FEW PEOPLE expected the announcement last year of the creation of an LGBT literary award in South Korea, the first such book prize in the “Confucian cultural sphere,” which includes China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The announcement came at a time when LGBT issues are gaining increased, though still insufficient, exposure in Korean media. All over the country, campus and local human rights ordinances supporting gay rights have been enacted, and issues such as same-sex marriage, the repeal of anti-gay military codes, and passage of a national anti-discrimination bill have begun to gain traction with the public.
However, in a country where thirty percent of the population identify as Christian, gay visibility has stirred up new anti-gay rhetoric of a directness rarely heard before. “Ung” (an alias), an activist at Solidarity for LGBT Human Rights, which created the book award, commented: “Anti-homosexuality is becoming organized. All media—journalism, television and radio, Internet, and even textbooks—are putting homosexuality on the cutting board, for or against. Hate slogans, from jokes to protest marches and even violence, are being perpetrated.” A harrowing face-off between pride marchers and anti-gay Christians marred the Seoul Gay Pride festivities this year, with marchers chanting, “We love! You hate!” as their parade was forced to circumvent a religious sit-in blocking their path.