Being Gay in South Korea in 2013 still seems to be a very difficult prospect indeed. When we first received this question, we knew we wanted to eventually cover this topic, but at the time didn’t quite know how difficult it would be. Turns out it was a very tough for us to cover, especially if we were going to tell the truth. Which if you watch the video, we truly attempted to do, at least from our perspective.
As much as we love living here, the stance that most people seem to have publicly on homosexuality is not one of the reasons why. Gays do not seem to have equal rights here, and being gay here is something most people seem to be keeping to themselves.. with the exception of telling close, trusted friends and some family members.
Take Korea’s most famous celebrity Hong Seok Cheon (홍석전). If you ask us, this guy has guts. He came out of the closet in 2000, and within 24 hours was already fired from all of his jobs on TV. Imagine that. If you think about it, 13 years isn’t really all that long ago and yet even this year he still broke down and cried on TV explaining “You have no idea how frustrating it is to be treated like a criminal when I’ve done nothing wrong..” We feel for this guy, because society in South Korea in 2013 still doesn’t seem to publicly accept gay people.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. Since that time Mr. Hong has become quite a successful entrepreneur, opening several restaurants in the Itaewon district of Seoul, the most famous (as far as we know) being ‘My Chelsea’. And although Korea continues to evolve, Mr. Hong is still one of the only publicly gay individuals on the Korean scene.. but not the only one.
Kim Jo Kwang Su is a famous film director who also happens to be openly gay. He is considered to have made Korea’s first gay-themed feature film. He married his boyfriend of 8 years only yesterday in Seoul! One of his goals with the marriage was to use his celebrity to help further along gay social acceptance in South Korea as well as equality for all people of Korea.
We know several people here who are gay. They are our friends, and as far as we can tell, none of them have ever told their parents of their real sexual orientation. We understand that no country is perfect, and that ‘coming out of the closet’ so to speak must be tremendously difficult for anyone. We can only imagine that as difficult as that act might be for individuals, it has to be so much more so in South Korea, so much that most people just avoid doing it in order to keep the peace. We have heard that most people never tell their boss and anyone they work with at a professional company since they would most likely lose their job.
Some people in the younger generation, however, do seem to be warming up to the idea of homosexuality here. We have heard of different gay pride parades in Seoul, and Richard even shot some video at the Korean Queer Culture Festival back in 2011. There were lots of people there celebrating gay sexual freedom, and it was a super positive experience had by all. There are also websites available for those interested in the subject, and we have heard from friends that most gays and lesbians turn to the web since it really is so much more discreet than ever having to declare anything public.
In all, we gave it our best shot in this video. For some it’s a controversial subject. For us, we believe in equality for all. It’s really just that simple.