Episode1. Every year, every season, you can see some notice about sex crime on the SMU message board. These incidents are shocking and unbelievable for the victims and Sookmyungians as a whole. When things like this happen, Sookmyungians often reply with advice such as ‘take care.’ Eventually, women should keep their safety by themselves, although the law about curfew hour was removed from the books, some years ago.
Episode2. Lots of women have had an inconvenient experience due to a lack of public toilets in the city. Compared to men, women use the toilet more often. In particular, during her menstrual period, women use the restroom more frequently. The restroom is not only a toilet room, but also acts as a makeup room or, as the name would imply, a place to take a rest. For that reason, women need more toilets than men, but there are still not enough ladies’ toilets.
Episode3. When women walk on the road, sometimes their heel gets stuck in a storm drain of in a crack in the sidewalk. Women can easily become upset when they nearly lose their footing, break their heel, or injure their ankle or all three.
Do you think these episodes are only random, unfortunate episodes? For a long time, women have said, “Too bad, but it’s just one of those things.” However, some social activists and women assert that cities are made to cater to men. Because of that, cities are dangerous and inconvenient for women. Now, some cities should change to be more women-friendly. Finally, some governors have adopted some new proposals.
What Is a Women-Friendly City?
The feminist of North America brought up a concept about the women-friendly cities in 1970s. They said that the women-friendly cities have a safe, convenient, ease of access and comfortable environment. The campaign to walk the streets at night in safety occurred in Canada in 1981. This movement led to several social and economic policies for women in the 1990s. The concept of sustainable development was important agenda after United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, 1992 (Rio Earth Charter). Through the Rio Earth Charter, second-class citizen like women, disabled people, and children was highlighted. In 1994, several people realized that women were excluded not only as users of the city, but also as planners. Then, governors started projects to make cities consider women.
Shin Kyung-a, a scholar of women’s studies, said that, “The report about the equality of the sexes in cities was published in Korea. Now, the Ministry of Government Affairs and Home Affairs publishes a list of women-friendly cities every year. However, the results of the project have not been published yet. Some Ministry of Government Affairs and Home Affairs projects are nothing but estimates of local autonomous entities on the basis of personnel management about women officials.” And she added, “Therefore, the government has to build the system what women can participate in.”
Which Provinces Have Projects?
Most recently, the Seoul Metropolitan Government launched the ‘Happy Women’ project. The project has plans to make a ‘caring Seoul, working Seoul, rich Seoul, safe and comfortable Seoul.’ For that, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will invest a total 726.5 billion won for Happy Women project.
In case of Gimpo City in Gyeonggi-do, Gimpo had a similar plan to build new town for everyone including women, by 2010.
Gimpo announced this plan on April 23, this year. According to Korea Land Corporation, Gimpo city will spend about 15 billion won. This new town will be built in accordance with concept of the women-friendly cities. Gimpo city consulted Division of Regional Development of Hyupsung University, and completed a blueprint of women-friendly cities. Their motto is ‘the city with five5 factors (delicacy, comfortableness, neatness, beauty, and care), and without five factors (crime, accident, obstacle, stress, and worry).’
Changwon-si in Gyeongsangnam-do made public a plan on November 15, 2005, for making a women-friendly city. The Changwon plan will take effect over a five-year period culminating in 2010. For the policy, Changwon has invested about 11.7 billion won.
What is the Impact of the Policy?
There are some differences between cities. However, the plans of most cities are very similar. Most importantly, governments must keep all of their citizens safe. Because of that, parking lots exclusively for women will be built in Seoul. In 2007, the city authorities plan to spend 3.6 billion won to build 210 parking spaces only for women in seven facilities, including Garak and Gangseo Markets. And a total of 19 closed-circuit televisions (CCTV) networks will be installed at three underground public parking lots in Gaehwasan Station, Dobongsan Station and Hwagok Bus Garage, in Seoul, the second half of this year. And also, the government is going to be introduction a concept of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design for preventing crimes against women. To the semblance of Seoul, Gimpo city will install CCTVs, facilities for crime prevention, and lights at parking lots for women and every public facility, in Gimpo-si. Now women can get off the bus whenever they want at night and feel safer.
Each office and government takes effect for elevating the standard of welfare facilities, as follow. According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, a total of 37.2 billion won will be spent to add 468 toilets to public washroom for women by 2010. The government will take concern to keep road safety. There is a detailed account that quotes from the Seoul Metropolitan Government. “The work will include removal of curbstones where one section of sidewalk is linked with another and making sidewalk surfaces even and will affect 193 places this year.
The environment for 81 underground pedestrian passages and 117 underground vehicle passes will also be improved based on an on-site survey, including brighter lights, replacing old finishing materials and installation of transparent noise-blocking boards.” Likely, Gimpo city is going to regulate the sidewalk cracks in order to prevent falling into the holes, and use packing materials such as urethane for convenience of women who wear high heels.
In addition, the new town of Gimpo city will establish the first sporting area for health, a place where women can practice yoga and aerobic exercises safely in the park. They will also make overpass with gentle slopes so women won’t have worry about wearing a short mini skirt. It will install sturdy, scratch-resistant mirrors in parks, squares or public buildings. In addition, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will operate with parents in mind, especially mothers, and offer babysitting services at cultural facilities and daycare centers for free.
This is already happening in England. The English plan for women’s safety in big cities has been established. Women’s Design Services was organized with women architectures and women city planners to construct women-friendly streets. This project was led by John Prescott, the deputy Prime Minister. According to The Sunday Times, a journal of England one woman among 4 women was worried about being the victim of a sex crime.
One woman said that the downtown streets are unsafe and inconvenient. Shin Kyung-a said, “Maybe women-friendly cities are cities for everyone.” In the past, governors and planners made a lot of city plans without considering women. However, policies for women have steadily been promoted with the extension of women’s rights in Korea. In addition, many people seem to welcome these policies.