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37-year-old S. Korean woman accused of stabbing 3 after being called ‘ajumma’

South Korea Railroad Police headquarters, subway
via 연합뉴스TV

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    South Korean police have requested an arrest warrant for a woman accused of stabbing three people on a subway after she got offended when they called her “ajumma.”

    The incident reportedly occurred inside a subway train en route to Jukjeon Station in Yongin, a city in Gyeonggi Province, on the Suin Bundang Line on Saturday.

    Authorities said the 37-year-old assailant, whose name was not revealed in the report, was talking on the phone when a woman asked her to lower her voice and referred to her as “ajumma.”

    Angered by the woman’s request, the assailant began attacking other passengers with a knife, injuring a man in his 50s and a woman in her 60s. While there were no reported fatalities, one of the victims had to undergo surgery for their injuries.

    The police are looking to charge the woman with “special violence” inflicted on another, which is similar to an aggravated assault charge that carries a jail sentence of one to 10 years.

    A person can be charged with “special violence” if they cause an injury using a deadly weapon.

    Although the woman was carrying a knife on board the subway train, a violation of South Korea’s Article 42 of the Railroad Safety Act, reports said authorities did not request charges for the transgression.

    Under the act, riders are forbidden from bringing with them any goods or substances that may harm other passengers or the general public, such as weapons, explosives, hazardous chemical substances or highly inflammable substances.

    The word “ajumma,” a casual way to refer to a middle-aged woman of no relation, has become an offensive term through the years.

    The word, which came from the more polite term “ajumeoni,” has reportedly developed a negative connotation that describes someone who can be seen as “aggressive” and “self-centered,” such as in scenarios where a middle-aged woman pushes another person out of the way.

    Ajumma has also become associated with the stereotypical appearance of a middle-aged woman, such as one with short, permed hair who wears a sun visor, according to The Korea Herald.

    Since the term has become a form of mockery, several companies in the past few years have reportedly chosen to forego the use of the word, including Hy — formerly known as Korea Yakult — in 2019, when the company announced that it would start calling its female sales staff “Fresh Managers” instead of “Yakult ajumma.”


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