Park Na-rae, a comedian, grabbed a male doll, placed its plastic arm between its legs and made a suggestive remark.
By the standards of Western comedy, the stunt on her YouTube show in March would have hardly seemed offensive. But the skit became a scandal in her home country, South Korea. Legions of aggrieved young men accused her of sexual harassment. The police are investigating.
The scandal has made headlines for weeks and has threatened to inflict lasting damage on Ms. Park’s career, two years after she became the first female comedian from South Korea to host a Netflix special.
Her supporters say the outcry illustrates a double standard in a culture where men often brag about sexual conquests and where sexual harassment is endemic, but where women who dare to mention sex in public can be penalized.
suggested that women use sex to get jobs. Since he was punished for inappropriate comments, they argued, Ms. Park should be called to account, as well.
Lee Wonjae, a professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology who studies online, said that most of Ms. Park’s critics were not trolls from misogynistic, far-right websites, but ordinary men from mainstream society.
Professor Lee said that many young men in South Korea — which has one of the highest gender pay gaps in the developed world — feel threatened by certain gender trends and President Moon Jae-in’s attempts to push for gender equality. These men see women as growing competitors for jobs and gaining more bargaining power in the marriage market.
“Why are you going to support women more? Look at me: I’m doing my military service. What are you doing for me?” he said of how young men see their lot in life. “That is the message.” (Men in South Korea age 18 to 28 are required to serve in the military for about two years.)
Sexism is deeply entrenched in South Korea. There is an epidemic of men using hidden cameras to spy on women in public restrooms and changing rooms. Misogynistic posts are a defining feature of Reddit-like forums. “It’s everyday life, this kind of gender conflict, misogyny, backlash and hatred,” Dr. Mo said.
Park Won-soon, was one of many male politicians to be accused of sexual harassment. (He died by suicide last year.) And the Seoul authorities apologized this year after issuing guidelines that advised pregnant women to cook, clean and work on their appearances to ensure that their husbands still found them attractive.