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Mayor Park questioned by gay couple at town meeting

Simon asks about same-sex marriage in Korea to Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon Photo by Lee Tae-hoon
Simon asks about same-sex marriage in Korea to Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon Photo by Lee Tae-hoon
James Hyams
Written by James Hyams

“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.”

About the author

James Hyams

James Hyams

James Hyams juggles several careers including being a journalist and a social worker. James has an avid interest in 'telling it as it is', exposing matters of public interest, and reviving investigative journalism in the new digital era. Testimony to this is his thesis titled: “U.S. Government secrecy and the withering watchdog: Is WikiLeaks the answer?”

  • http://seoulvillage.blogspot.com/ Stephane MOT

    Park’s elusive answer can be explained by last year’s episode where he sided in favor of gay rights before back pedaling because it hurt his ratings.

  • Korea

    Korea has come a long way regarding gay rights. Hong Seok Cheon has helped with positive images. It is foolish to think Korea should have gay equality while the US does not in many places. How many decades did it take for US to get to where they are now? How many states allow gay marriage? And accusing Korea of being disgraceful only hurts the cause since visitors do not get the same rights as the citizens of the country. This is true in every country. What visitors can do is bring on positive images to get Korean allies and Korean supporters. Not accuse and build enemies.

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