I attended my scheduled weekly tea time where I helped S get a Priceline refund and caught up on life.
Life is full of surprises, though.
I asked S about an anti-discrimination bill that is being deliberated by Korean lawmakers right now. A similar Equality Act was passed in the US last year (to my surprise, I learned: it was first proposed in 1974) but I don’t remember there being the mountain of opposition that exists against this bill in South Korea.
In regards to America’s Equality Act, Wikipedia states:
A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in April 2019 found that 92% of American voters believed that employers should not be allowed to fire someone based on their sexual orientation or sexual identity,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equality_Act_(United_States)
This Korean bill is an incredibly basic bill outlining that everyone has equal rights regardless of sex, religion, or sexual orientation. As an American I’m shocked this bill hasn’t already been passed. There are a few provinces that have local anti-discrimation laws, Gyeongnam and Jeju among them!
News sources tell me that six previous attempts have been made but thwarted by Christian groups and conservative parties that proclaim the bill promotes homosexuality. Sorry, I didn’t know equal rights were so disgusting to the church.
The lawmakers who cosigned the bill are being harassed. The president, who ran on a platform of equality, has remained disturbingly quiet.
I asked S about this bill and if it had been passed but instead learned something devastating.
“I hope it doesn’t pass. If it does, there will be many more people who become gay for no reason. And bisexuals will try to marry two people.”
Well, the only people who would “appear” are the people that never came out to begin with.
She added she was afraid that the bill would be a gateway to gay marriage and that it enforced reverse discrimination. Against whom exactly I’m not sure.
One article says:
Those protesters mischaracterize the bill as a form of reverse discrimination that, in protecting the rights of sexual minorities, denies them their own right to free speech.https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Moon-stays-silent-on-equality-law-in-LGBT-unfriendly-South-Korea
It sounds more like people are protesting that they can’t freely commit hate speech against minorities… Depressingly, this article lists the protests in almost the same talking points S gave.
And again, sexual minorities face extreme prejudice in Korean society:
In South Korea, sexual minorities have long faced severe social stigma, sometimes even regarded as mentally unwell and morally corrupt. One national survey reported that nearly half of South Koreans don’t want a gay friend, neighbor, or colleague. Another found that 45% of LGBT people under 18 have tried to commit suicide, while an NHRCK poll showed 92% of LGBT people worry about being the victim of hate crime.https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Moon-stays-silent-on-equality-law-in-LGBT-unfriendly-South-Korea
What I heard from S and by extension Korean society was, “if we don’t discriminate against and hold down the LGBTQ community, they will rise up and take over”. Do you really believe that someone who loves differently than you deserves to be treated as less? That they are somehow a threat to you?
I was completely out of my depth for this conversation and rocked by the realization that coworkers who are only six years older than me have a mindset closer to my grandparents’ generation, or even my great grandparents’.
To be fair, how much can I expect from someone who didn’t know that IUDs existed until last week?
I also asked C her thoughts on the bill which were somehow even wilder: “I support it except for the healthcare for AIDS. Because 99% of AIDS in Korea are gay people.” She made an aborted gesture which referred to how she thinks AIDS is spread and also confirmed that G is the only letter of LGBTQ she knows. At the very least, she said “I really don’t know much about LGBTQ” and seemed possibly open to discussion about it one day.
AIDS treatment is free in Korea while cancer treatment is not, which she thinks is unfair. I think she sensed my disappointment at her response because after brushing her teeth she told me, “Aside from the healthcare aspect, I support the bill”.
I knew in theory that Korea was conservative but I didn’t realize how pervasive that was even in the young generation. My own extended family is conservative but even then I’ve never had to correct that “no, not every gay person has AIDS”.
It’s just harder and harder for me to understand why people who have never interacted with the LGBTQ community have such incredibly strong feelings about relationships they don’t try to understand.
“Half of Koreans wouldn’t want a gay friend or neighbor”. Half of Koreans have never even met a gay person.
S has certainly never knowingly interacted with a member of the LGBTQ community. I’d wager that 100% of the groups protesting equal rights on the ground that it spreads homosexuality have never knowingly talked to an LGBTQ person.
It’s also hilarious because a Christian cult was responsible for the huge surge of COVID-19 cases in Korea. Who’s spreading what now?
I could understand this more from the Chinese who have limited internet access and the ever watchful CCP. But for a country that has access to all the information in the world and has led much of the response of this pandemic, it seems woefully out of touch.
If two consenting adults love each other and want to be together, why would proclaimed pacifists protest that?
A long time ago I read that Korea was like 1950s America but with iPads and scoffed at the idea. But now I wonder if that wasn’t a tiny bit right.
What’s very interesting is that the oft-quoted Sodom and Gomorrah passage from the bible actually condemns the two cities to ruin for, among other sins, attempted gang rape and hostility towards outsiders. Funny how it’s used to support that very concept today.
This of course plays into a much more global problem of religion being used to hate and oppress people. In this case, Korean Christian groups are literally tearing up at the idea of sexual minorities having protections. Huh?
In the horrific ongoing train wreck that is 2020, this is the hill we choose to die on? Out of the many real and troubling problems, the right Korean camp is protesting to keep discrimination alive? Seriously?
In April, a small COVID outbreak started with a group that visited gay clubs in Itaewon, the foreigner neighborhood. The far right political groups licked their chops— they run on both anti-foreign and anti-homosexual platforms.
The situation brought to light realities of prejudice and many infected people did not go to get tested for fear their communities might find out. It got to the point that the Korean government said, “please come get tested. We will not take your name or personal information at all.” There have been a few small untraceable clusters since then which we can assume are related to infected people who were afraid to come forward for fear of their life.
In a promising turn, though, the National Council of Churches does support the bill.
Let’s hope for some sunshine in the torrential rain that is 2020.
Much love to everyone in these crazy times.