Gays address issues facing them in KoreaIt takes more than love to live as a homosexual in Korea.
More often than not, it takes courage to brave it out. Banners calling for gay rights often are ripped down at university campuses. Signs on the doors of gay student groups sometimes disappear. The first Korean Web site dedicated to gay issues, www.exzone.com, was designated by the government as obscene for allegedly being harmful to teenagers.
"Although the situation has improved considerably, sexual minorities like homosexuals are still viewed as unacceptable by most of society," says Han Chae-yun, an editor of Buddy, a local gay magazine.
This June, Ms. Han and her two buddies at the magazine, Yun Mi-kyung and Lee Se-young, voiced their opinion that sexual minorities in Korea needed an organization.
With a group of activists, they founded the Korea Sexual Minority Culture and Human Rights Center. Among the activists forming the nonprofit organization were Lee Ju-ran, a cultural critic specializing in homosexual literature and music, and Yi Huso, a student majoring in homosexual psychology at New York University. Mr. Yi also runs the Exzone Web site.
Instead of organizing showy street demonstrations, the center plans to focus on academic research and the formation of governmental policies on sexual orientation. "We are also interested in strengthening the community power of sexual minorities by holding cultural events," Ms. Lee says.
The center is not yet fully active, but its members have already booked their first event, a lecture on the gay rights movement by Walter L. Williams, an outspoken activist and professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California. Mr. Williams is the editor of the International Gay and Lesbian Review and author of the award-winning book "Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture."
"The homosexual rights movement began in the 1950s in the United States, and we believe it can be a good example for the movement in Korea," Ms. Lee says, explaining why Mr. Williams was invited to be the group's first speaker.
His lecture on the difficulties that sexual minorities have experienced in America is free to the public.
Mr. Williams will speak at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the 14th-floor seminar room of the Heungguk Life Insurance Building in Gwanghwamun.
For more information, call 02-797-5034.
by Chun Su-Jin