This month South Korean companies and the Seoul police have had to pull ads and other content after men’s rights groups claimed that “small p_eni$” symbols were used, insulting men.

The offending images show hands with the thumbs and the index fingers pinching towards each other illustrating the reaching out for an object.

But the gesture is also often used to indicate something small in size and in South Korea, it is associated with a strident, albeit now defunct, feminist group that used the image in its logo.

Exacerbating the problem, one ad and a menu involved were also advertising sausages.

Following its ad, South Korea’s largest convenience store chain, GS25, saw a handful of members from the men’s group “Man on Solidarity” protest outside the firm’s headquarters.

The group’s YouTube channel, which posts videos of its protests, has gained more than 200,000 subscribers in just two months.

GS25 withdrew its ad and fried chicken chain Genesis BBQ pulled its menu, issuing apologies and stating they had no intention to demean men.

Kakao Bank Corp has apologized for a hand-drawn similarly in one of its ads and the Seoul Metropolitan police also removed a hand from a road traffic ad saying it wanted to avoid any misunderstanding.

The controversy is the latest flare-up in long-running tension over gender rights in South Korea that has pitted men and women’s groups against each other and which has also resulted in police looking into whether female comedian Park Na-Rae broke any laws with a ribald joke made in March.

The joke on a YouTube video involving a Stretch Armstrong action figure whose arms were brought near his genital area resulted in a storm of complaints that a similar joke by a male comedian would never have been acceptable.

Park, 35, and her agency JDB Entertainment issued statements apologizing and her YouTube channel was scrapped.

Police are obligated to look into the matter after a complaint was filed on a website set up to address citizens’ grievances, though it remains unclear if charges will be filed.

Park and her agency did not respond to Reuter’s requests for comment on the potential police action.

Kim Garo, director of the women’s policy division at the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, said while the problems of misogyny and misandry were not new in South Korea, the recent targeting of companies and individuals was.

She said it was difficult for the government to interfere when protests took the form of consumer action but it would continue with outreach programs that invited young men and women to discuss issues such as gender equality and jobs.

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