Pink outlines and a figure wearing a skirt mark the 'Women-Only' parking slots at the garage of the Seoul City Hall, in Seoul, South Korea on May 22, 2014.
How old can news be?
The reality of the news business these days is that if you are website, you have to move fast and attract as many eyeballs (read: clicks) as possible. The result is that sometimes the articles we read and share are not as accurate as they should, and sometimes they are just plain old — like five years old.
Take the case of the outrageous, sexist, women-only parking spots in Seoul, South Korea. You might have seen this story breathlessly covered in the past few days on theToday Show, The Huffington Post UK, The New York Daily News, the Daily Mail, The Independent, and Fusion, among many others. A search on Google News turns up hundreds or even thousands of hits.
Apparently, according to these reports, Seoul, in South Korea, just launched women-only parking spots — "she-spots," some call them — that are "larger," pink colored and adorned with female figures in miniskirts.
The truth, not surprisingly, is a little more complicated. For starters, these parking signs have been around for around five years, since 2009, part of a project by the government of Seoul to make the city more "women-friendly."
Oh, and they are not wider or larger than other parking spots.
"They are located near the entrances for to offer easy access for women and children," Lauren Suk, a spokesperson for the Seoul Metropolitan Government, told Mashable. "However, the size of the parking space is not typically large or expanded; it’s the same size as regular parking spaces."
It's hard to tell precisely why this story went viral this week, but the simple reason might be that nobody noticed the dateline of an article in the Korea Times and took an Australian car blog at face value.
Many posts simply link back to other posts without citing the original source. Even the the ones that include a link to the news story by Korea Times fail to note that that story is actually from May 20, 2009.
The origin of this mistake appears to be this post by Australian blog Motoring, dating May 20, 2014. Many news sites point to this post as the source of their own story.
Motoring doesn't link back to any other source. It does, however, quote an interview with Seoul's Assistant Mayor for Women and Family Affairs Cho Eun-hee with Korea Times. Her quote is taken verbatim from the 2009 Korea Times story — but there's no link, nor acknowledgement that the quote is 5 years old.
"Some of the issues discussed in the Australian website about Seoul’s women-only parking spaces are not true," Suk said.
The 2009 Korea Times explains that the Woman Friendly project is "to ensure the safety and convenience of female drivers" — not to discriminate them, a detail few outlets have noted in their coverage.
"Urban design was focused on males since they were the sole breadwinners," Cho said at the time. "For example, the hand straps on buses were previously adjusted to a male's average height, but we changed the height of the straps so more women can hold on to them easily.''
Seoul's Woman Friendly project, however, still manages to be a little creepy. What's up with the pink and the miniskirts? But it doesn't change the fact that these parking spaces are nothing new, and they are most definitely not wider than the regular ones.