New study examines #MeToo movement influence in Korea 


School of Kinesiology & Health Science Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair Antony Chum and a team of researchers examined how the #MeToo movement in South Korea impacted depressive symptoms among women with a history of sexual violence.  

The study, titled “Social Movement and Mental Health of Korean Women Sexual Violence Survivors, 2012-2019,” was published in the American Journal of Public Health on July 15.  

The study shows women with a history of sexual violence saw additional mental health benefits from the #MeToo movement, compared to women who did not have similar experiences. The findings show that the benefits of the #MeToo movement were consistent across social strata, suggesting that it is not a social movement that solely benefits women in privileged social positions.  

“I wanted to study the mental health impact of a movement, which advocates for solidarity with survivors of sexual violence, in South Korean society where victim blaming and misogyny has been notably widespread,” said Chungah Kim, post-doctoral researcher at the School of Kinesiology and Health Science. 

The research methods included a nationally representative sample (n=4429) of women aged 19 to 50 from the Korean Longitudinal Survey of Women and Families between 2012-19. A difference-in-differences model was used to estimate the within-person change in depressive symptoms attributable to the #MeToo movement across women with and without a history of sexual violence. Depressive symptoms were measured using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CESD) scale. 

Research shows the #MeToo movement led to a 1.64 decrease in CESD among women with a history of sexual violence relative to women without, after adjusting for potential confounders. Despite the progress of the #MeToo movement, there are still judicial and institutional problems that can re-victimize sexual violence survivors. 

“In 2017, the #MeToo movement drew our attention to sexual violence survivors and abuse across all segments of society. Since then, there has been waves of backlash against the movement, and in the wake of recent celebrity court cases, we are now seeing progress of the #MeToo movement eroding in the west. This study highlights #Metoo as an international solidarity movement and helps to shed light on how the movement have helped victims of sexual violence in the non-Western context. We hope that our results here can contribute to the reinvigoration of #Metoo as a global movement,” said Chum.  

Additional information about the study can be viewed online.