Freedom of Expression for Homosexuals

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Freedom of Expression for Homosexuals

One evening last weekend when the long awaited rain was falling quite heavily cooling the late summer heat, several homosexuals took this reporter to a bar in the back of Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon, Seoul. A meeting was taking place at the bar to raise contributions for the five-day Queer Cultural Festival to be held at Yonsei University and Ewha Woman‘s University. The cultural festival is scheduled to take place during the 2000 Seoul International Queer Film & Video Festival, a ten-day event that begins on September 1 to explore gay themes without prejudice or limitations. The Queer Cultural Festival is another cultural event organized by the sexual minority, in other words, homosexuals and bisexuals, with the objective of expanding their realm.

The overall ambiance of the bar was dark and gloomy, as if to reflect the sharp conflicts rising from the desire of a minority to gain official recognition for their existence and the strong social prejudices against them. There were about 100 people at the bar, and they were carrying out a serious conversation about the festival over the deafening music. They introduced themselves as "the different," a reference to their being a minority group who fails to be counted among the “homogeneous” majority. The Queer Cultural Festival has a great social significance in that homosexuals would be making their first public appearance at public discussions, lectures and talk shows to openly discuss the gay issue, which hitherto has been discussed actively only through movies, literature and the Internet. About 3,000 people are expected to participate in the festival.

In the beginning, they had planned to hold the cultural festival on the street, in areas such as Itaewon or Sinchon, but decided to move the venue to university campuses, for fear of coming under attack of "collective terrorism." Actually, during the Seoul International Queer Film & Video Festival held two years ago, an unidentified person or persons pulled out the power cord while a film was playing, and the film posters were repeatedly torn down. This is why homosexuals are still afraid to openly proclaim their presence.

The general public might regard homosexuals as an object of curiosity, but homosexuality is a very natural thing for them, according to one of the organizers of the festival. "When Ewha Woman’s University allowed us to use their campus to hold the festival, the male participants were asked to leave by 11 p.m., but we (homosexual males) are naturally disinterested in girls. When I heard the request, my first thought was that we are the ones who are worryied about being pursued by the girls."

The male homosexual population is estimated to exceed 100,000 in Korea. The number of hits for "bogal.com", a portal site for homosexuals launched last June, has exceeded 100,000 in two months‘ time, and this number is increasing faster and faster.

The academic debate over whether homosexuality is genetic or socially acquired still continue today with no definite answer in sight. A person’s attitude towards homosexuality depends heavily on which theory one believes. The generally accepted theory to date is that sexual preference is formed at a very young age, under the combined influence of biological, psychological and social elements, and that sexual preference is not a matter of individual choice. If this is true, then sexual preferences should be guaranteed the greatest freedom possible.

Above all else, a sound state of mental health is important for the homosexual minority. What this means is that their sexual preference should not be viewed as something out of the normal, but one that is shared by many people. Holding open discussions would be a very good measure to that end. Homosexuals refer to openly announcing their sexual tendency as "coming out." They confess that their self-esteem invariably receives a sharp boost after going through this process of clearly stating their identity.

"It's not that we are trying to become the majority. This may sound ridiculous but we think the problem with Korean orphans can be significantly eased if marriages between homosexuals were allowed." Can we call this too romantic an idea?

by Chung Myong-jin

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