Will a new Korean president improve LGBT rights? Seems unlikely.
There’s just something about April in Korea. Alongside the annual cherry blossom bloomings and yellow dust warnings, the month also tends to bring threats of war from North of the border and challenges for the country’s increasingly visible LGBT population.
The Korean Queer Culture Festival is once again facing threats to its annual Seoul event, this time because anti-impeachment protesters have been illegally occurring in Seoul Plaza meaning grass could not be planted and the city government will not be able to inform the organisers if they can use the square until closer to the time. Meanwhile the Korean army, where sex between soldiers of the same sex is illegal, is facing accusations from humans rights advocates of entrapping gay soldiers through dating apps.
But with an election at the start of next month, will a new president oversee increasing acceptance of LGBT people in Korean society? Unlikely, at least going by the words of representatives of four of the main candidates.
Assembly members representing 4 of the 5 parties putting a candidate up for election spoke out against gay marriage and anti-discrimination laws at the Christian Public Policy Conference today.
The tone was so overwhelmingly negative Huffington Post Korea (known for its liberal, pro-LGBT stance) christened the four candidates the “Homophobia Grand Coalition”.
Assemblyman Kim Jin-pyo of leading candidate Moon Jae-in’s progressive leaning The Minjoo Party told attendees he was sympathetic to anti-LGBT sentiment while bringing in the country’s low birthrate:
“We are deeply sympathetic to Christianity’s opposition to the legalisation of same sex marriage.
“We do not currently permit civil same sex marriage and public sentiment does not easily accept gay same-sex marriage.
“Considering [Korea’s] internationally low birthrate, in the future we will make positive efforts to so that laws and regulations are not enacted to permit same sex marriage.”
Moon Byeong-ho, Chair of the centrist People’s Party whose candidate Ahn Cheol-soo is currently the other main contender called same sex marriage an infringement of religious freedom.
“We completely oppose homosexuality and same sex marriage.
“Drafting laws to permit homosexuality and same sex marriage is discrimination which rather infringes on freedom of religion.”
Assemblyman An Chang-soo of the recently renamed conservative Liberty Party – formerly Saenuri i.e. the party of impeached former president Park Geun-Hye – represented by Hong Jun-pyo (who recently said he doesn’t do washing up because it’s women’s work), said homosexuality was an issue he pro-actively opposes.
“We actively oppose the problem of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
“We also oppose enacting anti-discrimination laws which make problems like sexual orientation grounds for prohibiting discrimination.”
Assembly woman Lee Hye-hun of centre right Bareun Party (literally the “Righteous Party”) who are fielding candidate Yoo Seung-min said protecting the rights of sexual minorities could lead to the destruction of “traditional values”.
“We oppose anti-discrimination law.
“It infringes on religious freedom and we have concerns it safeguards and promotes homosexuality.
“There is a large possibility is could bring about things Christians are concerned about like the destruction of traditional values.
Increasingly, young people in Korea are in favour of same sex marriage and the public’s increasing tolerance is reflected in celebrities becoming more open about their support for LGBT rights but it seems, at least for now, politicians are choosing to continue to pander to the views and influence of the country’s conservative Christian minority.