South Korea: Right Wing Leader Condemns Homosexuality

SUMMARY

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is joining the LGBTI community in the Republic of Korea to denounce the homophobic statements of Myung-Bak, Lee, leader of South Korea’s ultra-right wing Grand National Party. Mr. Lee is slated to be a leading contender in the presidential race. In a recent interview with a major national newspaper, Mr. Lee condemned homosexuality and stated that the only normal union is between man and woman.

ACTION

IGLHRC has been contacted by members of LGBTI organizations in South Korea to join a cyber demonstration against Mr. Myung-Bak, Lee for his recent homophobic statements in an interview with a leading national newspaper. Mr. Lee, who is leader of the right wing Grand National Party, which holds the majority in the South Korean parliament, stated that he is against homosexuality because it is abnormal and declared that the only “normal” union is between members of the opposite sex. Given that Mr. Lee is a prominent national figure, his statements send a chilling message to LGBTI people whose rights are currently protected under Korean law and upheld by the Korean Government’s Human Rights Commission.

IGLHRC urges you to join hundreds of Korean LGBTI people in a cyber demonstration on Mr. Lee’s website homepage. Your opinion is important. IGLHRC has already sent its letter to Mr. Lee. Please feel free to use our sample letter. Email to: http://www.mbplaza.net/ Follow instructions in Korean. Fax: 82-2-780-7900.

For non-Korean speakers, follow these instructions after you log on to Mr. Lee’s website. Above the blue banner on the home page, click on the Korean lettering in the upper far right corner. A window will appear. Enter your name on the first line; your email address on the second line; and subject on the third line. Type your message in the message box. Press the blue box on the Left to Send. Grey box on the right is to Cancel.

Please send a copy to: Grace Poore, Research and Policy Associate for Asia-Pacific region at gpoore@iglhrc.org.

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Mr. Lee Myung-Bak:

We are greatly concerned about your statements to the press that you consider homosexuality abnormal and that the sole “normal” union is between man and woman. Your statements undermine the Republic of Korea’s recognition of the full diversity of Koreans and the right for all to protection from discrimination. In addition, as a potential presidential candidate, your statements encourage a climate of intolerance towards people who do not conform to your homophobic view of what is acceptable and unacceptable for Korean culture and Korean people. Your statements encourage discrimination, abuse, and could lead to violence on the basis of sexual orientation.

It is especially disheartening that, as a public figure, you are not advocating dignity and respect for all since South Korea plays a prominent role in the international arena. The current United Nations Secretary General is the country’s former Foreign Minister. The Human Rights Commission of the Korean Government opposes all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation. South Korea is one of the few countries in the Asia/Pacific region that has voted in favor of the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people at the United Nations. Clearly Mr. Lee, your statements go against the policy of your own country.

It is critical for politicians such as yourself to uphold values of human rights and respect for people’s right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and freedom or assembly. We challenge you to reconsider your political opinions about LGBT people and demand that you apologize for statements that are unfitting for any public figure and even more so for a presidential candidate.

We look forward to your immediate attempts to rectify the situation.

Sincerely,

(Name, organization and address)

BACKGROUND

The Republic of Korea ratified the main UN Human Rights Treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 2 established that the rights guaranteed within the covenant are guaranteed to all the citizens of each signatory country, “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, [or] sex.” Article 23 of the ICCPR designates the family as the “fundamental unit of society” and entitles it to special protection by the state. Article 26 guarantees the right of all people to equality before the law and equal protection of the laws and legal systems of each signatory country. Discrimination in the law ‘on any ground such as race, colour, [or] sex” is likewise prohibited.

The UN Human Rights Committee affirmed in its decision in Toonen v. Australia (1994) that existing protections against discrimination in Articles 2 and 26 of the ICCPR should be understood to include sexual orientation as a protected status. Although the Human Rights Committee decided in Joslin v. New Zealand (1999) that states’ prohibition of same-sex marriage does not constitute a violation of Article 23, they have also held in Young v. Australia (2000) that if a state grants benefits (such as pensions, health insurance, etc.) to unmarried opposite sex couples, then it must also grant those same rights to unmarried same-sex couples.


ABOUT IGLHRC

The mission of IGLHRC is to secure the full enjoyment of the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or expression, and/or HIV status. IGLHRC is a human rights organization dedicated specifically to sexual rights advocacy with a particular emphasis on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. IGLHRC believes that the right to define one’s sexuality is an intrinsic right of each human being and has adopted a sexual rights framework to help guide its human rights programming, strengthen its connection to allies engaged in other sexual rights work, such as gender-based violence and the abuses and rights of sex workers, and to guide its HIV/AIDS advocacy.