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Human Rights Watch Urges South Korea to Pass Anti-Discrimination Act

The NGO Human Rights Watch has today urged the South Korean government to pass an anti-discrimination bill through its National Assembly, following a report that said that a failure to do so would lead to “a range of discriminatory practices” and “exacerbating harassment.” 

Kim Do-hyun, a transgender man, recalled struggling with his identity growing up as teachers reaffirmed that being LGBTQ+ was wrong. In middle school, a teacher showed his class the film Farewell My Concubine which depicts homosexuality. One of his classmates later remarked that “all homosexuals should be shot dead.”

In high school, a teacher who taught ethics said gay and lesbian people were “wrong” and should not be accepted while explaining the concepts of “yin (dark)” and “yang (bright)” and the idea of harmony.

“LGBT students often face bullying and discrimination in the classroom in South Korea, from adults as well as from other students,” said Ryan Thoreson, an LGBTQ+ rights researcher from the Human Rights Watch.

“Without clear protections, many students suffer in silence at the expense of their education and wellbeing.”

The issue bubbled over into public consciousness in South Korea earlier this year after transgender soldier Byun Hee-Soo, who had been forcibly discharged last year after undergoing gender reassignment surgery, took her own life. 

President Moon Jae-in has condemned discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, but has not yet expressed support for legislation to outlaw it. 


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