Korean LGBT Activists Protest at Seoul City Hall

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon has delayed the enactment of Seoul’s Charter of Human Rights due to an LGBT-inclusive provision, spurring a group of LGBT activists to stage sit-ins at City Hall, reports Andy Marra of the Huffington Post.

The Charter was drafted and passed by a committee of 134 citizens and 30 human rights experts on Nov. 28, 2014. It was originally scheduled to celebrate the upcoming Human Rights Day. However, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced on Nov. 30 that it would indefinitely delay the promulgation of the Charter, which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Unfortunately, working on this charter has been creating more social conflicts,” Seoul’s municipal government said in a statement. “We would like to take more time to listen to a variety of opinions from our citizens on this matter.”

Formerly a human rights lawyer, Mayor Park has dedicated over 30 years to promote social justice and progressive grassroots activism. He was also the principal founder of People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a nonprofit watchdog organization that fights political corruption, and helmed the Beautiful Foundation, a philanthropic group that tackles income inequality issues.

In October, Park told San Francisco’s edition of The Examiner that he supports same-sex marriage and expressed his desire to see South Korea become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. Yet, the Seoul mayor seemed to have caved in to the pressure from Korean churches. He even met with protestant pastors the day after the city government announced the delay of the charter’s proclamation and told them, “As the Mayor of Seoul, I do not support homosexuality.”

Rainbow Action, a coalition of 20 LGBT organizations in South Korea and the group protesting at City Hall, have criticized Park’s lack of commitment to ensure equality for those in the LGBT community. The group wrote in its official statement:

“The Mayor’s denying the Charter … is an act of discrimination by the State that does not comport with the Constitution and the National Human Rights Commission Act, as well as the international human rights law. The Charter must be proclaimed, as is originally scheduled on December 10, 2014, Human Rights Day, in Seoul.

We, LGBT activists and supporters, now occupied the City Hall to protest against the discrimination. Mr. Park has never responded yet to our repeated requests to have a meeting. We demand a meeting with the Mayor, Mr. Park Won-Soon. We demand him to proclaim the Charter.”

To learn more about the protest, read Andy Marra’s Huffington Post piece “Don’t Let Seoul’s Mayor Buckle to Homophobia and Transphobia” here