Gay South Korea News & Reports 2008-11

1 Seoul Policeman Comes Out, Fights Prejudice 1/08

2 South Korea Sees First Openly Gay Politician 3/08

3 Seoul’s spring forecast: More visibility for Korea’s queers 6/08

4 Gay Actor Found Dead in Apparent Suicide 10/08

5 South Korea asks court to retain ban on gays in the military 11/08

6 South Korea challenged over "rampant discrimination" against gays 12/08

7 Landmark Transgender Rape Conviction in S. Korea 2/09

8 South Korea: Pressure to End Discrimination in the Military Mounts 5/09

9 South Korea’s legal trans-formation 5/09

10 From 50 to 1,500: Korea Queer Culture Festival turns 10 6/09

10a Queer Seoul 6/10

11 Mujigae Korea 8/09

12 South Korea court grants gay man refugee status 1/10

13 Gay man gets refugee status in S. Korea 1/10

14 New shows bring gay love to prime time 3/10

15 Jennifer’s Calendar: A Night out on Homo Hill 3/11

16 South Korea Keeps Its Military Ban On Gay Sex 4/11

17 Seoul Coming Out More and More 7/11

18 VIFF 2011: Gay Asian films explore world of prostitution 9/11

January 11, 2008 –

Seoul Policeman Comes Out, Fights Prejudice

by News Editor
Faced with either denying that he’s gay or having to come out, a police conscript chose the latter and spoke out against the discrimination and insults he was subjected to at work. Vowing to fight social prejudice against sexual minorities, a conscript serving in the riot police came out by declaring his sexual orientation in an Internet post on the riot police community web site on Dec 30.
Private Kim Hyun-jong – a pseudonym used in a Korea Times report – is said to be the second policeman having done so after his squad mate Yoo Jeong Min-shik identified himself as being gay. He was however imprisoned in 2006 for refusing to finish his service term.

In South Korea, men between graduation of high school and the age of 30 are obliged to complete up to 28 months of military service, or in the riot police. In his article, Kim revealed that he was forced to come out at the police station where he works after his colleagues read some private information he had saved on his computer. He said that although he had first denied it, he later made up his mind to come out and speak up against the discrimination and insults he was subjected to.

"Some almost put a restraining order on me, and I heard many talking behind my back describing me as a ‘dirty’ gay man," the Times quoted Kim as saying. "But I am a Korean man living in Korea and I have no reason to flinch. I will struggle against prejudice for all homosexual people and me," he said, rallying others in the gay community to support his call for military camps to outlaw discrimination and harassment of gay servicemen.

The report stated that not only does the South Korean military ban sexual relations between males serving in the forces but also describes homosexuality to be a mental disorder. Other related cases involve one soldier attempting suicide several times after telling his bosses he was gay after he was asked to submit photographs of himself having sexual intercourse with a man to prove he was gay. He was later forced to take an AIDS test and was publicly humiliated.

In another case, a mother filed a petition to the National HumanRights Commission last October alleging that 20-year-old her son was forced to get into bed with his superiors after he had come out. According to the United State’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook, some 345,000 males reach military service age annually in South Korea.

March 18, 2008 –

South Korea Sees First Openly Gay Politician, but challenges persist for the nation’s lesbians

by Matt Kelley
Choi Hyun-sook hopes to become South Korea’s first openly gay legislator. Although her historic candidacy is another sign of Korea’s changing attitudes about homosexuality, the social climate for the country’s lesbians still presents many challenges. Matt Kelley reports from Seoul. Another barrier for Korean queers was shattered this month when Choi Hyun-sook became South Korea’s first openly gay candidate.

Choi, 51, is the chair of the Democratic Labor Party’s coalition of civic groups for sexual minorities, and is campaigning to represent Seoul’s historic Jongno district. At a news conference earlier this month, she announced her candidacy for the April 9 elections and vowed to confront political corruption and discrimination against women and minorities. Choi told reporters that she would "engage in political work for all citizens, not just for the minorities," and that her personal experiences enhance her qualifications. She said: "Some may question the suitability of appointing a divorcée who is a lesbian as a member of parliament. But it is exactly the minority who have been through hardship who will appreciate the real politics and spirit of rendering public service to the majority, and to put the policies into action."

Although Choi came out of the closet shortly after her 2004 divorce, it is only recently that she has spoken openly with the press. Her public acknowledgment coincides with an unprecedented mobilisation by Korea’s iban, or LGBT community in recent months. Last fall, business and conservative Christian interests pressured the South Korean Ministry of Justice to remove gays, lesbians and six other groups from a historic non-discrimination bill that was being considered by lawmakers. Choi participated in a series of protests, international media outreach and community meetings to get the protections reinstated. The ensuing controversy forced the bill’s withdrawal for additional review. Although the legislation remains in limbo, LGBT activists fear that South Korea’s new right-wing president, Lee Myung-bak, is no friend to sexual minorities.

It may be surprising that Choi and others’ efforts on behalf of LGBT Koreans are not universally embraced by their intended beneficiaries. Zoe Kim is a 20-year-old student at Ewha Womans (sic) University. At a coffee shop popular among young lesbians near her campus, Kim says that while she was inspired by Choi coming out, she, and many young Korean lesbians like her, are wary of anything that brings a spotlight to their lives. "We’re really secretive and like it that way," Kim says about her lesbian coterie. Like most gay Koreans, Kim remains in the closet and uses a fake name even among her queer friends. She says that the older generation are not ready to accept homosexuality. Although she wishes she could snap her fingers and instantly make Korea as gay-friendly as some Western nations, her life as a Korean lesbian is generally comfortable, and she doesn’t want to come out. "I don’t really see the need of lesbians to become [activists]," she says.

It is, however, thanks to the work of queer activists that Kim and other women can enjoy gay social outlets on the peninsula. It was only 16 years ago that Sappho, Korea’s first organisation for lesbians, was established by a group of nine expatriates who were living in Seoul. In the mid-1990s, other organisations were formed, newsletters and magazines published, and Korea’s first lesbian commitment ceremony was performed in 1995. Today, in addition to scores of venues for gay men, there are at least one dozen Seoul cafés, bars and clubs that cater specifically to lesbian and bisexual women. On Friday and Saturday nights, one hundred or more of them gather at Lesbos, Labrys, Pink Button and other venues in the Hongik University neighbourhood of Western Seoul. On the Internet, Korean lesbians connect via websites like In addition to perusing member profiles and exchanging emails, visitors can set up "beong gae" or offline group meetings.

Unlike some of its Asian neighbours, South Korea has no history of laws banning homosexuality, yet widespread ignorance and bias contributes to a hostile cultural climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. As evidence of this, a 2005 poll of 507 Korean women conducted by the Lesbian Rights Research Institute, found that 83 percent reported experiencing discrimination or disadvantages because of their sexual orientation. Yun Ga-hyun is a professor of psychology at Chonnam National University in Gwangju, who has studied Korean attitudes about homosexuality. Next year, he will publish a paper examining how those attitudes are changing, but in a previous book, Yun argued that Korea’s culture perpetuates misperceptions about homosexuality.

Such misperceptions, of course, extend to the families of queer Koreans, so last September, the Korean Sexual-Minority Culture and Rights Center organided the first-ever public forum for the families and friends of Korean homosexuals. One of the panelists was Takako Otsuji, who is the mother of Japan’s first openly gay politician, Kanako Otsuji. Otsuji said that it is common for the parents of gay and lesbian children to also experience alienation from their peers. To address this issue, Otsuji and her daughter created a support group for the family and friends of sexual minorities in Japan. Parliamentary candidate Choi also attended the forum, and she encouraged participants to move beyond the goal of emotional support to political empowerment. "This forum should be a starting point to use our collective power to make legislation to help this community in the long run." She added, "Family is important but so are our basic rights." Of course, if Choi’s bid to join South Korea’s National Assembly is successful, she will be in precisely the right position to legislate on behalf of achieving basic rights for millions of LGBT Koreans.

Matt Kelley is a gay mixed-race Korean-American living in Seoul. He is currently writing a book about the intersections of race and sex in Korea. His website:

June 3, 2008 –

Seoul’s spring forecast: More visibility for Korea’s queers

by Matt Kelley
Although South Korean society continues to resist acceptance of homosexuality, two new LGBTQ media projects and an annual queer pride parade last weekend suggest that the climate is warming a little on the Korean peninsula this spring.

New "Coming Out" Television Series Airs in South Korea
Recently, late night television viewers in South Korea may have seen something unexpected: a same-sex kiss. An advertisement on the cable channel TvN quickly shifts between a smartly dressed man and woman as they appear to race towards each other. But rather than meeting, the woman briskly exits the frame while the man stops abruptly to kiss his waiting male lover. The ad was created to generate interest in South Korea’s first television talk show series about homosexuality, called, Coming Out. The 12-episode series debuted on April 14 and is aired at midnight. The show includes dramatic profiles of people who have come out to family, friends and coworkers with advice proffered by co-hosts Hong Seok-cheon and Jung Kyung-soon. Hong is a 37-year-old actor who was dropped from a popular television show after becoming the nation’s first “out” actor in 2000. After several-years off-air, Hong’s entertainment career has slowly restarted.

At a press conference held on April 7, Hong told reporters that when he first heard about the project, he thought it was “crazy” for Koreans to out themselves on national television. Based on his painful personal experiences, he said he sympathises with young Koreans who remain in the closet. “I don’t advise people to come out because I know it is a hard decision. But as for myself, I have never been happier. I don’t have to lie to myself any more.”

Hong’s co-host Jung, who is heterosexual, told reporters she was happy to participate. At the outset, she said that she encouraged producers to focus on people’s humanity. She told reporters, “So many minorities are being discriminated against [in Korea]. Korean society needs more programs like this.” The series’ producer, Choi Seung-jun, feels that the project has helped him to empathise with the struggles faced by many queer Koreans. He told reporters: “Five percent of Korea’s population is considered homosexual, but who knows if the number is higher? These people who are living with us right now and the suffering they go through is unimaginable.”

View YouTube clip

October 08, 2008 –

Gay Actor Found Dead in Apparent Suicide

by Park Si-soo, Staff Reporter
Actor Kim Ji-who was found dead in his house in an apparent suicide, police said Wednesday, the fourth suicide by an entertainer in just one month. Songpa Police Station confirmed the 23-year-old hung himself at his home in Jamsil, southern Seoul, Monday.
Police said they found a suicide note at the scene, saying, “I’m lonely and in a difficult situation. Please cremate my body.”

Kim’s death is the latest in a series of suicides. Transsexual entertainer Jang Chae-won hung herself in the bathroom of her home on Friday, following the deaths of actor Ahn Jae-hwan and actress Choi Jin-sil. “Given the note and testimony from his family members, we believe he apparently committed suicide,” a police officer said.

Police said his suicide reflects public prejudice toward gay people and their difficulty in succeeding in the entertainment industry. Following the announcement of his sexual orientation, Kim’s management agency did not renew his contract and many TV programs and fashion shows cancelled his appearances. His blog was bombarded with numerous messages denouncing his sexual orientation.

“He underwent many professional and personal difficulties following his coming-out,” Kim’s mother said during police questioning. Hong Seok-chun, Kim’s aide and also homosexual, said, “Like me, he suffered from numerous discriminations against him.” Born in 1985, Kim made his debut as a fashion model last year and appeared in some soap operas this year.

November 17, 2008 – PinkNews

South Korea asks court to retain ban on gays in the military

by Staff Writer,
The government of South Korea has asked the constitutional court to confirm the ban on gays serving in the country’s Armed Forces. Servicemen face a year in jail for homosexual acts. In August a military court asked for a review of the constitutionality of the ban. "The military has a unique characteristics," a defence ministry spokesman told AFP.
"It has to maintain good combat capability. It requires a sound group life. It works for the public interest rather than personal happiness."

All young men in the country are obliged to serve in the military or in the riot police for up to two years and have to take a test at the time of enlistment which includes various questions about their sexual orientation. South Korea has a standing army of 687,000, the 6th largest in the world, with 4.5m reserve personnel. In 2005, eight soldiers were thrown out of South Korea’s military for homosexuality, according to army statistics revealed at the time. A year later, a soldier attempted suicide several times after telling his superiors he was gay.

He later claimed that he was forced to submit photographs of himself in bed with another man. He was then obliged to take an HIV test and was publicly humiliated. In a separate case, a mother filed a petition to the National Human Rights Commission last October claiming her son was sexually harassed for saying he was gay. She said her 20-year-old son was forced to touch his superiors or get into bed with them.

The first phase of new military regulations went into effect on April 1st 2006. They restricted the use of personal information about gay soldiers on military documents, ended the forced medical examinations of gay troops and punished perpetrators of sexuality-based physical or verbal abuse. Previously those who have "abnormal" sexual identities such as gays, lesbians and bisexual people, were not allowed to serve in the Armed Forces. However, the Ministry of Defence rules on homosexuality also state that gay men who want to "turn" straight will be supported.

In the South Korean Constitution or Civil Penal Code there is no mention of homosexuality. However, in practice, discrimination against gay people and censorship against gay websites is fairly common. Homosexuality has only in recent years gained some acceptance in South Korean society, with its strict Confucian traditions and strong Roman Catholic influence.

The Dutch lifted their ban on gays in 1974, Australia followed in 1992 and Canada soon after. Gay, lesbian and bisexual people have served openly in the British Armed Forces since 2000. Nearly all other Western nations allow openly gay, bisexual and lesbian people to serve openly. There is public support for an end to the US policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which bars openly LGB people from serving in the Armed Forces.

A survey by the Washington Post and ABC News published in July found that three-quarters of Americans think that openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people should be allowed to serve in the military. 64% of Republicans and nearly two thirds of self-described conservatives backed a change in the current law, as did 57% of white evangelical Protestants and 82% of white Catholics. It was Republican opposition that forced then-President Bill Clinton to abandon his pledge to allow gay people to serve and signed into law the compromise known as "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

Since 1993 gay people who do not reveal their sexuality can serve, and commanding officers are not meant to ask service personnel about their sexual orientation. Retired high-ranking military leaders, such as former Joint Chiefs Chairman John Shalikashvili and Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, have called for an end to the DADT law, which is estimated to have cost American taxpayers more than $364m (£182m) since its inception 15 years ago. More than 12,000 men and women have been dismissed since 1993.

An estimated 65,000 lesbian and gay service members serve on active duty and in the reserves of the United States military.

December 9, 2008 – PinkNews

South Korea challenged over "rampant discrimination" against gays

by Staff Writer,
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in South Korea face "rampant" discrimination. A coalition of LGBT groups and straight supporters have used tomorrow’s 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations to draw attention to their situation. They called for protection from discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation.

The Democratic Labour Party, gay men’s rights group Chingusai and Queer Junior, a youth group, are among the members of the Mujigae Alliance. It has presented a 30-point declaration of LGBT rights, among them the right to privacy at work.

"After the universal declaration, the whole world started to abolish discrimination according to race, sex, nationality, age, religious beliefs, disability and health status," a Chigusai spokesperson told The Korea Times. "However, sexual orientation is still one of the taboo sunjects in this country and discrimination is rampant. We hope the announcement will enhance people’s understanding toward someone ‘different’ and get them to think about their rights. We are different but equal."

There is no reference to homosexuality in the South Korean Constitution or Civil Penal Code. However, in practice, discrimination against gay people and censorship against gay websites is fairly common. Homosexuality has only in recent years gained some acceptance in South Korean society, with its strict Confucian traditions and strong Roman Catholic influence.

Last month the South Korean government asked the constitutional court to confirm the ban on gays serving in the country’s Armed Forces. Servicemen face a year in jail for homosexual acts. In August a military court asked for a review of the constitutionality of the ban. All young men in the country are obliged to serve in the military or in the riot police for up to two years and have to take a test at the time of enlistment which includes various questions about their sexual orientation. South Korea has a standing army of 687,000, the 6th largest in the world, with 4.5m reserve personnel.

February 18, 2009 –

Landmark Transgender Rape Conviction in S. Korea

Posted by Daily Queer News
On Top Magazine

A South Korean court convicted a man Wednesday of raping a transgender woman, a landmark decision in a country that does not recognize homosexual rape, reports the AFP. The 28-year-old man was sentenced to three years in prison but the court suspended his punishment for four years. The transgender woman, 58, was raped last August when the man broke into her home in the southern city of Busan. She is one of the more than 70,000 South Koreans estimated to have undergone the difficult sex-reassignment therapy, completing her transition in 1974.

Read more

May 14, 2009 – IGLHRC

South Korea: Pressure to End Discrimination in the Military Mounts

The Network for Reporting the Violation of the Human Rights of Sexual Minorities in Relation to the Military in Korea is pressuring the Constitutional Court in that country for a legal judgment about the unconstitutionality of Article 92 of the Military Criminal Act which criminalizes those who engage in sodomy and/or other indecent acts with imprisonment for a maximum of 1 year. The push to question the constitutionality of Article 92 originated from the Korean Army’s Normal Military Court of the 22nd Infantry Division in August 2008. The military court argued that Article 92 violates equal rights, the right to sexual self-determination, and the right of privacy. The South Korean government responded in November 2008 by asking the Constitutional Court to confirm the ban on gays serving in the military.

In its petition to the Constitutional Court, the military court cited the following reasons for the repeal of Article 92:

* The use of the term sodomy reflects an inherent—and inappropriate—degree of prejudice in the law. The petition states that, “Sodomy, as described in Article 92, denigrates a particular sexual act by likening it to an act performed on an animal. This hateful language designates even a consensual sexual act as an ‘indecent act,’ as if homosexuality itself were but a type of sexual violence…. The Korean word for sodomy in Article 92 must be replaced by a more neutral and objective word or removed altogether.”

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea supports this position. In its 2007-2011 recommendations to protect human rights it emphasized that Article 92 revealed discrimination and prejudice against homosexuality, promoting homophobia. The Commission recommended that the Ministry of National Defense reform Article 92 of the Military Criminal Act.

* Article 92 violates equal rights and individual privacy. According to the petition, “indecent acts” as defined under Article 92 include only sexual acts between same-sex couples; acts between opposite-sex couples are not included. Moreover, as the petition notes, the article is discriminatory in its application. Those involved in consensual same-sex relations are punished “even if no one has been harmed, rank has not been used unjustly, and coercion is absent.” In 1999, Article 92 was used to punish military personnel who were caught having consensual same-sex relations.

* The ambiguity of the term "sodomy and/or other indecent act” in Article 92 is inadequate for determining the innocence or guilt of an accused person. Article 92 can be arbitrarily used since it fails to provide any concrete criteria for judgment with reference to the types of acts involved and whether consent is provided.

Almost six months have passed, and the Constitutional Court has yet to make any legal judgment on this request.

29 May 2009 –

South Korea’s legal trans-formation

by Matt Kelley and Mike Lee
Despite its reputation as a conservative society, South Korea’s trans population is winning rights through the nation’s courts. Matt Kelley and Mike Lee report from Seoul.
At a press conference this past February, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) introduced Kazuyuki Toyoda as an honorary travel ambassador to Korea. The 47-year-old transgender "beauty management" guru is better known as "Ikko" in her native Japan. Ikko has promoted Korean culture with her television shows and in the book, Make Your Beauty Up in Korea, published last May. Seoul is a popular shopping destination for Japanese tourists, and a KTO spokesperson says it’s thanks, in part, to Ikko.

According to the Korea Times, Toyoda’s endorsement of "BB Cream," or blemish balm, precipitated a ten-fold sales increase of the product. Etude House, a Korean cosmetic chain selling the cream, signed her to an exclusive sponsorship contract. Additionally, the KTO is developing Ikko-themed travel projects.

Breakthroughs from the Bench
The choice of an openly transgender person to promote the nation’s beauty and travel industries may seem an unlikely choice for conservative South Korea. Last year, Christian and business groups succeeded in removing protections for gays and lesbians from a federal anti-discrimination bill under review by lawmakers.
Although homosexuality is not a crime in South Korea, it is widely seen as taboo. Sixteen years after Korea’s first LGBT organisation was founded, few rights are guaranteed for the nation’s homosexuals. Last November, the Australian government’s Refugee Review Tribunal granted a protection visa to a South Korean transwoman. The Tribunal accepted her claim that she would be persecuted if forced to return to Korea.

Despite the challenges, the nation’s seongjeonhwanja, or transgender, population has won several court victories. In July 2002, a district court allowed South Korea’s first legal gender change, when a 30-year-old woman named "Yoon" changed her sex from male to female. The court explained the ruling as respecting an individual’s dignity and pursuit of happiness. Four years later, a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court found that a 59-year-old female-to-male (FTM) transsexual could change his sex on his family registry. In its ruling, the Court said, "Gender should be decided by not only physical appearance but also the persons’ mentality and psychology, and society’s attitude to that person."

The ruling, however, did not guarantee an individual’s right to legally change their sex. Each petition is reviewed by a judge on a case-by-case evaluation of five criteria, which include: mandated counseling, sex reassignment surgery and that the person, "…dresses like the changes [sic] sex, plays the role of the changed sex in individual areas and social areas including sexual relationships… and gets socially approved with the changed sex because it does not cause a serious change to the relations with other people or have negative effect on the society."

Trans activists’ most recent victory occurred in February, when a district court convicted an 18-year-old man of raping a 58-year-old trans woman. Although South Korean law does not recognise that men can be raped, in his ruling, Judge Ko Jong-joo said the victim "acted like a woman since he was born," underwent SRS, and "lived with a male partner for a decade." He continued, "Given all of these, he can be seen as female." The Court’s verdict was a reversal of a 1996 ruling, which refused to call the sexual assault of a trans woman "rape" because she had male chromosomes and was unable to become pregnant.

South Korea’s "Hot Issue"
The recent court victories occurred in the wake of a popular 2001 Dodo Cosmetics television commercial. In the spot, the camera zooms in on the neck of a sexy woman to show an Adam’s apple, suggesting her biologically male sex.
The model, born Lee Kyung-yup in a Seoul suburb in 1975, is better known as Ha Ri-su. Although the bump was added digitally (Ha doesn’t have a prominent larynx), her appearance garnered significant public interest about transgender people in Korea.

"Harisu," a play on the English words, "hot issue," transitioned in adolescence and had sex reassignment surgery (SRS) in the late 1990s. After the television ad, Ha developed a successful career as a model, singer, author and trans advocate. In one of her first interviews, she told South Korea’s largest newspaper that she wanted to end bias against transsexuals. In 2002, Ha became the second person to legally change their sex on South Korea’s family registry. She also adopted a more feminine-sounding name. In 2007, Ha and her boyfriend Micky Chung were legally married in Seoul.

The man who officiated Ha and Chung’s wedding was Dr Kim Seok-kwan. Dr Kim performed Ha’s SRS, a procedure he pioneered in Korea in 1986. A facial and cranial plastic surgeon by training, Kim studied SRS in the United States after being approached by two men seeking the surgery. When he returned to Korea, a list of prospective patients had already formed by word-of-mouth referrals. In a 2003 interview, Dr Kim told the New York Times that Ha Ri-su influenced the lives of his patients. "Ha Ri-su was of great benefit to social awareness of this issue. She has encouraged other transgender patients, who have always had trouble holding jobs; for most of them, living in secret, working in bars or as prostitutes was the only thing they could do."

The Seoul Scene
In Seoul’s Itaewon neighbourhood, below narrow streets nicknamed "Hooker Hill" and "Homo Hill," are several places advertised as trans bars. Some of them stage popular lip synching shows while others sell sex.
When 23-year-old Park Sung-hee told her family and friends about her female identity, they asked her if she was becoming a prostitute. Park says Korean societal prejudice compels most trans people to work in bars or clubs, "because they don’t have to worry about peoples’ eyes and they can work whenever they want."

When her parents died, Park moved to Seoul and started an online shopping mall to earn money for her SRS. Although the Incheon-based designer has a successful career, she’s had to sever some family ties along the way. "I think making one’s family understand their [transgender] identity is the most difficult thing in the world," she says. Although Park is reluctant to call herself a spokesperson for Korean transsexuals, she recently discussed her life on a popular Web site. She said she wants to be an example of life outside of bars and sex work. "I want to show and tell this kind of reality. It’s not as difficult to live in Korea as a transgender person as you think. We can be beautiful and live as good of a life as we want."

One considerable obstacle, however, is the national family registry system. Although the Korean language generally lacks gender-specific pronouns or titles, every citizen has a 13-digit identification number that indicates their sex. For men, the seventh digit is always 1. For women, it’s 2. The number is used on everything from legal documents to social networking Web sites. A number at odds with one’s gender often creates awkward or humiliating situations, and can be a barrier to employment.

Trans Action
Another South Korean institution is military service for men age 20 and older. Previously, transgender people were not required to serve the approximately two-year commitment- MTF recruits were rejected on the grounds they were mentally ill, and FTM individuals were regarded as women.
Following the Supreme Court’s 2006 decision, however, the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) adjusted its regulations. Now, individuals who legally change their sex to female are considered women, thus no longer required to serve. Conversely, legally male trans recruits are subject for duty.

The new policy has encountered problems. In 2007, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) filed a report on behalf of a 29-year-old transsexual man named "Kim," who says he was humiliated during a routine military physical examination. Although the exam was deemed lawful, the NHRCK recommended, and the MMA agreed, to create new standards to accommodate transsexual conscripts. Another advocacy group is the nation’s first trans-specific activist organisation. Jirung-e, which means "earthworm" in Korean, was founded in 2006. The word was chosen because worms are beneficial, though oft disliked and underground.

Lee Hyun, 28, is a Jirung-e co-founder and law student who counsels trans plaintiffs for court cases. He realised his gender identity in high school, but didn’t start hormone treatments until one year ago. While Lee’s mother and brother don’t support his gender identity, he says they accept it. On the other hand, Lee says his father’s last words to him were via email: "I gave birth to a daughter so go back to being a woman."

A 2006 Korean Medical Association report estimates there are 4,500 transgender individuals living in South Korea. Lee says the lack of any trans-specific institution makes it difficult to know the community’s size or its needs. Currently, Jirung-e’s priorities are to address transphobia and to make SRS safer and more widely accessible in Korea. The six-member group is also developing a project to support incarcerated trans people.

Although segments of Korea’s legal, medical and academic establishments are becoming sympathetic to trans concerns, South Korea’s powerful conservative Christian lobby is not. At the 2006 Supreme Court hearing, Rev Park Yeong-ryul of the Protestant Christian Academy for National Development argued, "God did not endow mankind with the right to choose sex," adding, "If we approve transsexuality, we should do the same for homosexuality. Many people have died from AIDS as a result of homosexuality."

A Nation in Transition
Since many of the challenges facing South Korea’s trans population are not unique to the Korean Peninsula, Lee, of Jirung-e hopes that they can join an international effort. "I think it would be great if transgender people join in solidarity with each other… all over Asia to improve the systems together."
But Sel J. Hwahng, a visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, writes via email, "[T]here cannot be a cohesive trans social or political movement in the US or internationally if many or most of the trans population are suffering negative mental health."

Hwahng, who is research investigator for the National Development and Research Institute’s Transgender Project and on the board of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, says that trans communities may have higher rates of depression and suicidality than the general population. Indeed, last October, one of South Korea’s best-known transsexuals, Jang Chae-won, killed herself after battling depression. South Korea’s high suicide rate has earned it the dubious moniker, the "republic of suicide."

Recalling Jang’s death, Park, the designer, says it makes her sad thinking about the difficulty Jang faced as an openly-trans person in Korea. Yet Park advocates integration as a way to improve the social condition for Korean transgenders. "Many transgender people are out in society, so the range of people who have contact with them is growing. I think heterosexual people are becoming more comfortable having contact with transgender people." Beyond comfort, Park seeks something more fundamental. "When I tell people that I’m transgender, they try to understand my inclination. But I don’t want ‘understanding.’ I just want it to come naturally for them to accept me as a person." She pauses, smiles and then asks, "Do you think that wish can come true?"

Matt Kelley is a Seoul-based writer who typically writes about race, sexuality and/or travel. His website: Mike Lee is a student who also lives in Seoul.

16 June 2009 –

From 50 to 1,500: Korea Queer Culture Festival turns 10

by Matt Kelley
The Korea Queer Culture Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary over the weekend with its largest-ever march through downtown Seoul. But as South Korea’s LGBT activists celebrate over a decade of queer community organising, funding cuts and a hostile political environment threaten its future. Matt Kelley reports from Seoul.

On Saturday, an estimated 1,500 people marched along the Cheonggye Stream in downtown Seoul. The main event of the 10th annual Korea Queer Culture Festival (KQCF) marked South Korea’s largest-ever celebration of homosexuality. The procession was led by a troupe of pungmul folk musicians and three trucks outfitted with rainbow flags, dance platforms and speakers playing Korean pop. Locals wearing "God made Queer" buttons marched with foreign English teachers and teen boys donning mouse ears and pleated skirts.

The 15-day event kicked off on May 30 with a photo exhibition and an event organised by the queer youth group, Rateen. From June 3-7, the Seoul LGBT Film Festival (SeLFF) screened 29 feature films, documentaries and short films at the Seoul Art Cinema. Following Saturday’s parade, an after party at Club Pulse in Itaewon lasted well into Sunday morning.

Queer pioneers
In the years following Japanese occupation and civil war, military dictatorships suppressed social organising across South Korea. Although tiny bars in Seoul’s Jongno neighbourhood have catered to gay clients for decades, it wasn’t until 1993 that the country’s first queer rights group, Chodonghwae, was founded. Two years later, the first campus group, Come Together, formed at Yonsei University.

According to Jun Dong-beom, the 2009 SeLFF Programmer, members of those early groups were inspired by events abroad. "In the early 1990s there were some [LGBT organisations] at Korean universities and they saw there were many pride parades and festivals in other countries. So at the time the college students and some gay and lesbian activists started planning to have our own parade."

In 1997, Come Together founder, Seo Dong-jin, organised what was to be South Korea’s first queer film festival. But on opening day, local government officials cut off the theatre’s electricity and threatened organisers with fines and lengthy jail sentences. Despite attempts to thwart the festival again in 1998, in November, the first Seoul Queer Film and Video Festival was convened at the Artsonje Center.

Jun, who helped organise the inaugural festival, says that despite a positive reception, the event bankrupted the group. In 2000, the first KQCF, a two-day event called "Mujigae (Rainbow) 2000" was established by merging a film festival with a parade and dance party. At that first-ever march, 50 people walked through Seoul’s Daehangno neighbourhood.

Express your-SeLFF
Something probably unthinkable in 2000 was that in less than ten years, Choi Hyun-sook would become South Korea’s first openly lesbian candidate for National Assembly. Choi, 52, who was among the marchers on Saturday, is the subject of, The Time of Our Lives, a film documenting her unsuccessful 2008 election campaign.

Directed by Hong Ji-yoo and Han Yeong-hee, the film was among 29 screened during the five-day Seoul LGBT Film Festival (SeLFF), Korea’s only queer film festival. Other screenings featured Le Nouveau Monde (The New World), a quirky movie about lesbian motherhood in the Paris suburbs, and Takumi-kun: June Pride, a humorous adaptation of the Japanese "BL" or "boys’ love" novel by Shinobu Gotoh.

Despite a decade of pride festivals on the Korean Peninsula, only a handful of Korea’s queers participate in events like the SeLFF and parade. And even among those who did last weekend, a desire to stay firmly in the closet was visible on many faces – literally. About half of the people perusing the festival’s information booths wore stickers of a camera inside a red slashed circle on their cheeks or chests. Media had to sign a form promising to refrain from photographing marked individuals.

Insisting that one’s attendance not be documented at a "pride" event was an irony that didn’t escape Brian, an American English teacher living in Seoul. "I’m torn because you’re at a gay pride parade, so the whole point is to be visible…, but on the other hand there are repercussions and they could lose family members… so I understand, but it’s sad it has to be this way." He added, "…In the end they’re here and they want to be here… Maybe one day they don’t have to wear those stickers."

Korea’s Rainbow Teens
For members of the queer youth group, Rateen (Rainbow Teen), that day may have already arrived. As part of the pre-parade entertainment, the crowd cheered as eight youngsters in white oxford shirts, blank pants and ties performed a racy dance on stage.

Founded in January 2007 by two teens who go by the nicknames "Chingy" and "Roosky," Rateen encourages Korean teens to come out of the closet through informal peer counseling. Although the 2,000-member organisation is focused on LGBT youth, 17-year-old Roosky Lee says that anyone interested in learning about queer youth culture can join. In fact, Lee says his group helps older Koreans who came of age in a less open era. "[A] lot of Koreans just believe that gays don’t exist in Korea, so many of the people, even though they are gay, they really don’t know about their sexual identity."

Describing a “really old” 49-year-old man who left a meeting thinking he might be gay, Lee adds, "… sometimes through our community [older people] just come and they start to realise their sexual identities. So I think we’ve kind of helped them." Although he co-founded a group that encourages Koreans to come out of the closet, Lee isn’t out to his parents yet. "I really wanted to say that I’m gay to my parents but then they just don’t seem to understand what I’m saying," he says. Although his parents are proud of him for co-founding Rateen, a fact he freely shared with them, he thinks they interpret "supporting sexual minorities" to mean that he doesn’t have sex.

In September, Lee will start college in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he looks forward to a more open LGBT community where he hopes to find a boyfriend. In the meantime, he says he needs to be "more courageous" and plans to come out to his parents "very soon."

Is the party over?
An Asia representative of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) who asked to be identified only by his nickname "Joong," said he was impressed by this year’s KQCF. A native of Mongolia, he has been to many pride events around the world and was surprised by the reception of non-queer Koreans. "Korea is a conservative country, but compared with other Asian countries like Iran… Mongolia and China [there’s] not much stigma [against sexual minorities]."

A woman who happened upon the parade with a friend seems to support Joong’s claim. "Actually, I’m very happy to see [a] gay parade here because it seems like Korea is changing, right? It’s global… so I’m happy to see that." Despite positive reviews, not everyone is optimistic about the KQCF’s future. Describing South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, as "very homophobic," Han Chae-yoon, who has helped organise the event since its inception, says that funding insecurity and a hostile political environment threaten its feasibility.

In a 2007 interview with a major national newspaper, Lee – who was then a contender in the presidential race – was quoted as saying that he thought homosexuality to be abnormal and the only “normal” union is between a man and woman. According to SeLFF Programmer Jun, the festival’s 2009 budget was cut by half, from 30 million won in 2008 (about US$24,000) to just 15 million this year.

A long-time and significant source of support is the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), which provided 7 million won for this year’s film series. By the end of June, organisers expect to know what KOFIC will allocate for next year. Jun says the 2010 film festival will be cancelled if the grant falls short.

Although most Korean queers admit that South Korean attitudes about homosexuality have improved considerably over the past ten years, LGBT activists like Han insist that fundamental challenges persist. "Ten years ago [LGBT Koreans] were afraid to express their sexual identities. Now, the community has grown, yet we still don’t have our rights and we can’t live our lives outside of the closet. These problems remain."

(Note: On June 20-21, the southern city of Daegu will host the Daegu Gyeongbok Queer Culture Festival, the first time KQCF has expanded outside Seoul. Special thanks to Kahlo for interpretation assistance.)

Matt Kelley is a Seoul-based writer who typically covers race, sexuality and/or travel. His website:

19 June 2009 – Discovering Korea

Queer Seoul

by Matt in Festivals & Holidays,Seoul,Video
On Saturday, an estimated 1,500 people marched along the Cheonggyecheon stream in downtown Seoul. The main event of the 10th annual Korea Queer Culture Festival (KQCF) marked South Korea’s largest-ever celebration of homosexuality. The procession was led by a troupe of pungmul folk musicians and three trucks outfitted with rainbow flags, dance platforms and speakers playing Korean pop. Locals wearing “God made Queer” buttons marched with foreign English teachers and teen boys donning mouse ears and pleated skirts.

The 15-day event kicked off on May 30 with a photo exhibition and workshops. From June 3-7, the Seoul LGBT Film Festival (SeLFF) screened 29 feature films, documentaries and short films at the Seoul Art Cinema. Following Saturday’s parade, an after party at Club Pulse in Itaewon lasted well into Sunday morning. As in much of Asia, homosexuality is a taboo topic among many Koreans. Yet things are gradually changing some 16 years after South Korea’s first gay rights organization – Chodonghwae – was founded in 1993. These days, homosexual story lines appear in popular television series, like “Coffee Prince” and “Ssanghwajeom” (English title: “A Frozen Flower), a hit 2008 film about a royal love triangle in ancient Korea.

Outside the entertainment industry, sexual minorities in Korea have won some rights in the nation’s courts and through watchdog groups like the National Human Rights Commission. That said, very few Korean gays and lesbians live their lives freely and openly. Fearful of being ostracized by family and friends, or fired from their jobs, many of the people at the “pride” parade wore “do not photograph” stickers to protect their identities. Despite the reluctance of many Korean gays to be open about their sexual orientation, Seoul has a vibrant homosexual social scene, with scores of gay and lesbian businesses, weekend sports teams and organizations focused on human rights issues and HIV/AIDS prevention.

To check them out, you should note that to a great degree, gay men and women socialize in different parts of Seoul. Many of the coffee shops and clubs popular among lesbians are concentrated in the university neighborhoods of Hongdae and Edae/Sinchon, while for the past several decades, the maze of narrow streets in the central neighborhood of Nagwon-dong has been home to scores of tiny bars catering to gay men. During the warmer months, the open-air food stalls around the nearby Jongno-3ga subway station are another popular gay hangout.

In most of these venues, it’s unusual to find many foreigners or heterosexuals. So if you’re an outsider who wants an inside look at a slice of Seoul’s gay nightlife, there is one neighborhood where Koreans and foreigners and gays and straights alike mix it up. Love it or hate it, Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood is a curious cross-section of humanity. Most of the gay-friendly bars and clubs here line a small street that’s affectionately called “Homo Hill.” After 11:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, venues like Trance, Queen and Why Not? attract a very mixed crowd that dance and loiter well into the next morning. A couple of blocks away, Club Pulse is a recent favorite for people who enjoy electronic dance music.

Beyond social venues, a growing number of social justice and gay rights organizations have volunteer opportunities available. Groups like the gay mens’ group, Chingusai and the youth organization Rateen, are working hard so that one day homosexuality can be expressed freely in school, work and family settings. If you missed Seoul’s parade and festival, the city of Daegu is holding its very first queer culture festival on June 20th and 21st.

August 3, 2009 – Asylum Law

Mujigae Korea

Professor Douglas Sanders

The existence of homosexuals in South Korea was routinely denied in the past. In the 1990s a number of changes began, notably the expansion of the gay bar scene, a set of activist organizations and public “pride” events. The firing of popular television actor Hong Suk Chun in 2000 was a major public event, giving new visibility to homosexuals. The sensational transsexual star Harisu has also changed public perceptions. The new international support for “human rights” led South Korea to establish a National Human Rights Commission in 2001. The Commission had a mandate to deal with discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” and acted positively on that mandate, including funding gay and lesbian organizations to carry out particular programs.

Does the rainbow flag, the international symbol of modern gay and lesbian activism, fly in Asia? A trick question, for Asia is really six regions.2 It is the largest and most varied of the five ‘regions’ recognized by the United Nations. It includes two giants, China and India, whose cultures have had great influence beyond their borders, as well as Japan, the world’s second largest economy.

Read entire article

4 January 2010 – Fridae

South Korea court grants gay man refugee status

by News Editor
In what could be the first publicly known case of it’s kind in Korea and possibly Asia, a gay man who fled his home country for fear of being persecuted because of his sexual orientation has been granted refugee status by a Seoul court. A Seoul court has ruled in favour of a lawsuit filed by a Pakistani man who had his initial application turned down by the Justice Ministry. According to the state-run Yonhap News Agency, the man had petitioned the government for refugee status in February of last year but was rejected by the Justice Ministry four month later for not meeting the criteria of a "well-founded fear of being persecuted."

The ministry’s decision was overturned by the Seoul Administrative Court which said that should he be repatriated "there is a high likelihood that the plaintiff will be subject to persecution by the Pakistani government and Muslim society simply because he is gay." The man was quoted by the agency on condition of anonymity as saying: "My life, as a homosexual, was in danger in my country.”

“My family and relatives were my enemy. They said I was insulting my family, Islam and my country and threatened that they would report me to police," he said.

The agency further added that South Korea signed onto the U.N. Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees in 1992. Since then, 2,413 foreigners have applied for refugee status and 145 were granted asylum. The first approval was in 2001 for an Ethiopian male.

January 3, 2010 – UPI

Gay man gets refugee status in S. Korea

Seoul (UPI) — A South Korean court Sunday granted refugee status to a Pakistani man who said his life was endangered in his country because he is gay. The Seoul court reversed an earlier Justice Ministry ruling that rejected the man’s petition on the basis that it failed to meet the United Nation’s refugee criterion of a "well-founded fear of being persecuted," Yonhap News Agency reported.

"My life, as a homosexual, was in danger in my country. My family and relatives were my enemy. They said I was insulting my family, Islam and my country and threatened that they would report me to police," said the man, who was not identified by the news agency. The Seoul Administrative Court said the man should be granted refugee status because "there is a high likelihood that the plaintiff will be subject to persecution by the Pakistani government and Muslim society simply because he is gay."

18 March 2010 – Asian Fanatics

New shows bring gay love to prime time

Gay love was once a hush-hush topic in Korean TV dramas, but starting this month two prime-time shows, “Life is Beautiful” and “Personal Preference,” will deal with two kinds of homosexual relationships, and in very different tones. Life is Beautiful, written by “soap opera queen” Kim Soo-hyun, who most recently penned “Mom Has Grown Horns” for KBS2, depicts the struggles of a gay couple played by Song Chang-eui and Lee Sang-woo, whose families, unaware of their orientation, constantly pressure them to go on blind dates with women. The show premieres March 20.

“Kim is one of those writers who is quick to read changing trends in society,” said Park Hyun-jeong, a vice head of the public relations team at SBS. “Kim wanted to talk about love, especially marginalized or unaccepted love, this time through a gay couple along with the story of a remarried family.” Meanwhile, Personal Preference, which begins March 31, tells the story of a woman, played by Son Ye-jin, who wishes she had a gay friend. Lee Min-ho appears as her new roommate, a straight man who pretends to be gay.

Characters have referenced homosexuality in TV dramas for years, but it’s rarely been the main focus of a show. And real homosexual characters are still rare. For example, “Coffee Prince” from 2007 depicted a romance between a male protagonist and a worker at a coffee shop whom he thinks is a boy, but who turns out to be a girl in disguise. Using cross-dressing to tease at male sexual identity is a trick older than Shakespeare – not exactly revolutionary.

Korean filmmakers have looked frankly at gay love, no doubt helped along by decades of international interest in their work, but homosexual pioneers on television have had a rough road. In fact, Hong Seok-cheon is still the only local TV celebrity to admit to being gay, and it wasn’t his choice to begin with. Hong was forced to confess his long-held secret in 2000 in the face of swirling rumors about his sexual orientation, and the tears he shed at the press conference stirred a range of reactions, some sympathetic, but many viewers were disgusted.

Right after the press conference, Hong, who had been a regular on many hit shows and sitcoms thanks to his affable, easy public persona, was fired from all of them – even the popular educational program for children “Ppo Ppo Ppo,” or “Kiss Kiss Kiss.” After the firings, executives at Hong’s erstwhile employer MBC – which airs Personal Preference this month – explained that they feared Hong might be a bad role model for young children.

It took three years for Hong to mount a comeback to TV, but that too was a disaster. When the writer Kim gave him a role as a gay man in “Complete Love” in 2003, Hong received a barrage of hate mail from viewers. The bulletin board for the drama overflowed with vulgar curses targeting Hong. Ever since, serious depictions of gay characters have all but disappeared from local TV. But Hong, who now runs five restaurants and is a frequent contributor to TV dramas and cable TV shows, feels times have really changed. “It’s been 10 years since I came out of the closet, and things have dramatically changed today compared to a decade ago,” Hong was quoted as saying to a local sports newspaper late last year. “I can’t believe Lee Min-ho, who is so popular, will play a gay role.”

In a nation where Confucianism is still deeply rooted, most promising male leads still refuse outright to portray gay characters, afraid of typecasting or worse. But Lee Min-ho, though his character is not actually gay, is at the peak of his popularity, just coming off an acclaimed run as a rich kid on the 2009 TV drama “Boys Over Flowers.” Two other famous actors, Lee Jun-ki and Kim Nam-gil, also gained a huge fan base after they played gay roles in the films “King and the Clown” (2005) and “No Regret” (2006), respectively. Perhaps this time Korean viewers are ready to accept that some people do have different “personal preferences.”

March 2011 – The Three Wise Monkeys

Jennifer’s Calendar: A Night out on Homo Hill

By Jennifer Stevens
The moment I arrived in Seoul, my self-esteem took a nosedive. Thousands of porcelain-skinned, shiny-haired waifs in 4-inch heels everywhere I looked…I felt like some freakish blonde extra in a glossy fashion movie. “You’re gonna be, like, a supermodel in Korea!” my friend Eric said before I left. His boyfriend chimed in, “Seriously Jen, they’re gonna think you’re famous or something.” Well, it’s been nine months, and apart from some staring on the subway, I feel far from famous. “Maybe you’re feeling down on yourself because you haven’t gotten laid in a fucking century,” said Eric during one of his “pep-talks” via Skype. “You know your vagina can actually grow over!”

“So I’ve heard,” I said. “But that’s not why I called. Well then what do you want from me? Move back here so your size six ass will be considered skinny again! And in the meantime, get yourself dolled up, go out to a gay bar, and get some much-needed attention from a bunch of half-naked men.” I signed off immediately and called my friend Jason to make plans: Itaewon’s “Homo Hill,” Friday night. I couldn’t believe I’d been in Seoul for nine months and hadn’t explored the hill full of gay bars.

I pictured a pristine alleyway hidden behind the dirty, vomit-filled roads of Itaewon. Techno music would be pumping into the streets and glitter would be falling from the sky. Bartenders would serve fruity concoctions in martini glasses while wearing nothing more than cowboy hats and boxer briefs. I tend to have a flair for the dramatics. “Jen, I don’t want you to get too excited,” said Jason on our way to Itaewon. “Remember, we’re still in Seoul, not South Beach.” But I couldn’t help myself. I sat in the subway, staring at the screen, anxiously waiting for our stop. When we exited, I practically skipped toward the hill.

It wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned. It turns out there are no clean streets in Itaewon, and there are no signs of glitter falling from the sky. “It’s still early,” said Jason. “Let’s sit down somewhere and have a cocktail while we wait for people to come.” We went to a place called Almaz. Plush red couches, silver sequined pillows, an outside garden, and a killer cocktail menu…my dreams of dancing all night, glow sticks in hand, started to seem more feasible. They even offered free condoms in the bathroom. “I don’t know why you were downplaying this place, Jason,” I said. “I mean, there are condoms and what may be some sort of sex toy dispenser in the bathroom! This night is going to be ridiculous!”

So we headed back out to the hill and immediately heard, “Hey, you bitch! I didn’t know you were gonna be here tonight!” Two very attractive men came running toward Jason with outstretched arms. “Oh my God, Jason, who is this beautiful woman you brought with you? We must take her dancing!” they demanded. A huge smile took over my face and I followed them to a bar called Queen. Twenty-something guys with popped collars and skinny jeans sat below the outdoor “Queen” sign, drinking bottles of Cass and whistling at passer-bys. Two men in suits had their lips locked, propped against the window. Inside, everyone was dancing.

“This is amazing!” I said to Jason’s friends. “No, honey, you’re amazing,” they told me. “Now, get that hot ass up on stage and dance!” For the next few hours, we spent our time mingling on the streets, drinking gin and tonics, and dancing to Korean pop music. We went to bars with clever names like “Why Not?” and “Always Homme.” I added five new numbers to my phone. “Okay, you’ve officially been hit on more than I have tonight,” said Jason. “Let’s get some street food and go home.”

I wasn’t sure if it was the string of compliments I’d received or the positive energy I’d felt from the hill, but for the first time in a long time, I didn’t want a greasy burger or a plate full of tteokbokki. “You know, my friend Eric was right,” I told Jason on the cab ride home. “I guess all I needed to feel better about myself was a night out with some gay men. Or maybe you still just need to get laid,” he said, laughing.

April 02, 2011 – On Top Magazine

South Korea Keeps Its Military Ban On Gay Sex

by On Top Magazine Staff
South Korea’s Constitutional Court has upheld the nation’s ban on outlawing gay sex in the military, the AFP reported. Saying that the law was necessary to maintain discipline among the ranks, the 9-member panel ruled Thursday that the law is constitutional. “The legal code cannot be seen as discriminatory against gays because such behavior, if left unchecked, might result in subordinates being harassed by superiors in military barracks,” the court said in a statement.

Justices, however, were not unanimous in their decision, with 4 judges dissenting. Under the ban, written in 1962, soldiers found guilty of violating the policy are locked up for up to one year and given a dishonorable discharge. South Korea’s military draft makes service mandatory for all male citizens, with no conscientious objector option. And in a country where service records are commonly used to determine employment and being gay is considered “abnormal,” a military dishonorable discharge for being gay carries a heavy burden.

The Military Penal Code further punishes gay troops by lumping together consensual and non-consensual gay sex as “sexual harassment.” South Korea’s defense ministry had asked the Constitutional Court to uphold the gay ban, saying that the military “works for the public interest rather than personal happiness.”

2011 July 16 – Fridae

Seoul Coming Out More and More: Advertisement for a Gay Dance Night –
The Love Shack, an 80s Dance Party

Seoul, Korea (South) – Monsieur Cree-Cree presents

The Love Shack@club After
For the second-coming of The Love Shack, leave your expectations at the door. The whole shack will shimmy with the sounds and audio-textures from that very special decade that you love or will learn to love: the 1980s.

And Monsieur Cree-Cree has uploaded some special sonic surprises to smash this shack apart. That’s right! Let’s smash, mash, and trash it up! It’s been so monsoon-humid that we all need to let it all go.

So get ready to dance the night away for this is a party for the people, but the people better dance.

It’s a party for the sexy people:
the young & the old, the hip & the elite, the expats & the asians, the queers & the geeks, the chic & the freaks…
So, forget about whatever it is you thought you wanted to do on Saturday the 16th… forget about Hongdae… forget about Cheongdam… forget about "The Hill"… just forget… let it go…

Let’s Dance!…And of course! What’s a good party without some drag!

Monsieur Cree-Cree’s girl, Be’Yonca Fierceness, will be performing at 1am sharp…don’t miss out!

It’s about the music not the clothes…however…suggested dress code: tank tops, cut-off Ts, muscle shirts…dress sexy, dress chic, dress funky, dress in drag, have fun, Be Free…if I see you wearing red&black, I’ll love you forever.

be well,

Time – 2011-07-16, 23:00 – 04:00
Venue – club After
Address – 132-3
Admission Fee – Freee!
Ticketing URL

Website URL

Enquiries – +82 2 792 2232

September 29, 2011 –

VIFF 2011: Gay Asian films explore world of prostitution

by Craig Takeuchi
Quite a number of queer-interest films at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival (which kicks off today, in case you missed the memo) hail from Asia as part of the Dragons and Tigers program. Since LGBT communities are gaining ground in countries there, we’ll inevitably see more and more media representations of gay life emerge from them.
Prostitution happens to be a common thread in three out of VIFF’s four Asian queer-interest selections this year. (The exception is Japan’s Our Future , about a tomboyish girl who is bullied at school for being too masculine.)

In the Filipino thriller Señorita , for example, a transgender surrogate mother and upscale hooker moves to a smalltown where she gets caught up in the politics surrounding an imminent election. But far from glamorizing the business, making it appear sexy, or sugarcoating things, two of the films keep a particularly fixed eye on the consequences and complications of working in the sex trade.

Lost in Paradise (which has its first screening tonight) breaks new ground as one of the first Vietnamese films to depict gay life in Ho Chi Minh City as its primary subject matter. In the film, a handsome, inexperienced youth, Khoi, moves to the city, and is swiftly taken advantage of by two gay conmen. One of them, Lam, takes pity on him, and even falls for him. While the film veers towards material that may seem well-trodden to fans of international queer cinema, and saccharine and romantic content (such as a mute mentally handicapped man who raises a duckling) gets cloying, it does keep things realistic when it comes to the hardships of being gay in the city.

The story makes much of the emotional impact of prostitution on personal relationships. Lam’s prostitution rapidly becomes a point of contention between the pair that threatens their intimacy. Meanwhile, abuse (including a female prostitute with an abusive couple as pimps), gay-bashings, and other forms of violence circle them as well. And it makes it clear that it’s not a world that’s easy to get out of once you’re in it. Stateless Things from South Korea takes an even rawer, more grim look at the lives of two young men, one living in affluence, the other barely scraping by. But both are trapped in unhappy lives.

One is an illegal North Korean immigrant named Jun, who tries to find whatever work he can, including an abusive gas station owner. The other is Hyeon, who lives in an upscale apartment thanks to his sugar daddy—a married businessman. Both wind up in prostitution, the first out of desperation, the other out of boredom and rebellion. Jun’s first sexual experience with a john is captured in detail, and his revulsion is heightened by his precarious situation (he lacks official papers and could be deported if caught), his need to survive, and the numerous struggles he faces along the way. The film isn’t necessarily about the Korean gay scene as it is a drama about two characters living in difficult situations who resort to male prostitution. Needless to say, these films aren’t for audiences seeking uplifting or encouraging depictions of gay life. Nonetheless, they do provide a revealing look at the challenges and pitfalls in the unrelenting world of prostitution and street life.

Check the VIFF website for screening times and details.