[FOUNTAIN]O tempes! O mores!The Korean word for “metamorphosis” also has the meaning of “abnormality” or “perversion.” A tadpole hatches from an egg and undergoes a transformation into a frog. Butterflies, flies and mosquitoes are insects that transform during the course of life. Human beings do not. The parts of human beings grow with age, and no arms or legs start growing out of one’s side some time into life. But people here call those with different sexual tendencies perverts, again using the word for metamorphosis.
Standards of sexual perversion have changed throughout human history. Masturbation is now accepted as a normal human behavior that starts in adolescence, but it was until recently considered perverted behavior. A man in his twenties was said to have died from six years of habitual masturbation. Findings also supposedly linked masturbation to mental disorder and epilepsy.
The general perception about homosexuality has been much harsher. The Bible describes homosexuality as an unnatural sin, and Sodom, where the men were wicked sinners, met its demise from burning sulfur raining down on it. Sodomy was punishable by up to 20 years in prison in 19th-century Massachusetts. In the 20th century, homosexuality was treated as a mental illness or a neurological disorder. But the pathological view of homosexuality changed as studies showed that more than 3 percent of the male population displayed homosexual tendencies. In 1974, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
Homosexuality is not yet generally accepted in Korea. Last year, an online group appealed to the courts to suspend an administrative measure that classified it as being harmful to minors, but the court dismissed the case. Recently, the National Human Rights Commission recommended that homosexuality should be considered a normal sexual orientation and that Web sites on homosexuality be removed from the list of materials harmful to minors. That is a step that could end the lumping of homosexuality together with orgies and incest.
Some religious leaders say a tolerance of homosexuality would disrupt the foundation of family values. Homosexuals, for their part, argue that they have done nothing to harm others. Certainly there are more than enough people who proclaim to be normal but have done perverse harm to others.
by Lee Gyu-yun
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.