SEOUL, REPUBLIC OF KOREA – The destiny of demographics is being experienced—at glacial speed, some would complain—in South Korea, a country with a culture that has long considered homosexuality to be a taboo subject. For decades, even prior to the nation’s establishment in 1948, the culture’s traditional Confucian emphasis on the bonds of family—as defined by the philosophy’s five categories of social relationships—led homosexuality to be considered detrimental to the order of society. Later, gays were viewed with suspicion and fear, as potential carriers of HIV/AIDS.
“Most people have little understanding of homosexuals—not very deep,” Lee Jong-goel, director-general of Chingusai, Korean for “Between Friends,” an LGBT rights group based in Seoul, told an English-language newspaper. “I think that they need to be more interested about gay people’s lives and human rights.”
Many Koreans still view homosexuality as deviant behavior, or symptomatic of mental illness. Some even question its existence: Last month, a pastor last month claimed on South Korean television that the country was free of homosexuality.
“Most Korean straight people did not have information and opportunities to meet gay people around them,” said filmmaker Hyuk-sang Lee, director of “Miracle on Jongno Street,” a 2010 documentary about the lives of four gay Korean men.
“That’s why I’m making films about LGBT people in Korea, because film is the most effective media for spreading messages to the world and can make straight people have positive attitudes toward LGBT [persons]. As for me, that is my duty, I think.”