Friday, September 20, 2013

A Celebrity Gay Wedding in South Korea

Here's some big news: last week, film director Kim-Jho Gwang-soo (김조광수) married his boyfriend of nine years in a public wedding ceremony meant to galvanize social awareness of LGBTQ rights in Korea. About one thousand people were in attendance at the ceremony held by the Cheonggye Stream in Seoul.

From The Hankyoreh
The LGBTQ community in Korea is not in a very enviable position. Centuries of traditional ethics imposed and strengthened by Korea's Confucian and Christian roots push sexual minorities way into the margins of society. In a society where even discussing normative sexual issues is taboo, many have adopted the struthious approach and simply declared that homosexuality is a "Western world's problem" that has nothing to do with Korea. But the controversy can't be waved away for much longer. While same-sex marriage has not been actually outlawed, it is not yet legally recognized. Thus, this high-profile wedding ceremony of two fairly well-known figures in the entertainment industry is something that will test the country's attitude toward the issue.

Unsurprisingly, there were some detractors, including two self-identified Christian wedding crashers who disrupted the ceremony on separate occasions. One of them jumped onto the stage and scattered garbage and food waste on it. Very Christ-like, I'm sure.

On a more positive (and perhaps surprising) note, the couple's marriage registration form was accepted by the district office, saying that the law stipulates nothing against gay couples who submit an application, but the legal process of family registration will be left to the court's interpretation. So, there's still a ways to go, but things seem to be looking up.

Here is one more article that does a good job laying out the history and current political situation regarding same-sex marriage in Korea.

I'm very curious about what my students might think of this. As soon as my college prep classes begin in a few weeks, I'll have them debate hot button issues such as this one.

P.S. And just for kicks, here's a link to a piece my friend and fellow Fulbrighter Jake wrote for Fulbright's literary magazine, Infusion, about the slowly changing attitude toward gays and lesbians in Korean society, propelled in large part thanks to exposure through media and entertainment.

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