Fashion designers have always been inspired by politics. And at a time when there’s so much political drama around the world to draw from, runways in cities from New York to Moscow and Seoul have been filled with clothing that makes more than just a sartorial statement.
During Seoul Fashion Week, one Korean designer, Gee Choon-hee of Miss Gee Collection, brought the #MeToo movement to her catwalk. Models wore sweatshirts and tees emblazoned with bright red and blue embroidered letters that read, “#MeToo,” “#Speak,” and “#WithYou.”
These bold statements come at an especially complicated time for South Korea as it is undergoes its own #MeToo movement. The first major case went public in January, when prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun came forward on national television with her own harassment story, accusing a former boss of groping her in 2010. Ji-hyun’s bravery ignited South Korea’s #MeToo movement, which has since witnessed numerous women from a myriad of professions come forth to share their stories.
Just a few weeks ago, Seoul saw one of its biggest rising political stars, Ahn Hee-jung, fall at the hands of #MeToo. Hee-jung served as the governor of South Chungcheong Province and has been described as a “Korean Black Obama.” This all changed when one of his former secretaries, Kim Ji-eun, came forward alleging that Hee-jung had raped her four times since last June. The accusation spurred a ripple effect that compelled Hee-jung to resign from his governorship and issue an apology to Ji-eun on Facebook. “It’s all my fault,” Ahn said in the Facebook post. “I want to tell Ms. Kim Ji-eun that I am really sorry. I am asking for forgiveness for my foolish behavior.”
In Korean culture, predatory sexual behavior is typically written off as “just the way things are,” and many women learn to look the other way. But this mindset is changing as more women are joining the workforce; rape culture in South Korea is finally being recognized as a national problem that needs to be remedied. South Korea’s president remained silent on the issue for quite a while, but he has since come out in support of #MeToo, signaling what is, hopefully, change in the air.
“This is a problem that has been festering so long it could have burst open anytime,” he said in a report by the New York Times, urging legal authorities to open criminal investigations into the growing number of sexual abuse cases. “I applaud those who had the courage to tell their stories.”
Above, see all of the political statements made at fashion weeks so far.