South Korea has elected an incel, or so the headlines go. In a world that has seen both Donald Trump and Eric Zemmour on a presidential ballot, the election of the 61-year-old former prosecutor general is not terribly spicy—except, perhaps, that he campaigned on being an anti-feminist.
Even spicier, perhaps, was that more than half of South Korea said yes to Yoon Suk-yeol’s bid for the presidency—presumably, a large coalition of disgruntled males. By a narrow, 1 percent margin, Yoon defeated the liberal Democratic Party of Korea’s frontrunner Lee Jae-myung by promising to absolve Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, among other seemingly radical proposals.
Wrote S. Nathan Park at UnHerd back in February, when Yoon appeared to be gaining a lead: “Warning of the ‘totalitarian tendency’ of feminism and accusing the ruling Democratic Party of fixating on a ‘pro-woman agenda,’ Lee and his supporters have injected a jolt of energy into the South Korean Right.”
The last time conservatives held power in South Korea, it ended poorly for them. Park Geun-hye was the first female president of South Korea, and the first female popularly-elected head of state in East Asia, who also became the first impeached female president and later the first former female president to be convicted of corruption charges of the same. Perhaps it isn’t so surprising that when the party came back into national relevance, it cast its lot behind the opposite sex.
Yoon’s election didn’t fall along the more typical lines of conservative politics such as immigration, law and order, or cutting regulations. But neither is the resurgence of masculinity random, in a country that now has the lowest birth rate in the world after the Vatican City (0.84 births per woman) and a devastating marriage rate to back it up.
This decline is related to the phenomenon in South Korea since the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 in which young Koreans compete ruthlessly for prestigious high schools, colleges, and jobs in large corporations. In their feminized economy, not unlike a similar phenomenon observed in colleges and job markets in the United States, women continue to come out on top. Also like the U.S., the result has been fewer women interested in marriage, fewer men of marriageable status, and an increasing number of indicators that show politics falling along gendered lines.
As Park reported at UnHerd, while 37 percent of the population agreed with the statement “People must marry,” when polled, only 8 percent of young women agreed, and zero percent of self-identified feminists. For voters over the age of 50 years, the difference in party preference between men and women was minuscule; for voters in their 30s, and even more for those in their 20s, the divide between the two was 20 percent or higher.
Tensions between the sexes are heating up, and South Korea’s election is a harbinger of what we can expect to see in the United States if our own electoral politics don’t take a dramatic redirection on short notice. The real question now is if Yoon’s administration will lead the country to take a U-turn in marriage and birth rates, or if that ship has already sailed.
Editor’s Note: This piece initially referred to Yoon as a 36-year-old Harvard graduate. We regret the error. This post has been updated.