In these times I really want to talk about LGTB in this world, it’s becoming more open yet increasingly hard to come out as either of these. Unlike what a lot of people in the western part of the world think not being “straight” is put under severe stress in Asia.
In South Korea same-sex sexual activity is legal however you can not marry or become one in any other form of legal partnership because it is not legal. The law states that no person should be discriminated against yet the military law calls sex between two males harassment or rape. Military court has made an appeal in 2010 to have this changed yet there hasn’t been any action for the change.
Military service is mandatory for all males in South Korea, when they enlist they have to go through a psychology test that include several questions about the sexual preference of the enlisted. If you are indeed gay, you will be labeled as having a Personality Disorder or Behavioural disability and will be either institutionalized or dishonorably discharged.
Even though Amnesty has been very active, the ‘Gay witch hunt’ still goes on in the military and most of the young men to have been in sexual contact in or outside of the compounds are charged with up to two years jail even if it was in mutual agreement.
The Supreme Court of South Korea has ruled that in order for a person to be eligible for a sex-change operation they must be over 20 years of age, single and without children. In the case of MTF (Male-to-Female) gender reassignment operations, the person must prove issues related to draft resolved by either serving or being exempted. On 22 June 2006, however the Supreme Court ruled that transgender individuals who had undergone successful sex reassignment surgery have the right to declare themselves in their new sex in all legal documents. This includes the right to request a correction of their gender-on-file in all public and government records such as the census registry.
On March 2013, the Seoul Western District Court ruled that five female-to-male transgender individuals can be registered as male without sex reassignment surgery.
Throughout Korean history Homosexuality was never illegal. There isn’t much or any mention of it in traditional literary it is known that there were several nobilities and monks who had been open about their sexuality. Two kings of the Goryeo era, King Mokjong and King Gongmin, kept “Wonchung” (male lovers) as “Little brother attendants” Chajewhi. Who served them as sexual partners.
During the Joseon Era before the Japanese annexation there were travelling theater groups known as namsandang which included underaged males called midong (beautiful boys). The troupes provided “various types of entertainment, including band music, song, masked dance, circus, and puppet plays,” sometimes with graphic representations of same-sex intercourse.
There are still a lot of LGTB people in Korea, Even while it’s a complete taboo and people will still look at people as if they’re shameful for being in love. There are still a couple of low profile gay clubs. Most of them located in international catering Itaewon, known as ‘Homo-Hill’. Though Jong-No has been catering non-western for a long time with same sex friendly shops, bars and other establishments. I do have to say that a lot of the gay bars/saunas/clubs will not allow women into their midst and I havent found anything strictly lesbian/bisexual yet.
Pride parades are also held every single year. In Daegu the first was in 2009 and Busan held it’s first pride parade in 2017. In July 2017, an estimated 85,000 people marched in the streets of Seoul in support of LGBT rights. The event was first held in 2000 and turnout has increased every year since then. In 2016, there were 50,000 attendees.
The Korean word for “homosexual” is Dongseongaeja (Hangul: 동성애자; Hanja: 同性愛者, “same-sex lover”). A less politically correct term is Dongseongyeonaeja (“동성연애자” 同性戀愛者). South Korean homosexuals however, make frequent use of the term ibanin (“이반인”; “異般人” also “二般人”) which can be translated as “different type person”, and is usually shortened to iban (“이반”; “異般”). The word is a direct play on the word ilban-in (일반인; 一般人) meaning “normal person” or “ordinary person”. In addition, English loanwords are used in South Korea to describe LGBTQ people. These words are simple transliterations of English words into hangeul: lesbian is lejeubieon or yeoseongae (레즈비언/여성애; 女性愛), gay is gei or namseongae (게이/남성애; 男性愛), queer is kuieo (퀴어), and transgender is teuraenseujendeo (트랜스젠더). Bisexual is “yangseongaeja” (양성애자; 兩性愛者). As of 2013, male bisexuality has only been studied once in the country.
Copied directly from wikipedia:
South Korea’s first gay-themed magazine, Buddy, launched in 1998 and several popular gay-themed commercials have also aired.
Paving the way for television was the 2005 South Korean film The King and the Clown, a gay-themed movie based on a court affair between a king and his male jester. The movie became the highest grossing in Korean film history, surpassing both Silmido and Taegukgi. The Korean title for The King and the Clown is “왕의 남자” which translates as “The King’s Man” with the implication that it refers to the man as being the King’s lover. Other recent movies include 2008 film A Frozen Flower (Korean: 쌍화점) and No Regret (Korean: 후회하지 않아) by celebrated director Leesong hee-il (Korean: 이송희일), which starred in the 2006 Busan International Film Festival.
Mainstream Korean television shows have begun to feature gay characters and themes. In 2010, the soap opera Life Is Beautiful (Korean: 인생은 아름다워) premiered on SBS broadcast TV, becoming the first prime-time drama to explore a gay male couple’s relationship as their unwitting families set them up on dates with women. That same year, Personal Taste (Korean: 개인의 취향, also “Personal Preference”) was broadcast on MBC and revolved around a straight man who pretends to be gay to become a woman’s roommate. Before these was Coming Out, which debuted on cable channel tvN in late night in 2008, in which a gay actor and straight actress counseled gays with publicly acknowledging their sexual orientation.
Openly LGBT entertainment figures include model and actress Harisu, a trans woman who makes frequent appearances in television.
Actor Hong Seok-cheon, after coming out in 2000 and being fired from her job has since returned to her acting career. She has appeared in several debate programs in support of gay rights.
Popular actor Kim Ji-hoo, who was openly gay, hanged himself on 8 October 2008. Police attributed his suicide to public prejudice against homosexuality.
“The Daughters of Bilitis” a KBS Drama Special about the lives of lesbian women, aired on 7 August 2011. Immediately after it aired, internet message boards lit up with outraged protesters who threatened to boycott the network. The production crew eventually shut down the online re-run service in four days after the broadcast.
“XY She,” a KBS Joy cable talk show about MTF transgender individuals, was virtually cancelled after its first episode due to public opposition. The network cited concern over attacks on MCs and other cast-members as the official reason for cancellation.
In 2013, movie director Kim Jho Kwang-soo and his partner Kim Seung-hwan became the first South Korean gay couple to publicly wed, although it was not a legally recognized marriage.
Korea’s opinion today
these days there’s been a shift among people’s opinions in Korea. In a poll that was taken recently a lot of the people want it to be less of a taboo; Significantly, there is a very large age gap on this issue: in 2013, 71% of South Koreans aged between 18 and 29 believed that homosexuality should be accepted, compared to only 16% of South Koreans aged 50 and over.
In April 2013, a Gallup poll, which was commissioned by a conservative Christian group, found that 25% of South Koreans supported same-sex marriage, while 67% opposed it and 8% did not know or answer. However, a May 2013 Ipsos poll found that 26% of respondents were in favor of same-sex marriage and another 31% supported other form of recognition for same-sex couples.
Don’t ever be afraid to love.
So maybe any time soon, this will be much more open in South Korea, let’s just hope and keep loving every single person.
I heard though that there is no need to be shy when you visit one of the gay bars in South Korea… go and have fun and send us the pictures and your stories!