Back on December 30 2021, Jin Myung Girls High School offered their students the opportunity to write letters to soldiers who are completing their mandatory military service. The school reportedly offered an hour of community service to the female students who participated in the activity.
While the high school attempted to create a thoughtful and encouraging act for the men serving in the military, the situation quickly went south when it was revealed that a few of the female students sent sarcastic letters filled with mockery and sarcasm.
The controversy arose on January 11, 2022 when one of the active duty soldiers uploaded a photo of a handwritten letter that was allegedly sent to him from a Jin Myung Girls High School student. While the soldier shared that most of the letters they received were “positive letters,” this specific one was filled with discouraging words that made him “lose motivation.”
To Mr. Soldier,
Hello, this is Jin Myung Girls High School.
Thank you for your service even in the cold weather.
Is your military service difficult? Nevertheless, I hope you live diligently:)
There are a lot of hardships that one has to face in their lifetime, so don’t you think you need to get over this [military service] to be considered a real man?
I had to participate in this stupid community service even though I’m f*cked as a senior in high school, so you should be working hard too.
[Slashed through] There’s a song in the army that they sing about being ‘born as a man blah blah (I was told to erase this part).
Anyways, fighting~ It’s cold so if it snows, be sure to work hard to clear it:)*
— Jin Myung Girls High School student
*In the wintertime, soldiers are forced to sweep and clean up all the snow on their base as a part of their training process. What makes this part of the letter so controversial is the fact that these soldiers are oftentimes not given proper snow clearing equipment, but rather brooms and other random objects to complete the task.
On Reddit, a netizen commented that this is like telling a sailor in the navy to “‘scrub the decks well'” or to “enjoy the sun while scrubbing those decks,” which is offensive and disrespectful to their service.
Following this soldier’s upload, a different soldier on Twitter uploaded the letter he had received from the all girls high school. The situation escalated as this time, the letter included references to sexual harassment, “reminding” the soldier to not “pick up dropped soap.” This is a common saying used to refer to the sexual abuse that men endure in prisons and is highly offensive.
The letter also mentioned “shine muscats”, which are expensive grapes that are currently coveted by the nation. This became an issue in this specific context because of its reference to feminists’ beliefs that mandatory service soldiers have it easy while serving their terms. The high school student wrote this to insinuate that the soldiers have it so easy in the military that they are spoiled with grand things, such as the shine muscat grapes.
To make this idea even more concrete, the original writer included in the letter a comparison between the easiness of the military service to the easiness of “eating honey.” While this phrase isn’t always used in an offensive way, it was specifically meant to offend the current soldiers serving in the army, commenting that the army is not as difficult as the men make it seem.
As the situation began to get out of hand, the Jin Myung Girls High School’s Office of Education stated that these letters were not written “out of coercion” but rather, an opportunity for “more community service hours.” However, the controversy had already become too large—what was originally intended to be an innocent opportunity for the students resulted in a full-blown gender war within the nation.
Following the letter reveals, a war between namchos (male dominated online communities) and yeochos (female dominated online communities) began, as they attacked one another while defending their position. Namchos called out the female high school students for their disrespect to the very soldiers who defended “not just the nation, but also the students of Jin Myung Girls High School.”
The situation only continued to heighten when it was revealed that some members of these male-dominated online communities engaged in extremely inappropriate behaviors as a response to the letters. According to different netizens, various men have responded to the letters with sexual harassment, going as far as sending the female high school students “condoms”….
Blue messager: “Apparently they sent things to Jin Myung Girls High School. They had to write their classroom numbers and other things so that the soldiers can respond to the letters. I guess others have been using that to send condoms and coming to the school.
Pink messager: “Sigh………”
Blue messager: “And they have been finding them on Facebook and requesting them.”
…while other men began to group up and rally together, with plans to go to the high school to “beat up” the female students.
First messenger: “Is it this?”
Second messenger: “Yup.”
Third messenger: “I’m going to go Jin Myung Girls High School tomorrow to find one of the girls and I’m going to beat her up.”
Members of these male-dominated online communities went even as far as making it their personal “missions” to drive the female high school students to take their own lives.
Yeochos retaliated in defense of the Jin Myung Girls High School students and their actions as the situation with the namcho communities grew out of hand. They began by blaming the high school itself and the teachers. Members of the yeochos claimed that it was wrong and inappropriate of the school to force “minors to write letters to the military,” especially since it was only the female high school students who were offered this opportunity.
- “Why would they even make the students write the letters in the first place? Especially at an all girls school…it’s so f*cking annoying.”
- “The school is pathetic. Why would they make them write the letters.”
- “Do they not realize what kind of generation this is..please come to your sense. Even if you are brainless, I can’t understand this.”
In addition to that, they directly responded to the namchos‘ claims that the mandatory military service is difficult and grueling. These female-dominated communities pointed out that the service is “nothing,” which did not sit well with the male population. This argument has been commonly used before amongst the nation’s feminists, which has resulted in previous controversies.
Other Jin Myung Girls High School students tried to de-escalate the situation by sharing different perspectives, such as proof that some letters were truly written “with sincerity.”
Not everybody wrote letters like that. Some wrote with sincerityㅠㅠ
— Unknown poster as seen on theqoo
However, this proved to be wasted efforts as the situation became worse once ordinary online netizens viewed the high school students’ letters online. Following the letter reveals, third party netizens also began to terrorize the two female students involved by stealing their personal information and photos—and spreading them online.
Furthermore, articles about the ongoing controversy have been filled with malicious comments targeting the high school students and the general female population of the nation. Comments, such as “I pray that something like Sewol Ferry’s accident will happen to Jin Myung Girls High School” and “I hope all the comfort women will be taken away after the war” could be found under different news articles and videos.
The ugliness of the situation didn’t end there. Jin Myung Girls High School’s reviews have become overwhelmed with 1-star reviews and comments, as abusive language criticizing the school, the students, and the teachers took over their websites.
As the controversy continued to escalate and become more dangerous for the female students involved, an anonymous netizen began to plead for help from fellow online netizens to ensure the students’ safety. The netizen uploaded several websites that others can go sign to stop the ongoing controversy, while asking for them to “help protect the students.”
Shortly after the controversy began making headlines, Jin Myung Girls High School released an official statement apologizing on behalf of the students. While they explained that the letters have been a part of their “educational experience” and tradition since 1961, they feel “apologetic for the ongoing situation” and are working on handling it internally.