Gay North Korea News & Reports


May 20, 2005

A reader recently wrote :
I’d like to know something about the gay situation in North Korea. Could you send me an e-mail if you know something?

GlobalGayz response:
There is such fear and secrecy about many aspects of North Korea that it is difficult to find anything reliable about everyday life there–and double so about homosexuality. The concept of same-sex attraction hardly exists in the minds of people. Even with people who feel this attraction, there is ignorance about what it means or how it can be expressed in behavior.

It is not discussed in public and it’s a likely assumption that almost all gay or lesbian people are conditioned or coerced into marriage and they live that way without ever understanding their conflicted feelings. Even for someone with a bit of knowledge about human behavior the official view is that homosexuality is an aberration that exists only in a capitalist society.

I am sure there is homosexual activity in some places but these would be impossible to find and, as well, surrounded with fear and ignorance and guilt. Since sexual desire and longing are felt in people of all cultures I would also guess there are some very secret places where anonymous homo sex happens, but probably at night and very quickly. There would be no lingering ‘love-making’ but rather getting off and then running home.

I searched the Internet and found almost nothing. There was one story excerpt from a newspaper in Pakistan about NK workers in Cuba. A second reference is a blog summary about an escaped NK man who had no idea how to understand his homosexual feelings until he got to South Korea and was exposed to information and the freedom to act on his feelings.

Here is what I found on the Net:

From Daily Times, Pakistan (

(Excerpt from a longer story about Cuba and North Korea, not about homosexuality):
"… I’ve heard two anecdotes (from different sources) about worker exchanges. The Korean sugar cane brigades, before they set out, were firmly told where fraternization stopped. Fellow communists they might be; but Cuban women had deplorably lax morals and were strictly off limits. Anyone tempted was instructed to–how should I put this–practice ‘self-reliance’. Perhaps the order was misunderstood. A friend working in Cuba at the time told me that at least one batch of North Koreans were sent home for homosexuality, of which Castro is notoriously intolerant.."

From: Marmot Blog ( 29th October 2004
Original publication in Far Eastern Review October 28, 2004

No gays in North Korea?
Forty-four-year-old Jang Yeong-jin worked in the fisheries industry up in North Hamgyeong Province, married to a pretty school teacher whom his mother fixed him up with. Problem is, he felt no sexual attraction to the woman, so he was continually stressed and uncomfortable in the sack. After 7 years of marriage, the couple still had no children, and despite several visits to the hospital, they couldn’t discover the reason. They eventually had a son, but after 9 years of marriage, Jang finally applied for divorce. The North Korean authorities rarely allow divorces, however, and permission was denied.

In the end, believing his wife would be happier without him, he escaped to China in a bid to defect, but was apparently denied entry by the South Korean embassy. Returning to North Korea, he decided to skip the middle men of the S. Korean Foreign Ministry and defect the hard way through the DMZ in Gangwon Province. During the course of being investigated by the nice men of S. Korea’s National Intelligence Service, Jang said he defected because, well, he disliked having to share a bed with his wife.

Two years into his residence in South Korea’s relatively open society, Jang happened upon a photograph in some newspaper of two men kissing. Apparently, this put some lead in his pencil, or to put it the Dong-A Ilbo way, “At that moment, he felt a thrill through his entire body.” It was then he realized he was gay. Afterwards, he began reading gay magazines, visiting gay bars and “sharing love” with other men. Jang finally felt “boundless happiness.”

However, last year, a man with whom Jang had fallen in love after meeting him in a gay bar absconded with the W50 million the defector had managed to save up. Penniless and ill, Jang lost his house and has been living in a rent house in Ansan. He vented, “Adjusting to life in the South has been tougher than crossing the DMZ.”