Gay korea


People fear being outed after media reports infected man visited gay clubs in capital

Fears of a homophobic backlash and the forced outing of gay people are growing in South Korea after a man infected with coronavirus was reported in the media to have attended clubs in Seoul’s gay district.

A 31-year-old man tested positive on Thursday and a further 14 of his contacts were on Friday confirmed to be infected with the virus.

South Korea has won widespread praise for its “track and trace” model of containing the pandemic, which has used rigorous testing and isolation to reduce new cases to a handful a day – mostly from people arriving into the country – but not without privacy concerns.

Members of the gay community said they fear efforts to out them after a major media outlet, Kookmin Ilbo, reported that the man had been in gay clubs in the capital’s Itaewon district. Some social media users then posted video footage from its bars and clubs, urging followers for donations “to help put a stop to these disgusting goings-on”.

Homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea but discrimination remains rampant, with most Korean gay people choosing to keep their sexuality hidden from family members and colleagues.

“I don’t usually go to gay clubs and it’s been two years since I visited Itaewon [Seoul’s gay district],” Hong Yoo-jin, a 35-year-old IT worker told the Guardian. “But I read on gay community websites that Youtubers are joining gay apps to out gay men live. So myself and everyone I know have deleted our photos from all of our accounts.”

Health officials say they have a list of 1,500 people who visited the clubs last weekend and authorities are asking anyone who visited the premises to get tested.

A 37-year-old IT engineer using his regular pseudonym, Jang Ji-myung, said he had been at three of the clubs after months of staying away but feared for his job if he was tested.

“The company where I work is a regular Korean company, which means they are very anti-gay. I have taken part in conversations where my boss and colleagues said all gay men should be put to death in a gas chamber,” he said.

“If they find out that I was at a gay club, they would most likely tell me to leave under some other pretext or make my life there a living hell so I would have no choice but to leave.

South korea struggles to contain new outbreak amid anti-gay backlash

Fears people will fail to get tested out of fear after new cases linked to Seoul gay district

Authorities in South Korea are struggling to contain a new coronavirus outbreak linked to the capital’s nightclub district as a backlash against the country’s gay community increases, prompting fears LGBT people will fail to get tested out of fear of being outed.

South Korea had been praised for its innovative efforts to contain the pandemic, going from the second most infected region outside China to having just a handful of cases before the latest outbreak a week ago.

But the increasing number of cases related to nightclubs in Seoul is raising concerns about a possible second wave as well as over the high level of deeply entrenched homophobic attitudes in the conservative society.

Of 35 new cases, 29 were found to be linked to Itaewon, the capital’s gay district, according to officials from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), bringing the total number of cases related to the clubs to 86.

The emergence of the cluster prompted officials to push back the re-opening of schools by one week, with students initially set to return to classes in stages starting Wednesday.

Vice-education minister Park Baeg-beom said the delay was “inevitable” in order to guarantee the safety of students.

After Kookmin Ilbo, a local media outlet with links to an evangelical church, reported that businesses visited by an infected man over the long weekend were gay clubs, many other South Korean media followed suit, revealing not only the identity of clientele but also some of their ages and the names of their workplaces.

The media frenzy reached a new level when another infected man was found to have been to an LGBT sauna in Gangnam, prompting a slew of homophobic content in newspapers and online.

Lurid reporting, along with South Korea’s use of the trace and test method, has led to members of the gay community reporting feeling scared to get tested and even suicidal. Officials said 3,112 people who were in the nightclubs were currently not contactable.

“I admit it was a huge mistake to visit the gay district when the corona situation was not fully over,” Lee Youngwu , a gay man in his30s, told the Guardian “But visiting the area is the only time when I can be myself and hang out with others similar to me. During the week, I have to pretend to like women.

“My credit card company told me that they passed on my payment information in the district to the authorities. I feel so trapped and hunted down. If I get tested, my company will most likely find out I’m gay. I’ll lose my job and face a public humiliation. I feel as if my whole life is about to collapse. I have never felt suicidal before and never thought I would, but I am feeling suicidal now.”

On Saturday the prime minister, Chung Sye-kyun, urged the public to “refrain from criticising a certain community as it will not help efforts to contain the coronavirus spread”.

Lee Jong-geol, the general director of Korean gay men’s human rights group Chingusai, told the Guardian that the group had begun counselling and legal aid services for those affected by the crisis, adding that Seoul city officials asked the group to encourage gay men who had visited the clubs to come forward to get tested.

“I understand that civil servants want to find a convenient way to do their jobs but they should realise that South Korea’s gay people do not all belong to one, single group. Civil servants are handling the situation in the same way as the Shincheonji cult situation, but we’re not a cult.”

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„Almaz ist eine tolle kleine Bar, in die man gehen kann, bevor die abendlichen Spielereien auf dem Homo Hill wirklich beginnen. Jedes Mal, wenn ich Seoul besuche, gehe ich zuerst in diese Bar. Hauptsächlich, weil der Barkeeper unglaublich freundlich, professionell und nett ist. Sein Englisch ist auch sehr gut, also keine Kommunikationsprobleme. Das Dekor ist wie ein abgestumpftes Vegas Liberace Boudoir aus den späten 1970er Jahren, was seine Attraktivität nur noch verstärkt. Der Service ist einwandfrei, Getränke nicht so teuer und das Interieur sehr gemütlich. Das einzige Minus ist die Toilette, die klein ist und ein gutes altes Peeling verträgt. Aber es ist eine schöne Bar: entspannt, entspannt und sehr, sehr freundlich. “

„Ich war schon zweimal hier und obwohl es eine sehr stilvolle, elegante und gemütliche Bar ist, waren die Mitarbeiter nicht sehr engagiert. Bei meinem letzten Besuch – letzte Nacht – haben sie die meiste Zeit damit verbracht, durch ihre Handys zu scrollen. Die Bar scheint nur eine koreanische Kundschaft anzulocken, die nicht daran interessiert zu sein scheint, mit Nicht-Koreanern zu sprechen. Am besten, Sie gehen mit einem Freund oder Freunden hierher. “

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„Ich habe einen Fitnesstrainer für Outcall angefordert. Der Typ war am Ende ein Bärentyp. Ich war sehr enttäuscht. “

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Lee Jae-myung, governor of Gyeonggi province near Seoul, where many of the infected people live, said it would be possible for people to get tested free of charge by only saying they had been to the outbreak area and not having to mention the names of businesses they visited.

“It took me a whole week to get up the courage to get tested,” Min Jaeyoung, 27, told the Guardian, “I had to practise saying ‘oh, of course I’m not gay’ and even recorded myself several times to sound natural. I even put up photos of footballers and Korean hip-hop artists on my [social media accounts] to try to seem straight. I even got ready to look for another job. As it turned out, I was not infected but I cried when I got that text not because I was happy not to be infected but because I really hate being a gay man in this country.”

The mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, said on Monday that while he would guarantee anonymity when people got tested, there would be a fine of 2m Korean won (£1,320) for those who did not get tested . He also said anyone who did not come forward would be visited at home by officials accompanied by police.