NTL: He touches the buttocks/thighs with his hand as he walks by

This is the second time this man has touched me while I was shopping at [a popular clothing store chain]. He is very discrete. He comes up behind women and touches their buttocks/thighs with his hand as he walks by. I was shocked and have had a very hard time responding both times. Later I saw him in the subway chatting up another foreign woman. I think I spooked him and as he was leaving I snapped the picture. I went and talked to the woman who said he was too forward and asked her too many personal questions.



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Chris: We were minding our own business.

Excerpt reposted from

I don’t know how or why it happened in the first place. We were minding our own business. We had been there for an hour or so just chatting, eating and drinking when one of the men from the other table threw a fit and asked the men from our group what their problem was and why they were staring at them. We weren’t even looking at them until he called our attention. My husband and his friend told him, “We’re good. We’re okay. We don’t want to bother you.”

They knew better than to give in to a drunk or should I say demented man’s provocation, so they acted like “real men” and said sorry though they weren’t doing anything wrong. That didn’t appease the schmuck. He kept verbally harassing us.

Instead of telling him to stop, his companions, also intoxicated, joined in. I asked my husband if there was something he or his friend said that enraged everyone at that table. He told me,”They’re just drunk. Don’t mind them.” That time, I was starting to get nervous (and upset), but my husband assured me that as long as we don’t say anything to offend them, they would eventually stop badgering us, so we ignored them.

To everyone’s shock, the woman the drunk men kept calling 이모 (aunt) hurled a pack of cigarettes and a lighter at us. I don’t know which of those hit me, but I felt something brush against my shoulder. I wasn’t hurt, but what she did was soooooo rude and uncalled for that I couldn’t let it pass. I looked at her furiously while she kept swearing. My female friend could not contain her annoyance, “What’s wrong with her? Is she crazy?” Her husband’s face turned so red it looked like he was ready to explode with anger, but the man’s a saint for trying to keep his cool even after the throwing incident. He told the drunk men to go outside with him and talk things through, but the moment they got up, they started shoving him and my husband.

This is when the restaurant owner and another man stepped in. All of the men went out, while my friend and I stayed inside. The woman’s incessant cursing continued. She stood right in front of me, calling me names. Even when the restaurant owner’s wife intervened and my female friend told her to stop, she wouldn’t let up.

I couldn’t tolerate her anymore. I just had to tell her what a pain in the neck she was. “You have no manners!” I remember telling her over and over again. She hollered “Sharrop!” (Shut up!) in my face and pushed me pretty hard that I fell back in my chair. I was petrified! My friend came to my defense, telling her to leave us alone, but the more she became belligerent.

While she was cussing, I stood up and threw a glass of soda in her face. I guess she didn’t see that coming.

She was going to hit me, but my husband came back to see what was going on inside, and was able to restrain her. She was totally out of control! My husband had to hold her hands, because she kept hitting him in the chest. She was struggling to get back inside to grab me, but my husband was able to push her out of the door.

My friend and I were told to stay inside, but when we heard commotion outside, we went out to check if our husbands were all right. The “crazy” woman was yelling and telling her companions that I threw soda in her face. When I went out, one of the drunk men came towards me and asked me if I was the one who threw soda in his aunt’s face. I said, “Yes, I threw soda in her face, because she hurt me!” My husband managed to pull him away from me before he could harm me. I think he was trying to reason with the man, but he pushed him against the wall and tried to punch him. After several attempts to calmly resolve the conflict, but to no avail, my husband fought back.

As I was shouting, “Ya! Ya! Stop it!” and my friend was urging others to break up the fight, the woman attacked me. She pulled my hair and hit me in the head multiple times. I was screaming and covering my face, and when I finally got the chance, I turned around, pulled her hair, too, and kicked her. My friend grabbed her and was trying to pull her away from me, but she wouldn’t let go of my hair. I kept kicking her, but man, was she tough! The other customers, mostly men, came to the rescue. My husband and his friend were dealing with the other mutton-heads, so they probably didn’t notice what was happening to us.

I was trembling with anger. My friend tried to console me, “Are you okay? She’s crazy! Really, really crazy!”

We had barely recovered from shock when the woman attacked me again, but before she could grab hold of my hair, I managed to grasp both her hands and I squeezed them so hard I thought I was going to break them. “Don’t touch me again!” I told her. She yelled in my face and kicked me. She was going to kick me the second time, but I pushed her away from me. I turned my back on her and was going to walk away, but she grabbed me by the hair. My friend tried to defend me by pulling the woman’s hair and telling her to let go of me. She did let go of me, but she took her anger out on my friend. She grabbed her by the hair like what she did to me and dragged her to the ground. I tried smacking her hands and kicking her, so she would let go of my friend, but she held on tighter. My friend couldn’t fight back, because she was pinned down. I kept kicking the woman as hard as I could. I’m pretty sure I was hurting her, but maybe she was too intoxicated to feel it that time. The restaurant owner and his wife were telling her to let go, but she wouldn’t listen. I pulled her hair as tight as I possibly could and I was shouting, “Let go of her and I’ll let go of your hair!”

A man pulled me away and brought me to the restaurant. The restaurant owner’s wife locked the door and told me to stay inside. “How about my friend?” I asked her, but she didn’t reply.

A young man went inside using the other entrance. He was instructed to lock it, too. I was terrified. I could hear my friend crying and screaming. I was telling them, ”Do something! Call the police!” but they just looked at me. I wanted to go out to help my friend, but the restaurant owner’s wife stood by the door, and told me, “No, no.” I saw the restaurant owner trying to help my friend, but the woman would not let go.

Finally, my husband and his friend saw what was happening and rushed to my friend’s aid. The woman was diabolic! She wasn’t just pulling my friend’s hair, she was beating her up! I saw my husband press his knee against the woman’s back, so she couldn’t move, and then he held her wrists, so she’d loosen her grip on my friend’s hair. My friend was able to wriggle free and run to the door. She called the police. She was crying the whole time and complaining of a headache. I felt so sorry for her. She wasn’t supposed to get hurt. She was just trying to defend me.

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Mr. & Mrs. Kim 3: Staring, Leering, Following, Body Ridicule

I asked my husband if he could remember when the staring really started to bother me.  I’ve been in Korea
since September of 2009.  For most of my first two years in Korea I hadn’t been all that bothered by staring.  It
could be uncomfortable at times, but I gave people the benefit of the doubt.  I assumed they were just curious.
There were several factors that led to my decreased tolerance for people’s staring.  The most significant factor
was my changing perception of Korea via the relationship with my husband (then boyfriend.)  We met at my
school during the second semester of my first contract.  He worked at my school as an intern for one month to
complete his teaching degree.  We became friendly while he worked at my school and began dating a few
months later.

As we got to know one another better and began sharing more of our lives with one another, he helped me
understand which behaviors were considered acceptable and which were considered rude or otherwise
problematic in Korean society.  He worried that I was too accepting/ forgiving about some things and too critical
of others.  We were already aware that white, Western female ­ Korean male couples are not as common as
other multicultural couples in Korea.  So, we weren’t surprised to find that people watch us everywhere we go.
We weren’t threatened by it at first.  We were too busy being caught up in the novelty of our relationship’s
newness.  We were also too busy trying to communicate.  (Neither of us spoke much of the other’s language in
the beginning.)

After we settled into our relationship and began establishing routines, we started to notice a difference in the
way people watch us.  The vast majority will steal looks.  If we look back at them, they’ll look away.  Often, they’ll
comically pretend to have been looking in some other direction.  This constant attention can be annoying, but
it’s mostly harmless.

We also get a lot of older men and women who will stare.  Shamelessly.  Unapologetically.  They’ll watch us
come and go.  Many of them will look my body up and down.  When we look back at these people, they won’t
look away.  They don’t seem to care if we are bothered.  It feels judgemental (at best) and intimidating.  My
husband got in the habit of trying to offset people’s staring by stopping and staring back at them.  From the first
time he did it, I was terribly anxious.  I’m from a white, middle­class, southern American family.  Confrontation
and anger are often discouraged.  So, I wasn’t emotionally prepared for all the confrontations we’ve faced.

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Mr. & Mrs. Kim 2: Groping

Groping usually occurs on the subway or bus.
An (usually) older man will sit next to me and spread his legs a
little too wide for common comfort.  He’ll brush my thigh with his.  I’ll squeeze myself together to avoid the
already unnecessary contact.  (I consider it unnecessary when the train or bus isn’t so crowded that everyone
is forced to touch one another ­ such as the times when they are few people standing because of enough
seats.)  He’ll spread himself out more.  I’ll squeeze myself in more.  Sometimes, I’ll be sitting so rigidly that my
muscles begin to burn from the tension.  I’ve learned, though, that if I don’t move my body out of their way, they
take it as some unspoken consent to continue grazing my thigh.  A few even attempt to graze my waist or
breast with their hands or elbows.  I could get up and move, but I usually end up trading groping for staring.
Staring isn’t always easier to ignore or avoid.

I was also groped while on a school trip to Yeosu last year.  I was trying to get off a tram at a park we were
visiting.  There was a group of older women and a man on the bench across from me.  I had dropped my
camera case on the seat, and the man decided the best way to get my attention was to slap my ass.  I turned
on him, and shouted, “Don’t touch me!”  The other teachers I’d been riding with found it mildly amusing.  I didn’t.
Neither did my husband (then fiance)  when I called to tell him about it that evening.  He was upset, because he
was already accustomed to how people ­ particularly older men ­ behave around me.  He was frustrated that I
was over 5 hours away from him.  There was nothing he could do.  I didn’t really need him to do anything but
listen to me vent.

Groping is not the most stressful harassment I deal with.  As of yet, it hasn’t been so intrusive as to make me
feel afraid for my safety.  I make sure the offender knows I’m aware of his behavior, and they usually stop.  I do, however, fear what might happen if I were to call someone out on for it. I have a huge fear of retaliation, not only

from the harasser, but from bystanders as well.  The “bad” foreigner narratives that permeate Korean society
make me feel that no one would believe me and might actually become aggressive towards me.

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Hollaback! Korea Team Interview in Busan Haps Magazine






Sexual harassment is a global problem that cannot be ignored. With the recent founding of a Korean chapter of the international group Hollaback!, women, and even men on the peninsula, have somewhere to turn for support.

SEOUL, South Korea – All too often women and girls around the world are sexually harassed on their way to work, on their way home, and even on their way to middle school. It’s a problem in Korea as well, with a 2010 survey finding that four in ten Korean commuters experienced sexual harassment on public transport. One of the four were men.

However, the days of simply putting up with it are over, with a number of organizations now providing Koreans and expats alike with the support, tools, and resources to help raise awareness and fight back against their harassers.

One such organization at the forefront of the fight is Hollaback! Launched in 2005 in New York, Hollaback! is a photoblog and grassroots initiative that seeks to raise awareness about and combat street harassment by posting photographs and narrative accounts victim’s encounters with offenders.

… read the rest of the interview at Busan Haps



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Mr. & Mrs. Kim 1: Unprovoked Hostility

I can remember two incidents of unprovoked hostility occurring within my first six months living in Korea.
Although they felt threatening at the time, I didn’t give them much thought after the fact.  The first incident
happened in front of Incheon station (the station closest to my school.)  I had just gotten off of the bus and was
waiting to cros the street for the station. There was an older man on the other side of the street waiting to
cross.  I’d never seen him before.  He looked angry.  He was yelling and waving his hands around.  I didn’t really
pay him any attention at first, but I realized that he was looking at and pointing to me.  A couple of my students
were standing around me, so I asked them what the man was saying.  They looked at each other and shifted
their weight like they were uncomfortable.  They told me they didn’t want to say.  A man standing beside me
happened to speak English.  He told me to ignore the other man, because he was saying “bad things”.  As I
crossed the street to the train station, I careful to avoid him.  The man was crossing in my direction, holding his
umbrella as if he wanted to hit me with it.  I still have no idea why.  It was intimidating; however, since I never
saw him again after that, I just didn’t think much of it.

The second incident occurred on a bus.  I was riding with a Korean girlfriend.  A man looked at me and
immediately began speaking loudly and aggressively.  I got the feeling that he was upset and wanted everyone
to hear.  I could understand the word “America”, but I didn’t know enough Korean to catch anything else.  I
asked my friend if the man’s impromptu speech had anything to do with me.  She laughed nervously, and said
yes.  However, she wouldn’t tell me what the problem was.  She only said he appeared to have some mental
problem.  Like the incident with the other man, I was uneasy he might become violent; however, after parting
ways without further escalation, I just passed it off as an uncommon situation.

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Anon: He unbuckled and unzipped his pants

I spent my Friday evening at a nearby friend’s apartment. Just after 1 am, I left to take the five-minute walk to my home, with a nearly full bottle of wine in my hand. I usually feel incredibly safe in my neighborhood no matter what time of day or night, but for some reason I felt a little uncomfortable. I picked up my pace a bit, and eventually I crossed the street so that I was on the side of the road with my apartment building. There was a man walking in the same direction as me on the street, but he was a significant distance behind me.
I rounded the corner into my apartment complex and headed into my apartment building, safe at last. I pressed the button to go to the 14th floor and began to unzip my jacket and take off my gloves, nearly home.
As I took off my gloves, though, I realized that I was no longer alone. A man who looked to be in his late 30s and just under my height of 181-182cm had just rushed into the elevator. He pushed the number 15, the only floor above mine. I didn’t recognize him as anyone I knew from the building and I was a little confused. There are only 2 apartments per floor and I could only recall an elderly couple on the floor above mine.
I tensed a little as he unzipped his navy padded jacket, especially as I rarely see people adjust their outerwear in public, but I reasoned that I had already done the same, and that he must also be eager to get home. Then, though, he turned his body a little away from mine and towards the mirrored elevator wall. He began to clear his throat and unbuckled and unzipped his pants.
Terrified, I stumbled in Korean, “뭐 해요?” (What are you doing?)
Surprised, he turned to look at me with his honey brown eyes, pants still undone, and said, “한국말 잘 하시네요!”(You speak Korean well!).
I was frozen, unsure what his next move would be. It suddenly became clear that he followed me in to molest me in some way. I tried to calculate if I should press a faster approaching floor’s button and escape, but I could barely register anything beyond my discomfort, the potential consequences of my next actions flashing through my mind.
He then touched my wine bottle nonchalantly, asking, “와인 있어요?” (Do you have wine?)
I must have made a response, as he followed with “와인 좋아요?” (Do you like wine?)
After what felt like eons of apprehension, the elevator arrived on the 14th floor. I hurried out to punch in my door code, fumbling one, two, three times in my effort to keep an eye on the elevator in case its doors opened once more. I was finally successful in my attempts, and I turned quickly inside my home and watched, wide-eyed, as the elevator went back down, having never made it to the 15th floor.
Although the man never actually exposed himself to me, I felt immensely violated. This stranger who made me feel powerless now knows where I live, and he was audacious enough to put himself in a small, enclosed space with me to try and carry out his desires.
The next day, I told some Korean people close to me. We went to the apartment complex’s front office and watched the disturbing incident play out again on CCTV. Together, we called the police and filed a report. Though I feel a large amount of stress and tension in the area around my apartment, I do feel a little empowered by the police officers and people in my community who were supportive of me in this ordeal. I sincerely hope this man does not cause this sort of harm on me or anyone else again.

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Korea Herald: Hollaback! rallies against harassment

Hollaback! rallies against harassment

Hollaback Korea Seoul Launch Party Team 2

Lisa Betham said she still finds it hard to shake off being groped on the street of Boryeong, South Chungcheong Province, during the city’s mud festival one year.

As she and a friend were walking back along the beach to the motel, a group of men headed toward them, shouting in Korean. Only when they had approached did Betham realize they were just distracting her so one of them could grab her crotch.

“They walked off, laughing and clearly proud of what happened,” said Betham. “I did not seek help as I didn’t know there was any available. I was shocked after the incident but not surprised by it ― I had heard a lot of stories from my friends about groping and sexual harassment here in Korea.”

That was neither the first nor last time she had been harassed in Korea, she said. That’s why she has got involved in projects to end sexual harassment, most recently the newly launched Korea chapter of Hollaback!, a worldwide movement that has spread to 71 cities in 24 countries.

“Personally I have endured, like many, frequent glaring and creepy advances from strange men. I have had a taxi driver withhold my change until I made it very clear I was not a prostitute whilst he stared at my legs,” said Betham, who is based in Seosan, South Chungcheong Province. “After setting up a forum for people to talk about their experiences I learned that this is a widespread problem, affecting a large number of people I know.”

Four months in the making, Hollaback! Korea launched its website on Dec. 3 with 23 volunteers across the country, all of whom are involved in other common causes. Group members are Koreans and expats, of both genders and all sexual orientations, said site leader Chelle Mille.

Hollaback! aims to build a community of support by allowing harassment victims to share testimonies and encouragement with each other.

“It is already supporting those that come forward,” said Mille, who herself was harassed near her school last month on her way to a Hollaback! meeting, and posted an account of her experience on the site soon after.

“I feel very isolated by harassment and usually dwell on it all day; sometimes I even blame myself. This time, there was an online community of over 300 people and within minutes people were supporting me. It helped me to cope with the incident and to get back to work.”

In Seoul, Mille experiences the most harassment on or near the subway or bus, she said. She was once followed through train cars full of passengers, attempting to flee a harasser, but was unable to shake him off until she ran out of the station, she said.

“I was able to ask fellow commuters for help, but didn’t get any,” she said.

Cases like this are not isolated, as 4 in 10 salaried workers have been harassed while commuting on the subway, she noted, citing a 2010 survey from the Korean job portal Career. Of them, 8 in 10 were women.

It is public incidences like these that Hollaback! especially aims to eradicate. Street harassment can happen on subways or streets. It can come in the form of cat calls or, as some users on Hollaback!’s site attested, public groping or harassers pursuing them as they were jogging or waiting for the bus.

One of its main first-year goals is to encourage bystander awareness and intervention by educating the public, both online and at events, on ways to stop harassment when they see it. The website includes advice on how to intervene, as well as a list of resources of where to get help after experiencing harassment.

The website also features a map that lets users pinpoint locations where they’ve experienced or witnessed harassment, and organizers plan to identify high-incident spots and campaign there to raise neighborhood awareness. Hollaback! also aims to compile reports with other rights groups to help police and policymakers improve public safety.

“This project is about reminding us all that we are not alone and that there are resources we have a right to use in order to address harassment,” she said.

Hollaback! has held launch parties in Jeju and Gwangju, and is building a strong online base in Daejeon and Seosan. It will hold another launch party at Yogiga in Hapjeong, Seoul, Saturday, from 7-10 p.m. Organizers will set up an area for audience members to write messages to “holla back at harassers and bystanders in their lives,” said Mille.

For more information, find Hollaback! Korea on Facebook or visit

By Elaine Ramirez (


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