LGBTQ+ discrimination in South Korea



Sexual minority groups and conflicts exist all around the world. However, depending on politics, education and law enforcement, some countries express harsh discrimination towards the sexual minority community. LGBTQ+ refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.[1]. Even though many supporters engage in social activity trying to share an open-minded view towards the LGBTQ+ population, many conservative people tend to disagree with the idea and show disgust towards many events or supporters of the diverse sexual orientation.


The sexual minority was seen as somewhat not natural due to Korean history being deeply related to Confucianism. [2] Even though being homosexual individual or belonging to a sexual minority group is legal, many people feared of coming out due to social taboo that existed. Until the 1980s' people's acceptance of diverse sexual orientation was very low. Sexual minorities started to attract more attention in society in 1990s. The first non-heterosexual club was operated at Yonsei University in 1995. [3] Homosexual associations started forming in this time frame, including non-governmental organizations(NGOs) for LGBT Human Rights of Korea. [4]


While many countries organize events to raise awareness, such as pride parade, South Korea also started a Seoul Queer Culture Festival, also known as SQCF.[5] Seoul Queer Culture Festival first held their event in 2000 around Daehak-ro(대학로) area. Daehak-ro refers to an area where many universities are clustered.

This image demonstrates the Seoul Queer Culture Festival held in 2019

The number of people gathered leading to a formation of an organization. They have been trying to protect rights for the LGBTQ+ community and to enforce a law protecting sexual minorities from discrimination.

When the parade takes place, it is common to observe a clash between two different organizations. Most of the times, organization against SQCF is a conservative Christian advocacy group and conservative civic organization.[6] In September 2019, pride parade was held in Busan. At the same time, an anti-homosexual protest was held next to the pride parade.[7]


There are many cases of discrimination held in institutions. In December 2009, A student was banned from attending boarding school due to her sexual orientation. There was an incident where a student got admitted to a school she has applied. She got very excited and shared her story about herself being admitted to one of her "dream school" and wrote a description about herself, including her sexual orientation. A few days later, she received a call back from the school, announcing that she cannot attend the school. The explanation provided by the school was shocking. After many parents looking at her being admitted to the school, they were worried about her staying in the same dormitory with other female students. Many parents were continuously putting complaints towards the school, and they had to announce that she was not able to attend the school.[8]



Korea is divided into two different nations; the Democratic People's republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea. Technically these two countries reached a cease-fire agreement, which means that the Korean War has never officially ended. Therefore, both of these countries require able-bodied men to enter military service for the designated term. In the case of South Korea, able-bodied men are required to participate in the military for 20 months.

This is a picture of South Korean soldiers participating in mandatory military service term.

Military against homosexual

The military itself is a place full of homophobic thoughts. Hyper-masculinity of the military has a massive impact on females who defines themselves as transgender or gay male. [9] Sang-moon Lee, a Korean gay man, published a book about his personal experience of serving a military term as a person who does not belong to the heterosexual group. In 2016, Lee was assigned to attend an airforce for his designated service term. While he started training, there were many hardships he had to face. He was not comfortable entering the public shower room, and therefore he began to avoid taking a shower. He was reported to the main office several times due to offensive odour. The reason why he wanted to keep the secret of being homosexual is due to a military law that existed. Korean military law 92-6 states that if soldiers were engaged in anal sex or sexual attack will be charged 2 years or less imprisonment.[10] Under this law, homosexual individuals could get punished even if they engage in sexual activity outside of the military base. Many people look at this law as discrimination towards sexual minority groups and organizations are trying to cease the military act 92-6.

Sangmoon Lee has been suffering depression since he entered the military due to increased stress from the military. He had an urge to commit suicide several times and had to finish his term earlier with a dishonourable discharge.[11]


  1. Lancet, T. (2014). Support for LGBTQ youth. Lancet, the, 383(9914), 282-282. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60089-1
  2. Youn, G. (2018). Attitudinal changes toward homosexuality during the past two decades (1994-2014) in korea. Journal of Homosexuality, 65(1), 100-116. doi:10.1080/00918369.2017.1310512
  3. Button, E. (2004). Socio-cultural changes in South Korea since 1991: An American view. International Journal of Korean Studies, 8, 199–228.
  4. Kim, K. (2011). Women and homosexuals in the South Korean defensive force: Possibility and limitation of their full integration. Korean Journal of International Studies, 9, 233–260.
  5. SQCF(n.d)retrieved from
  6. Han, W. (2018). Proud of myself as LGBTQ: The seoul pride parade, homonationalism, and queer developmental citizenship. Korea Journal, 58(2), 27-57. doi:10.25024/kj.2018.58.2.27
  7. SeungHun.L (2019, September 21)Haeundae Queer parade VS Anti-homosexual protest Busan-ilbo retrieved from
  8. 한국 레즈비언 상담소.(2011, September 24). Retrieved from
  9. Todd A. HENRY (2018). Queer/Korean Studies as Critique. Korea Journal, 58(2), 5-26
  10. Lee.Y 2019.10.3 내 이름은 군대 Kyounghyang sinmun retrieved from
  11. Kim.J 군대에 왔을 뿐인데 왜 죄인이 되어야할까 ohmynewsretrieved from