The State of 2020s Korean Sexuality: Gyeong-ah’s Daughter and Coming to You

We lead growing proportions of our lives online, and this is even more true for young people, who face the daunting task of exploring their sexuality and relationships in an increasingly digital world. Lawmakers and the government in South Korea are way behind in understanding how to prevent and respond to gender-based violence using tech and in online spaces. It’s past time for them to catch up.

Heather Barr (Associate Director, Women’s Rights Division), “S. Korea is way behind in responding to digital sex crimes” (



In her book, Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again, subtitled ‘Women and Desire in the Age of Consent’, Katherine Angel debates the current situation of the past few years, especially since Me Too, in which ‘consent’ and ‘self-knowledge’ have become more important to women than anything else when it comes to sex. Unlike the 1960s and 70s in the West, and Korea in the 1990s, during which ‘liberation’ and ‘freedom’ were keywords, contemporary feminism is much more associated with hurt and violence. In other words, modern feminists don’t have space for desire and exploration of desire, and instead prioritise ‘safety’ and ‘transparency’. In particular, Korea’s notorious illegal filming (otherwise known as ‘Molka’) and revenge porn have become the key agenda for the country’s younger generation of feminists. That the primary concern of the ‘Hyehwa Station Feminist Protests’ – which played one of the central roles in young feminists’ self-identification and social realisation – was an insistence on a fair and impartial investigation of Molka, is proof of this.

Gyeong-ah’s Daughter captures this relationship between the sexuality and daily lives of 2020s’ young Korean women. The methods through which male violence has long since operated have gained greater destructive influence with the infiltration of digital technology, where the intimate time and space between lovers is no longer safe. When it comes to sex (and digital photography), women’s consent and self-knowledge is constantly brought into question, and women end up punishing themselves. The film depicts in detail how both the freedom and insecurity of sex and independence present an even greater threat to women’s lives with the introduction of digital technology. As the film’s title would suggest, not only is the digital sex crime victim, Yeon-su, important, but also her mother, Gyeong-ah, as well as the relationship between the two women. Through the mother’s perspective , the film reveals how  women’s lives are an endless string of turmoil and hurt in the space between freedom and safety, and that this was the same even before Me Too. On one hand, the film is a thoughtful consideration of the complex gender-based aspects of the ‘intimacy’ demanded of care worker Gyeong-ah and teacher Yeon-su (both of whose careers are considered ‘women’s professions’ in Korea). On the other hand, Gyeong-ah’s Daughter shows us in detail the dual-natured and complex aspects of the power and relationships that modern Korean women come up against.

Meanwhile, sexuality has become the centre of debate in Korean society through yet other means related to equality and discrimination. In 2007, Korea was on the verge of bringing in a historical ‘anti-discrimination law’. However, when the Ministry of Justice announced the upcoming legislation, they removed ‘sexuality’ from the anti-discrimination item, and following opposition from countless citizens and activists, the ‘ruined’ anti-discrimination law was not passed. Since then, there has been a push across society for the enactment of an ‘inclusive’ anti-discrimination law that incorporates sexuality, but entrenched homophobia has prevented this from happening. Coming to You – a documentary that tells of two ‘mums’ who, after their children’s coming-out, join the ‘Queer Children’s Parents Club’, and undergo self-transformation – captures scenes surrounding sexuality in Korean society. The film was produced by ‘PINKS’, a collective making documentaries tackling discrimination and injustice within Korean society, and director Byun Gyu-ri has said in multiple interviews that the biggest motivation for the film was to help bring about the enactment of an anti-discrimination law. Though Coming to You places the Queer Children’s Parents Club at the fore, what it considers most important (as the film’s opening proves) is giving voice to the minoritized individuals who have been rendered invisible all across society. I hope that audiences, much like the parents in the film, regardless of whether or not they are able to welcome the ‘coming’ out of these individuals, might experience a gradual change and become allies supporting minorities. In 2021, the anti-discrimination law once again failed to pass, and while the institutionalisation of anti-discrimination in Korea remains far off, Coming to You is a simple but tremendous ray of hope.


Hwang Miyojo, Seoul International Women’s Film Festival Programmer