don't entirely trust my gut level responses.

    Even so, it's not hard to imagine hoards of angry dudes who are outraged by the feminism more than the Megalia, and latch onto the latter as an excuse for harassing women over the former (or, you know, existing). That, unfortunately, just feels like business as usual. I'd love to see more articles on sexism in the Korean industry/games culture, since I've seen it more alluded to than directly addressed, even if it's probably depressing and upsetting. Edited April 2018 by Vonlenska
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  • Avatar for nahnotreallytho #12 nahnotreallytho 5 months ago
    @usgmatt That's an incredibly bad and biased article regarding Megalia, actually. It spends a cursory introduction listing the rampant bigotry and calls to violence on Megalia, and then uses the bulk of the article to attempt to rationalize that bigotry.

    "Yeah well other people said mean things too" and "they don't really mean it, I swear" do not hold water as excuses, when trying to defend statements like "abort all male babies" and "if your boss is male poison him with antifreeze", from an organization that uses a "he has a tiny penis" gesture as their site logo. Nevermind the laughable attempt to paint South Korea as a patriarchal dystopia, when they've had more women heads of state than the US has.

    The worst part? Even the incredibly biased article you've linked in an attempt to underplay what Megalia is guilty of, refers to it as an extremist feminist organization.

    This article however, mentions Megalia and refers to Megalia as simply "an online feminist group", as if a group that literally bases its logo around attacking men can be reasonably classified as that.

    Nobody is asking you to go into paragraphs about the toxic hate that Megalia puts out. They are saying you need to take your editing tools and go up there, fix your blatantly and intentionally misleading definition of Megalia, note your correction at the bottom, and take steps to make sure it isn't a chronic problem. Edited April 2018 by nahnotreallytho
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  • Avatar for Iliya-Moroumetz #13 Iliya-Moroumetz 5 months ago
    The fact this is just Korea-flavored Gamergate is disgusting on the surface.

    The last thing we need is another version of this because male gamers are thin skinned children who can't stand the idea of women making games that have their own opinion.
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  • Avatar for Equality4All #14 Equality4All 5 months ago
    I don't really understand how this can be considered 'countering of sexual harassment' or how that makes it a bad thing to stand against sexism. Megalia provides methods for killing your male boss, etc. I'm sure that's really funny but it's also something that doesn't really garner respect imo. I would be very hesitant to support such people myself, including in an article.

    Sexism isn't right both ways. I fully support Korea's caution and boycotting of actual people who join sexist groups like that but I really don't like witch hunts because they get out of hand and innocent people get into trouble.
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  • Avatar for nahnotreallytho #15 nahnotreallytho 5 months ago

    No, Megalia is not just 4chan for girls.

    4chan is a diverse imageboard which, through a dedication to open and unmoderated discussion, has allowed pockets of morally reprehensible communities to exist on it.

    Megalia bases its logo on attacking men, and is dedicated solely and specifically to anti-male bigotry. It is not "4chan for girls", it is "The Daily Stormer for Misandrists".
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  • Avatar for Iliya-Moroumetz #16 Iliya-Moroumetz 5 months ago
    @Equality4All You also don't realize how heavily conservative Korea is.

    When the #Metoo movement started, instead of actually addressing the problem head on, or even acknowledging it, there have been reports of demoting or outright removing women from work spaces to prevent the harassment from even happening in the first place.

    It's makes about as much sense as sealing your eyes with rubber cement to not watch something you don't like.
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  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #17 WiIIyTheAntelope 5 months ago
    @ericspratling56 It's nigh on impossible to find anything about it on google. I suggest And even then if you want to hear about the more risque stuff you'll need to create an account to set their age filter off. It's a right pain..and of course using the iffy at best online translators is always fun. But from the age filter on results (I won't link anything from the filter off results...I'll leave that dark path to anyone who wishes to seek it themselves) I came across this here.

    Suffice to say the commenter who likened it to the daily stormer isn't that far off.
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  • Avatar for FreakazoidRobot #18 FreakazoidRobot 5 months ago
    Two words: James DeMoore. What goes around, comes around. If feminists want to get people fired because they disagree with their political beliefs, guess what the consequences are going to be?Edited 3 times. Last edited April 2018 by FreakazoidRobot
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  • Avatar for MoogMasher #19 MoogMasher 5 months ago

    Hey, it doesn't help when you add your own brand of toxicity. Demonizing male gamers is just as bad as demonizing women as a group, so don't say things like "male gamers are thin skinned children who can't stand the idea of women making games that have their own opinion." It's not a good idea to throw fireworks into a charged topic, I expect a higher level of discourse on this site. Edited 2 times. Last edited April 2018 by MoogMasher
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  • Avatar for Iliya-Moroumetz #20 Iliya-Moroumetz 5 months ago
    @MoogMasher While point is taken, gamers have not done themselves much of a favor with how horribly they have been acting the past few years.

    Like, ya know, white, male streamers/pro-gamers who just can't not spew racial slurs. Or engage in sexual harassment.
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  • Avatar for MoogMasher #21 MoogMasher 5 months ago
    @Iliya-Moroumetz I don't think the point was taken enough. When you say "white males, streamers/pro-gamers who just can't not spew racial slurs" there's no reason to include the "white males" part except prejudice. You're painting a group of people with a broad brush in order to demonize their skin color / gender. Please don't do that. I don't like it when the alt-right does it to Mexicans or Muslims, either, and I'd say the exact same thing to them. Please don't be like them. Edited 2 times. Last edited April 2018 by MoogMasher
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  • Avatar for Iliya-Moroumetz #22 Iliya-Moroumetz 5 months ago
    @MoogMasher Unfortunately, the white male streamers seem to be the only ones doing that because they just can't keep their hands to themselves/using the 'N' word, despite their better judgement. Or at least they seem to be doing the majority of it. So, there was every reason to include 'white males'.

    Being critical of their poor behavior is not being prejudiced. It's a response to their poor judgement. And if they just can't handle the criticism, maybe they shouldn't be in front of the audience in the first place.

    And don't you #notallwhitemales me, because if it really bothers you that much, then maybe you're not as liberal/progressive/woke/whatever as you think you are.
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  • Avatar for MoogMasher #23 MoogMasher 5 months ago
    @Iliya-Moroumetz What I think is really "woke" is treating people the same, regardless of their skin color. If anyone had made the kind of statement you made about mexicans or muslims, you would rightfully chastize them for it. I think you still have some waking up to do of your own.
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  • Avatar for Zenity #24 Zenity 5 months ago
    @usgmatt Hi Matt,

    Using extreme satire to make a point reminds me of a popular site from the opposite spectrum: A voice for men. A site that is commonly condemned for its extreme expressions that are really quite shocking if you take them at face value rather than look at the context or read them as the satire they were intended as.

    Now personally I believe that neither following AVFM nor Megalia should ever be cause for firings or witch hunts, no matter how much we might disagree with their tactics or the positions they represent.

    However, this is a completely different issue from "gamers are hunting down female developer who support women rights groups". Clearly you can see that? By omitting this important detail completely, you are painting a picture of the Korean gaming culture that is excessively backwards and misogynistic, thus directly feeding into western-centric stereotypes of eastern culture.

    I hope you can do better than this, unfortunately the suspicion that this was done on purpose to generate faux outrage and generate clicks on the back of racist sentiments is hard to shake off.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #25 riderkicker 2 months ago
    @VotesForCows I can believe it. It's the ingrained tribalism that people use to define their masculinity or something. I mean look at what the business world is dealing with, especially when those "White Collar" jobs used to be in the realm of being less "manly" because the workers were thought to be doing something "physically less" strenuous. Look at it now, the tribalism has indeed gone to far, and they'll do anything they want to protect their power.
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