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South Korea is Testing Out an AI-based Gender Detector

The Seoul Metro announced its plans to pilot an AI-based gender detector program it developed, per South Korean outlet KBS as reported on April 20. 

The plan is slated to begin at the end of June and last for about six months, starting with the women’s restroom in Sinseol-dong Station. Plans for expansion will only begin once the reliability of the program is confirmed, the Seoul Metro said, per KBS.

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The AI-based gender detector is able to automatically detect a person’s gender, display CCTV images in pop-up form, and broadcast announcements, KBS reported, citing the Seoul Metro.

According to KBS, citing the Seoul Metro, the system is able to distinguish gender based on body shape, clothing, belongings, and behavioral patterns.

Taking into consideration that most subway station restroom cleaners are currently women, the corporation will be putting the installation of the program in men’s restrooms on hold, per KBS.

But some people are skeptical about the program.

“Do you think all women look exactly the same? Are you asking male-passing women to not use the restroom?” reads a tweet

“Can installing this at the women’s restroom really stop men from coming?” another tweet reads. 

According to KBS, the program was built as a preventive measure in response to a murder that took place in a metro station bathroom.

On September 14, a Seoul Metro employee fatally stabbed a 28-year-old female coworker in her 20s in the women’s restroom at Sindang Station. The man has been sentenced to 40 years in jail, per BBC.

Members of the public paid their respects to the victim with handwritten Post-it notes at the entrance of the restroom where the incident took place. 

“I want to be alive at the end of my workday,” reads one. “Is it too much to ask, to be safe to reject people I don’t like?” reads another, per BBC.

Following the incident, the Seoul Metro has been implementing various safety measures, including self-defense training for its workers and separating men’s and women’s restrooms in renovated public buildings, per KBS.