June 15, 2021 08:32
More and more bathrooms are becoming gender-neutral in Korea. Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital in northeastern Seoul opened unisex bathrooms in February and the student union at Sungkonghoe University decided to open them on campus this summer.
The usual symbols for gents and ladies are disappearing too and being replaced by more politically correct ones. An educational facility in southwestern Seoul run by the Seoul Metropolitan Institute for Lifelong Education started the trend.
The biggest impetus comes from changing perceptions of gender and increasing awareness of minority rights. In a survey in February by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, many transgender Koreans said they try to drink less when they are out of the house in order to avoid having to use gender-specific bathrooms or to use no public toilets at all.
Building equal numbers of toilets for men and women creates long lines in front of ones used by ladies, so now "family" bathrooms are being increasingly built in highway rest areas. According to the Korea Expressway Corporation, 182 out of 199 highway rest stops have family bathrooms.
Gender-neutral bathrooms have been a feature of life in the U.S. and Europe since the 1990s, when the sitcom "Ally McBeal" blazed a trail. They reached the White House in 2015 during the Obama administration and are spreading to state government buildings and universities. A majority of public bathrooms in northern Europe are gender neutral, but some feminists warn that they are an open invitation for rapists, peeping Toms and other miscreants.
Chang Young-ho, an industrial art professor at Hongik University, said, "The emergence of gender-neutral bathrooms and family restrooms manifests a public responsibility to treat gender minorities equally."
Choi Chang-shik, a professor of architecture at Hanyang University, said, "I think the time has come to actively design buildings that consider the needs of minorities."
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