Korean women boycott spending on first Sunday of every month to expel ‘pink tax’
Women make a stand to halt industrywide gender discrimination
Published : Jul 3, 2018 - 15:44
Updated : Jul 3, 2018 - 15:46
A group of Korean women have decided to stop spending money on the first Sunday of every month, in a move to protest against gender discrimination.

The campaign, started by a Facebook group called “Female Expenditure Strike” (direct translation of the Korean title), hopes to raise awareness of the damage done by advertisements that objectify women, gender discrimination and the “pink tax,” which refers to the extra amount that women often pay for goods and services compared to men.

On Sunday, the group boycotted all types of spending -- including food and transportation -- aiming for zero expenditure in a day to show society that without female consumers, industries will suffer a considerable blow. It aims to continue the move on the first Sunday of every month. 

A women's group promotes strike against spending in demonstration of female economic power. (Female Expenditure Strike)
Sign reads "#FemaleExpenditureStrike," "EveryFirstSundayofMonth" and "When we stop, the world stops." (Female Expenditure Strike)

The group has more than 5,000 followers on Twitter and more than 300 on Facebook.

Those who took part in the boycott Sunday updated their social media accounts with photos of self-packed lunch boxes, canceled plans to eat out, and rides on bicycles to workplaces.

The idea originates from a women’s strike in Iceland in 1975, when 90 percent of women there stopped working for a day, including cooking and looking after children, under the slogan “When women stop, the world stops.”

Vigdis Finnbogadottir, a divorced single mother, who became the world’s first woman to be democratically elected as a head of state in 1980, credits the strike as what made her election possible in Iceland.

Finnbogadottir held her post for 16 years, and Icelandic children grew up thinking that being a president was a woman’s job, with Iceland becoming known as “the world’s most feminist country.”

In Korea, rather than pulling out from work, women have decided to show their economic power. Instead of ceasing work, they have chosen not to spend once a month. 

A sign shows an ongoing sale in Myeongdong, Seoul (Yonhap)

Under the Facebook group’s campaign, the money women save on this day goes to their savings, preferably in amounts that include the numerals 3 and 8, to indicate International Women’s Day on March 8. When choosing which bank to deposit the savings, the proportion of female to male employees a bank hires is a pertinent point for these boycotters.

Some have voiced complaints over merchandise targeting women to supposedly accentuate their “femininity,” such as suit jackets with fake pockets that are there just for aesthetic purposes. On the other hand, products for men usually focus on utility.

Wrinkle-free pants for men, for instance, are not only cheaper but are more utilitarian in terms of mobility and comfort. Citing this as a case of pink tax, women suggested online that they should purchase certain items from the men’s section instead.

School uniforms for female students are also criticized for being more figure-hugging than necessary compared to male versions.

“Since I started earning money, I have never been free of the effort to adorn my looks,” said a 29-year-old office worker in support of the new campaign, who declined to be named.

“This society indoctrinates the thought that women, regardless of how successful they are in their career, are without much worth if they are not appealing to male eyes,” she said, explaining why she decided to join the boycott.

“It’s about time that companies realize that they cannot continue to sell products while undermining women the way they do.”

By Lim Jeong-yeo (