2012/07/15 | 1007 views | Permalink |
Korea isn't exactly known for its liberal culture, especially when it comes to one's sexual orientation. How would you describe Korea's perspective on homosexuality and its place within modern Korean society?
Korea's perspective on homosexuality is like the "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy. People are too afraid or it is too taboo to discuss. People may talk behind your back, but they will never ask. I think a lot of people are in denial too. Most Koreans believe that people are not homosexuals and therefore don't question others. It makes it easy because you can hide behind the friendly gestures of the Korean society. Koreans typically don't talk about their feelings in order to save face. The society forces you to go in the closet or hide who you really are. Not because they force you to speak, but because they force you to stay quiet.
Korea's economy has developed at a remarkable rate in the last 60 years, but some feel that its cultural consciousness has not progressed at that same rate. What are your thoughts on Korea as a developed nation and its current social attitude towards homosexuality?
Korea's ability to overcome its financial problems and go from rock bottom to the top in a remarkable time is very impressive. It shows that this nation is full of hardworking and determined people. However, these people once had nothing, so now they held on to every penny. Now, everyone is determined to be the best and they strive to be wealthy business men. The women decide who they date based on wealth or status. Your parents set up dates so that you can meet your future husband or wife. You are 'forced' to date the opposite sex. All these things make it difficult being a homosexual. Your partner has to be picked, approved and accepted by the whole family.
Being in a couple in Korea is something that is made very public. Couples often wear matching clothes, shoes, glasses and generally enjoy being seen in a relationship. Does this same appreciation and display of love extend to homosexuals living in Korea? Or is it something that is best kept from the public's eye?
Actually, being in a homosexual relationship in Korea is very easy when it comes to dressing alike. All the things that are stereotypically gay; such as the color purple, rainbows, holding hands, and dressing like the opposite sex, are the norm in Korea. People will rarely look or question these things. However, if they see someone that is not Korean doing these things they may wonder. They will never ask, so you can pretty much do what you want.
Recently the Seoul Gay Pride Parade took place. Did you attend and what was the atmosphere like? Have you attended a gay pride parade back home, and, if so, do the two differ in anyway?
Yes, I went to the Seoul Gay Pride. It was a lot smaller than I imagined. There were more Koreans than foriegners. It was a lot of fun. I did notice that nearby shops and restaurants had no idea what was going on. No one protested and everyone was very friendly. There were a lot of gay groups selling things and giving out information.
I have been to one Gay Pride in Orlando, Florida. The two were similar as well as different. In Orlando there were a lot more people of all ages and their clothes were provocative. But there were also people protesting there. I would say Korean Gay Pride is smaller, but it had a happy, safe feel to it.
Are there any stark differences between America's homosexual culture and Korea's? And how would you describe how homosexuals view themselves in Korea?
I think being a homosexual in Korea is harder because there are less support groups. Korean society is about showing no weakness. It is about carrying on the family name and bloodline. Being a homosexual does not fit the mold. So, people fall in a deep depression or they change who they are to be accepted by their family and society. Koreans tend to care what others think. This feeling of being lost and lonely takes place in American society too. However, I believe that the American culture is more accepting of people who are gnerally considered to be different. There are more support groups and people to discuss your problems with, and it is more culturally acceptable to be an outcast in America.
Are there places in Seoul (clubs, bars, restaurants, etc.) that market themselves as venues for gay and lesbians to meet and have fun? If so, what are they like and do they differ from places back home?
I was really surprised with how many bars, clubs, and restaurants there are that support gays in Seoul. There is a street in Itaewon that is called "homohill". You can find many transexuals and crossdressers on that street. Also, Hongdae has many lesbian clubs. I was really surprised to see that there are a lot of Korean homosexuals that are openly gay. I have been to a few gay bars and clubs in the States, but nothing like these in Korea. I think Seoul has the most options. These places are fun and I have spent many nights at them. My hometown did not have these kinds of places.
Have you ever had any negative experiences in Korea with regards to your sexual orientation?
One thing I really hate is when I try and shop for guy shoes or clothes...there is always someone telling me that it is for men.
I had one bad experience with my girlfriend's aunt. One day I was over her house. My girlfriend's whole family was there. Her aunt asked my girlfriend if she was gay and if we were a couple. The whole family said nothing. I didn't know what was said because it was in Korean. There was tension in the room, but nothing else about our relationship was said. Her aunt is an outspoken Korean.
Are there any major differences between being in a relationship with a Korean girl and a girl from back home? And what's it like dating a Korean Lesbian in general?
I have only dated two girls in my life. It is hard to characterize a whole society based on two people, so my opinions are only based on these two experiences.
My first girlfriend was Hispanic-American. She was easygoing and we were great friends. We both came out to our friends and family while we were dating. Although, what we had was not serious, we still supported each other. Our breakup was mutual and we are still friends.
My Korean girlfriend was very loyal and caring. She would do anything for me. However, we did have problems. We lacked in the communication department. She would get jealous and tried to control eveything. We eventually ended our two year relationship. We did not end well and we no longer are friends.
Both of these experiences were different and similar. It just depends on the person.
Some Westerners might say that it is possible to identify a gay or lesbian through way they dress or act. So how is your 'Gaydar' in Korea? Is more difficult to tell whether a person is gay or lesbian?
I would say that it is harder to tell if someone is gay or not on Korea. The guys are more feminine and the tomboy look is acceptable. My friends and I use the korean word "백첨" which means 100%. We shout that out when we see someone that is "100% gay". It is a fun game to play.
Is there anything you would personally like to comment on or share with regards to Korea and homosexuality?
I would have to say that being a Korean homosexual is a very hard thing to have to go through. The sooner you can accept who you are and realize that you are not alone, the faster you will reach happiness. There is a whole world out there experiencing the same things. You just have to break free from the strains of society and become your own person.
Age: 29 years old
Occupaqtion in Korea: ESL Teacher
Hometown: Brunswick, Georgia
City in Korea: Seoul
Time spent in Korea: 3 years
Best thing about Korea: I feel safe
Least favorite thing about Korea: The lack of communication
- C.J Wheeler ([email protected])
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