Friday, August 05, 2005

South Korean Grrls Battling Cultural Bias, Ignorance

(Link) As if homophobia wasn't bad enough, try adding socially-promoted sexism and general ignorance to the mixture.


LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
By Kim Rahn
Korea Times

In many cases, prejudice comes from ignorance.

One such case occurred when local television broadcaster MBC aired a program about lesbian teens last month.

Without well-informed knowledge of lesbian subculture among teens, the report distorted their lives and infringed on their privacy, causing protest from human rights and gay and lesbian advocacy groups.

On July 13, MBC’s News Today broadcast a story about teenage lesbians in Korea.

From the start, it inaccurately identified them. Korean homosexuals call themselves ``iban’’ to positively represent their difference from ``ilban’’ people, meaning ``normal,’’ that is, heterosexuals.

But the program defined iban as ``opposing heterosexuality.’’

The program went on to say that lesbianism among teens appeared for the first time five years ago, that teens became open to homosexuality on account of media reports and Web sites about homosexuality, indicating that being gay or lesbian is a kind of deviant behavior.

The program concluded with a quote by a psychologist that teen lesbianism is in fact excessive intimacy among friends and passion of the moment, implying actual lesbianism does not exist among teens. Some girls who ``regret’’ their lesbianism were also shown.

``We cannot but say that the producers of the program are homophobic, expressing a biased and distorted perspective on homosexuality,’’ Kong Ji-hwon, a director of the Lesbian Counseling Center in South Korea, told The Korea Times.

The counseling center is the first of its kind for lesbians in Korea. It was transformed from a lesbian human rights community, ``Kkiri Kkiri,’’ in April.

``The program showed several girls, calling them lesbians because they have short haircuts and walk arm in arm. Many heterosexual girls do the same, and people’s sexuality cannot be determined simply by their appearances,’’ Kong said.

Being a lesbian means being treated as an alien and is considered a social evil in Korea, which is not accustomed to homosexuality. It has not been long since the lesbians in the nation began to express their sexuality openly.

``But the program showed girls who were brave enough to face society prejudices and come out. In the case of one girl who said she regrets having been a lesbian, the program ignored the reason why she had to deny her lesbian sexuality _ a society that defines her as abnormal,’’ she pointed out.

The broadcaster also showed the faces of some girls in a lesbian-only cafe by secretly videotaping the place. The girls’ homosexuality was exposed to the public without their consent, which is a violation of their human rights, possibly exposing them to harsh discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

The center and other homosexual groups urged MBC to apologize, but the broadcaster has not responded. They plan to make a petition with the National Human Rights Commission and apply to the Press Arbitration Commission to force MBC to issue a correction.

As partly seen on the television program, a growing number of human rights violations related to ``outing,’’ or disclosure of homosexuality by others, are reported to the counseling center these days, Kong said.

A female college student who had been annoyed by a male student’s courtship confessed to him that she was a lesbian. Since then, the man threatened to reveal her lesbianism to her family unless she had sex with him.

It was only after he raped her for about a year that she turned to the center for help.

``Although lesbians are equally homosexual, being gay and being lesbian are two different things in Korea, where patriarchy prevails. Lesbians are a minority group within a minority, being doubly discriminated against,’’ Kong said.

When Kkiri Kkiri was first established 11 years ago, it had both gay and lesbian members. But three months later, they realized the two groups have quite different situations and decided to split.

For example, gay members could often stay overnight for meetings or drinking, but lesbian members could not as most of their parents expect their daughters to be home no later than midnight.

Also, being women, lesbians are paid lower wages than gays, and this wealth gap becomes wider as they grow older. If a lesbian refuses to get married, she suffers more financial difficulty and pressure from her family than gays do.

``Kkiri Kkiri decided to become a counseling center because we needed to listen more closely to their worries and opinions. After all, human rights issues come out of the actual problems they are facing,’’ Kong said.

With 15 activists and 100 members, and without financial support from the government or private organizations, the center listens to and counsels the nation’s lesbians who face and will have many obstacles to overcome.

ame~ko* said...

hi...just aa stranger from hong kong,i just surf the internet and this hot pls dont give up to fright for lesbian..
everyone have right to choose their own way for their live!