Seoul Mayor Questioned by Gay Couple at City Meeting

D-Bo , March 9, 2015, 10:48 a.m.

In a recent town meeting held by the city of Seoul, Mayor Park Won Soon was questioned by a foreign man regarding his gay rights.  Mayor Park Won-soon of Seoul had previously  issued an apology for  indefinitely delaying a human rights charter that would have protected lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender South Koreans from discrimination in the municipality's greater region. 

How can I stay in Korea with the man I love? Where are my rights please?” Simon asked Seoul’s Mayor Park Won-soon last Friday at the town meeting with more than 100 onlookers.  Simon publicly admitted that he is gay in a society that rarely accepts homosexuality.  “I also fell in love with a Korean like many people,” Simon said. “The only difficulty is the person I fell in love with is a man.”

Simon explained at the meeting that he went to immigration to try to get a visa, but he was ineligible based on the gender of his partner.  When Simon finished speaking the mostly European audience clapped.  Throughout the event after expats spoke the MC summarised what each speaker said in Korean.  However, the MC skipped over explaining what Simon had said.

“You must have all understood since the sound of clapping hands was loud. I don’t think there is something to further comment,” the MC said in Korean instead of giving a full explanation.  Also, Simon’s partner explained to him that his comments were not translated properly when he was speaking.

“I was told that the Korean translation wasn’t so much of a Korean translation of what I was saying. They obviously did not go into too much detail as to what I said as what happened with other cases. That is [morally] wrong.”

Mayor Park addressed every concern raised by expats at the end of the meeting, including Simon’s.  “This is a very sensitive topic in Korea. It also has to do with the current law,” Mayor Park said.  “Anyhow, please provide consultation to Simon to see if there is anything we can do,” he told Seoul government officials in front of the audience.   

Simon claims that the English translation of what Mayor Park said was also incorrect. “The response from the Mayor was nothing like I what I heard in the English translation,” he said.  Prior to this event, Simon and his partner went to the human rights office to see if anything can be done about the visa.  “They were even surprised that we wanted to live in Korea. They said why don’t you move to Shanghai?”

Homosexuality is reportedly more accepted in Shanghai but Simon and his partner really love Korea. “The Human Rights staff said nothing is going to happen in Korea [about gay rights]. My partner was really disappointed.”  Prior to speaking at the town meeting, Simon and his Korean boyfriend slipped Mayor Park a note in Korean.

In that note they identify themselves as a couple in love hoping to marry, have a family in Korea, to run a business together, and be recognised as a lawful couple.

“We are seeking a visa that would enable Simon to live in this country, legally as my partner. The spouse/partner visa at the moment isn’t permitted for LGBT couples,” the note reads.  “So we are seeking an alternative system for international same-sex couples, such as a visa for international LGBT couples in Korea.”

Simon thinks creating LGBT equality in Seoul would help make Seoul a global city.  “The Korean constitution says that all Koreans are allowed to have equality and happiness. If my partner cannot have me in the country there is not equality and there is not happiness. So therefore they should meet the constitution and say, that is allowed.”


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