Annual Review 2016: Human Rights Situation of LGBTI in South Korea
Denial of establishment of LGBTI rights organization ruled illegal by court

On June 24, 2016, the Seoul Administrative Court (Judge Kim Guk-hyun) ruled in favor of the Beyond the Rainbow Foundation, who filed a revocation suit against the Ministry of Justice for denying legal permission to establish a foundation. The Court ruled that the Ministry is in charge of work related to human rights protection and that since the Beyond the Rainbow Foundation is an organization in human rights protection, it is therefore the government agency responsible for the authorizing the establishment of the organization.[1] The Beyond the Rainbow Foundation sent an application for establishing legal personality to the Ministry of Justice in Novermber 2014, but the Ministry rejected the application stating that they are not the agency responsible for “organizations with the main purpose of promoting the rights of social minorities”.[2] Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, who visited the Republic of Korea in January 2016, expressed his concerns that the Foundation’s application was rejected on grounds that they focus only on sexual minority rights, and noted that the government should implement proactive measures to guarantee the right to association of all citizens.[3]

The court dismisses the public lewd act ban injunction application for the Queer Culture Festival

On June 9, 2016, the Seoul Central District Court dismissed Kim’s public lewd act ban injunction against the Queer Culture Festival Organizing Committee, stating that the explanation for the right to preservative measures was insufficient. The Court explained that “it cannot be considered that an individual citizen of Seoul has the right to request the ban of a third person’s act”.[4]

The Seoul Queer Culture Festival took place on June 11, 2016 at the Seoul City Hall plaza with more than 50,000 participants present (estimate of the Organizing Committee). Human rights, labor, and civil society organizations, embassies, universities, religious institutions, etc. participated in 104 booth events and the Queer Culture Festival parade took off from the plaza, using two traffic lanes, passing by Euljiro 2-ga, Hoehyeon Sageori, Lotte Department Store, and returning to City Hall plaza after 2.9km.[5]

Also, on June 10, 2016, the Queer Culture Festival Organizing Committee stated that they had filed a damage compensation suit against the Korea Parent Federation(Viva Korea) and Sinchon Anti-Homosexuality Youth Coalition for disrupting the Queer Culture Festival parade in 2014 using violent force.[6]

Korea Communications Standards Commission imposes sanction on “same-sex kiss scene”

On March 22, 2016, the Sub-Committee for Communications Review (Chairperson Jang Nak-in), under the Korea Communications Standards Commission, requested correction by issuing a “self-regulation recommendation” against a same-sex(female) kiss scene in the web-based drama “Lily Fever” provided by Naver TVCast. The Sub-Committee decided that the scene violated article 8 on “violation of morality and other social order” of the “Information and Communications Review Regulations”.[7] This was the first review of a web-based drama. Open Net criticized these measures stating, “this type of review by the Korea Communications Standards Commission is based on discriminatory views that homosexuality is harmful to the youth, as was seen in its review of ‘Sunam Girls High School Detectives,’ and it is problematic for the Commission to use its abstract correction authority, without clearly indicating which regulations are violated, to discipline businesses or content creators”.[8]

On April 27, 2016, the Sub-Committee for Broadcast Review (Chairperson Kim Sung-mook), under the Korea Communications Standards Commission, decided to issue an administrative guidance “presentation of opinions” against tvN’s “SNL Korea Season 7” for its SNL fanfic segment. After receiving a civil complaint that “it is inappropriate to broadcast content that encourages homosexuality”, the Sub-Committee responded that the segment violated Article 27(5)(maintaining integrity) on “other expression harmful to viewers’ sense of ethics and sentiments by inducing displeasure, disgust, etc.” under the “Information and Communications Review Regulations”.[9]

[1] Seoul Administrative Court decision 2015Gu-Hab69447, 6/24/2016
[2] “Annual Review 2015 Human Rights Situation of LGBTI in South Korea”, Korean Society of Law and Policy on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, 2016, p.62.
[3] “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on his mission to the Republic of Korea”, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, 1/29/2016 (Retrieved 3/16/2017)
[4] Seoul Central District Court decision 2016Ka-Hab337, 6/9/2016
[5] “Day for LGBTI people … Rainbow-colored waves in the streets”, The Hanykoreh, 6/11/2016
[6] “‘Tomorrow, there cannot be hate like there was two years ago’ Queer Culture Festival Organizing Committee files damage compensation suit against anti-homosexuality organizations”, The Hanykoreh, 6/10/2016
[7] “Sub-Committee for Communications Review to impose sanctions against ‘Lily Fever’ same-sex kissing scene? – Open Net expresses concerns on restrictions on freedom of expression on web-based dramas”, Mediaus, 3/25/2016
[8] “Comment/Press Release – We are concerned about the Korea Communications Standards Commission’s broadcast reviews of web-based dramas – correction request against web drama ‘Lily Fever’ may infringe upon the freedom of expression”, Open Net, 3/25/2016
[9] “Block B’s Zico-Park Kyung ‘same-sex kiss’ skit … Sub-Committee for Broadcast Review says ‘encourages homosexuality’”, Mediaus, 4/27/2016