Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth
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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

South Korea Is Getting Very Good at Taking Down Powerful Assholes

Successfully exiling the elites? No idea what that's like.

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Civil society organizations, on the 114th anniversary of World Women’s Day, held press conferences and rallies and demanded women’s labor rights and childcare burdens on March 8, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea.
Civil society organizations, on the 114th anniversary of World Women’s Day, held press conferences and rallies and demanded women’s labor rights and childcare burdens on March 8, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea.

Here in America, land of the school shootings and home of a police state, we regularly let powerful assholes bounce back from their misdeeds like a paddle ball. It doesn’t matter if that misdeed is sexual assault, bribery, verbally or physically abusing workers, insider trading, or perhaps inciting a little insurrection. No matter how many times we try to launch them into the sun, he (because nine times out of ten that motherfucker is a “he”) just keeps coming back to the land of the societally blessed, attached by a string that is—metaphorically speaking—an unthinkable amount of wealth. Whatever system of justice or punishment we have in this country doesn’t seem to be working. Okay, fine, it only “works” as intended when it means putting innocent Black and Brown people in prison. So, perhaps we should be taking cues from South Korea instead.

According to the New York Times, South Koreans have created and successfully implemented a new word for the extreme and horrifyingly common abuses the country’s elites have long hurdled at the people who work for them: “gapjil.” The word is a combination of “gap,” meaning people with power, and “eul,” meaning abuse. An institutionally stratified nation, South Korea has one of the longest workweeks of nations in power and sorts its people into classes. When one’s social status is entirely dependent on a job title or income level, those in power are enabled to treat the classes sometimes literally beneath them like servants rather than dignified employees.

Examples of “gapjil” include: The 10-year-old heiress threatening to fire her chauffeur for being “spoiled.” A boss making a corporate employee pick up their dog’s shit. The daughter of a former Korean Air chairman forcing a passenger jet to return to its gate at JFK because she “didn’t like the way the macadamia nuts were served to her in first class.” The billionaire son of Apartheid-related emerald mine owners sexually propositioning a flight attendant on his private jet, only to bribe her to stay silent. Oh, wait. Oops, that last one was right here in our country ‘tis of thee, and that man is still running two (maybe three!) of America’s wealthiest companies.

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South Korean citizens have been set ablaze by the idea of attacking and abolishing gapjil offenders, sending their billionaire overlords running for the woods with tinkle puddles trailing behind them. In the same Times report, they note how there are now websites, banners, bathroom stickers, government agencies, and even police departments offering “gapjil hotlines” in hopes of inspiring uprisings among the underpaid, overworked, and regularly abused lower and middle classes. Perhaps they’ll clock these images and find the courage to point fingers at their bosses for being astronomically entitled and shriveled dick-wads. College students are even taking advantage of the #MeToo-reminsicent movement by outing “gapjil professors” they’ve claimed have sexually harassed them on campus.

“I hated it when they seemed to have nothing to do other than going around the office commenting on female workers’ clothes, saying that we could not get married because of the way we dressed,” one woman told the Times of her decision to quit her corporate job.

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The word and subsequent movement, says the Times, comes from a “mistrust of the justice system” where courts regularly fail to sentence wealthy business people. A sentence that triggered me straight to hell. But, “Now, when someone says to an authority figure, ‘Are you doing gapjil to me?’ the accusation packs a punch,” another individual told the paper.

Mirroring the swell of pro-union sentiments and the resurgence of the labor movement here in the US, it seems South Korean workers have also had enough of being treated like yesterday’s trash. To them I say, show NO mercy.