Kim Do-hyun, a transgender man, still remembers growing up in South Korea and struggling with his identity as a teenager.
In the classroom, her teachers reinforced the idea that being gay or lesbian was wrong.
In high school, a teacher showed his class the movie Farewell to My Concubine, which portrays homosexuality, and one of his classmates later commented that “all homosexuals should be shot to death.”
In high school, a teacher who taught ethics said that gay and lesbian people were “wrong” and should not be accepted while explaining the concepts of “yin (dark)” and “yang (bright)” and the idea of harmony.
Kim, now 26, considers himself lucky as his mother supported his gender identity and paid for surgery for his transition. But he hopes that South Korea will promote the idea of equality and that the National Assembly will finally pass an anti-discrimination law.
In a report released Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the assembly’s failure to pass the ban on discrimination was affecting LGBTQ people in South Korea, particularly young people, leading to ” a series of discriminatory practices “and” Aggravation of harassment. “
“LGBT students often face harassment and discrimination in the classroom in South Korea, both from adults and from other students,” said Ryan Thoreson, LGBTQ rights researcher at HRW.
“Without clear protections, many students suffer in silence at the expense of their education and well-being.”
The lack of protection for LGBTQ people in South Korea dominated the headlines and sparked an outcry earlier this year following the suicide of Byun Hee-soo, a transgender soldier.
Byun was forcibly discharged in 2020 after undergoing gender reassignment surgery. His reinstatement appeal was denied and LGBTQ rights advocates said the government’s decision led Byun to take his own life.
HRW is urging the government to act immediately on the legislation, saying it is the best opportunity to extend protections to vulnerable South Korean youth, including those in the LGBTQ community.
President Moon Jae-in, who is seen as a progressive, has condemned discrimination against LGBTQ people. But he has not openly expressed his support for passing the legislation. He is also known for opposing same-sex marriage.
Religious and conservative opposition
“Even as national public opinion raves about LGBT rights and neighboring governments take steps toward LGBT equality, yet the South Korean government has not made significant progress, citing intense religious and conservative opposition to justify the inaction, “the HRW report said Tuesday.
Among other “systemic problems,” HRW said South Korean schools have excluded discussions about LGBTQ people during sex ed classes.
In government-funded mental health programs, counselors were found to discourage students from being LGBTQ and make it difficult for transgender students to attend “according to their gender identity.”
Young people interviewed for the HRW report described being ostracized and ostracized, abused online, or physically or sexually harassed.
A 22-year-old lesbian woman recalled that once her sexual orientation became known at her high school, she was singled out for bullying and “older students criticized me saying, ‘You’re gay, you’re dirty.’
There are several pending bills that seek to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, and other identities, and some of the ruling party’s top presidential candidates and other officials have voiced support for the proposals.
But efforts to promote greater equality and combat discrimination have also sparked an angry backlash from the country’s conservatives, as well as religious institutions.
Some of the top conservative presidential candidates have reportedly vowed to abolish the gender equality ministry if elected.
South Korea is expected to go to the polls in March next year. Moon is not seeking reelection and former attorney general Yoon Seok-youl, who has sided with the Conservatives, leads the polls.
Amid growing popular support for LGBTQ rights, HRW said South Korean politicians’ inability to pass a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill has left many at risk of being fired from their jobs, evicted from their rented apartments and mistreated. because of your identity.
“Schools must be safe and inclusive spaces for all young people to learn,” said HRW’s Thoreson.
“Lawmakers and school officials must take meaningful steps so that LGBT students in South Korea can learn and thrive without fear of intimidation, exclusion and exposure.”