Korea – homophobia, transphobia is violence

Today, May 17, is the day when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental diseases. It is also the International Day Against Homophobia. Today, LGBT people living in many countries around the world come out to the streets and rallies to convey the message that homophobia is violence that cannot be tolerated any longer.

Tragic events have occurred one after another across the world because of homophobia, causing hate crimes, including murder, assault, rape, torture, and threat, as well as bullying and degrading which sometimes leads to suicide.

Between 2008 and 2011, 680 transgendered people were subjected to “hate murder” in 50 countries. In Brazil, 3,196 homosexual persons were killed over a 30-year period.

In US, the number of crimes committed in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity expression was 1,617 during the year of 2008. Violence is committed not only by private people but also by the State. Homosexuality is criminalized in 76 countries and is punishable by death penalty or life sentence in 10 countries.

Korean society is no exception. Despite a previous belief to the contrary, homophobia is no longer hidden in Korean society. The conservative Christians explicitly, and increasingly, show their hates and oppositions against LGBT people and use it as a vehicle to display and boost their political power. Opposing to the clause in the Seoul Student Rights Ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, they took the offensive, claiming that “homosexuality should not be permitted in schools.” And, the Ministry of Education, Technology, and Science still attempts to interfere with the enforcement of the Ordinance, alleging that the Ordinance will cause chaos in schools.

The conservative Christians even succeeded in campaigning that “anywhere Lady Gaga goes, homosexuality is legalized,” causing her concert in Korea to be rated viewable only by over 18 years old. The Korean government and legislative agencies have kept silence and, even worse, echoed such homophobic remarks, suppressing the issue of human rights of LGBT people, frequently saying that “it is an issue of controversy.”

Their homophobic remarks are nothing more than an admission of irrationality and their ignorance. Nevertheless, they still exert their political power over the administrative and legislative agencies, spreading their propaganda “No left wings. They spread homosexuality.” Such propaganda by homophobic groups will continue unless it is firmly established that human rights of LGBT people are something that must be protected.

The conservative Christians are not the only homophobic individuals in our society. Article 92 of Military Penal Code includes as a punishable crime a consensual sexual contact between men.

The Ministry of Defense maintains the principle that military personnel who are known to be gay should be put on special supervision, which is mainly guided by prejudicial ideas against gays, including, for example, “special supervision is required over persons potentially identified as a gay in personality test,” “measures to prevent influx and spread of gays are needed in the military,” and “support will be provided for persons who wish conversion to heterosexual orientation.”

In addition, LGBT youth are isolated in schools. Rarely schools take any measures to protect LGBT youth from bullying and degrading. In addition, as is revealed from the recent incident where teenagers targeted transgendered people to commit group assaults and burglary, it is not unusual that LGBT people become victims to crimes particularly because they cannot easily disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to the authorities.

In March this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon delivered a historic speech, asking countries to immediately end discriminatory practices against LGBT people. It is already a common sense in the international society that LGBT rights are human rights.

However, Korean society still suffers the reality that no legal schemes are in place to promote human rights of LGBT people except for the National Human Rights Commission Act. The enactment of an anti-discrimination law that may lay a foundation for protection of human rights has been stalled because of homophobia.

Today, on this International Day Against Homophobia, we, Coalition for LGBT Human Rights “Rainbow Action” affirm that we will commit ourselves to fighting against homophobia and the visible and invisible violences against LGBT people that are prevalent everywhere in South Korea.

We will also commit to advocating for a legal system that would help end homophobia, including legislation of an anti-discrimination law, and thereby coming closer to the day when LGBT people can enjoy equal rights as a citizen of this country.

We look forward to your support and participation in our movement to fight for “Equal Love and Equal Human Beings.” Thank you

May 17, 2012
Seoul, S.Korea
Coalition for LGBT Human Rights “Rainbow Action”


  1. Trannygirl says

    Sparkling Korea Bristles with Homophobia and Bigotry (Gurye English Town)

    Forgive me, I have posted this on my blog, but I believe this spot is a more appropriate place for the below.

    As the first and only American transgender person that I know of working in South Korea as an English teacher, I feel compelled to speak about my own experiences as a person that has been victimized by similar abusive acts of bigotry to what Yie Eun-woong and the Anti-English Spectrum is engaged in. I have been working as a teacher in South Korea for about four and half years. I have come to Korea with much teaching experience and a graduate degree and education from, yes, one of the top three universities in America for my major. I am the longest serving and most senior level native English speaking teacher in the county of my employ. I have consistently received impeccable teacher evaluation each year I have been at my job.

    For the first three years of my job, I have truly had a fabulous working relationship with my co-workers and with the administrators of my program, and really loved my students and work. This all changed abruptly, immediately following the program being taken over by a new administrative staff, and them hiring a completely new group of co-teachers in my program. My former co-workers were all replaced with fundamentalist Christians who lived in the community near the school I worked in. One of which was the wife of a local conservative evangelical Christian minister of a very large church in the very small town I worked in. I went from hero to zero, overnight!

    At about this time, I began to notice shocking and frightening intrusions into my privacy, all occurring around the time, one of my co-teachers began telling me that I was angry at her, and that she was frightened of me!!!! Further, this co-teacher began to ask me usual personal questions about my private life and background that was not in the context of our relationship and that she had no official need to know. I remember her becoming angry with me because I could not give her the zip code to my former American address that I long forgot!!! Her then becoming angry, once again, because I renewed my visa at the Korean immigrations office that I have been going to for the last four years, instead of going to the immigrations office she wanted me to go to.

    The first thing that I noticed that was wrong was that things in my apartment were out of place, the frightened behavior of my little toy puddle puppy dog when I returned home from work, and that my personal papers and documents were searched and tampered with. Then, I noticed that many of my private documents regarding my personal history and background that qualified me for my teaching job in Korea were taken. I then noticed the memory disk of my digital camera that had some private and intimate photos of me was missing. I began to get many harassing phone calls, the rear tire on my motor bike was flattened nine times within a few months, the lock on the storage compartment of the motorbike was broken, my garbage was searched and picked throw, my e-mails accounts were hacked and tampered with, my e-mail address was used as an user name to post things on the Internet that would, at the very least, cause suspicion about me, my handbag was entered and its content was repeatedly tampered with and items were taken, my international phone card was stolen from my handbag while at work, my personal property at work was tampered with in such a way to deliberately remind me of these intrusions and to further frighten and harass me. On one occasion, as I entered my work place, and I discovered a clump of my light brown hair, hanging from the entrance light switch. I am the only westerner with light brown hair at my job. I began to notice the presence of the local police doing unusual and unlikely times and places. I was told by my local doctor that one of my co-teachers, and my supervisor came to his office with the local police demanding to see my medical files. I was stopped and questioned at the local train station about why I was there and where I was going. These things all began, from what I was told by a human rights investigator, after another native English speaking teacher in the small town I worked in outed me to my new Korean co-teachers.

    When I attempted to report these issues to my co-teachers, they became very angry and accused me of making them up and called me a lyre. On one occasion, one of my co-teachers, angrily demanded that I go to the police with her, not to report the harassment, but because I had made a false accusation. When I attempted, in a frightened and intimidated manner, to report what was happening to my supervisor, I was treated not as a victim, but as a whistle blower attempting to cause trouble. My superior’s response to my request for help was; “that someone needed to be fired”. There was absolutely no attempt by my co-teachers or superior to aid me in any way. There was just an unexplained angry, defensive and reactionary response. I remember on one occasion, going to work, and discovering that I was locked out. I have always had the keys to my work place. On this occasion, my co-worker had a cable type of bicycle lock tide around the handles of the entrance doors.

    These and many other things, all occurred in an environment of xenophobia, suspicion, passive aggression, and increasing anti social behavior towards me on the part of my co-teachers. When I sought help from outside Korean advocacy and human rights groups, I received little to no support, and this only inflamed the situation even further. I was told by the human rights organization that I contacted that they could not do anything because what was happening to me was a criminal, not a human rights issue!!!!

    My co-teacher’s behavior was no longer limited to passive aggression, but now it was, in your face, overt anger and hostility. Subsequently, this same co-teacher, threatened, for whatever reasons, (possibly believing that she had dug up some dirt on me) to report me to the Korean Immigration’s Office and the United States Embassy!!! Although, my work record has been exceptional and I have received very favorable teacher evaluations since I started this job, my job has been placed in great jeopardy and there is almost an absolute certainty that my employment contract for next year will not be renewed!!!

    After Leaving This Employer

    Since leaving my job with this employer, I have been cyber stalked. My e-mail and personal computer files regarding my complaint with a number of human rights organizations about my former employer have been deleted from my E-mail accounts. My computer and E-mail accounts have been aggressively and repeatedly hacked.

    • sfbaymeow says

      WOW! I’m sorry you experienced all that and I’m glad you posted this. I was thinking very seriously about moving over there. I don’t think I will now. I went through a similar meltdown in Texas. But GOD! the email accounts and destroying your docs? That would have me un-nerved, too–to the max! I would be planting hidden spy cams in my room from then on out to see what was really going down…

      I live in San Francisco, and even though there are a lot of t-friendly people here, there are still alot that aren’t and there are just enough of them to keep your joy stolen all the time. I can’t go to the GG Park, or most parts of the city. without being harassed at least once. I stay in my room all the time with dreams of leaving the US for a better more t-friendly place. A place I can feel safe in and enjoy the community like I did before I started my transition. I figured that an asian country would be good to go to since here the asian people never give me ANY problems, unlike the whites, latinos and blacks (who are the worst ones by far). Looks like I was wrong, so no, I don’w want to go into Korea to build a country that is going to let western intolerant religion tear me down like they did you. I’ll just have to keep looking to find someone who is going to treat me right. I REALLY appreciate your posting this!!

      So how did everything turn out? Has anything been resolved or has it gotten worse? Are you OK? Please reply, I would like to hear from you….

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