South Korea, with the conservative politics of the region, is certainly not a bastion for the LGBT rights movement. It was only in 1994 when the LGBT community in the region first heard about the Stonewall riots in US, sparking movement and activism across the country.
While homosexuality isn’t illegal in the region, marriage equality is still a faraway goal. This past June, a rally was held to push the district court to take up same-sex marriage. A 2013 Pew Research Survey showed that 39% of South Korea’s population believed homosexuality to be acceptable, which while not a majority, is up from the 18% of the population who agreed with that statement six years prior. In an Associated Press interview, nine South Korean members of the LGBT community shared their stories of what it is like to live in the region.
From stories such as that of Park Young-jae, who didn’t know the LGBT community existed until having access to the internet, and whose identity is complicated due to being deaf, to Han Chae-yoon, who organizes Korea’s Queer Culture Festival and has been doing so since 2000, the stories of the community are vast, and often steer older when it comes to coming out stories. In the US, many people begin to explore their identities in their teens, however, in South Korea, stories skew toward peoples late twenties and thirties. Adulthood brings a sense of understanding in identity, and many worry in their youth as to how they will be judged by others, and what their families might think.
There is still so much ground to cover in this county when it comes to LGBT rights. But the traction that has been gained over the last twenty years is encouraging, and with acceptance numbers doubling in just six years, the next few ahead look extremely promising.
Sources: Today Online
Mehek Naresh is an Indian American lesbian, living and working in Florida after recently graduating with a Bachelors in Political Science. Her hobbies seeking out small talk with cashiers, reading, and spending more time staring at tumblr than she’d care to admit.