Annual Review 2016: Human Rights Situation of LGBTI in South Korea

6. Education/Youth

updated 2017.08.09 11:55 by sogilaw

Ministry of Education cancels sexual education instructor training citing its incompatibility with the “Sex Education Standards”

The “Nationwide Guideline for Sex Education Standards in School” (Sex Education Standards), developed in February 2015 and disseminated by the Ministry of Education, has been criticized that its contents generally exclude LGBTI people, violate human rights, are unscientific and should therefore be withdrawn.[1] Despite such criticism, the Ministry of Education undertook job training for sexual education teachers nationwide using the Sex Education Standards (2,383 in 2015; 7,697 in 2016), and further controversy was sparked when it was revealed that the Ministry recommended the discontinuation of sexual education training developed and implemented prior to the establishment of the Sex Education Standards.[2]

In September 2016, the online sexual education training, for which around 700 sexual education teachers applied, was unexpectedly cancelled at the request of the Ministry of Education when it was deemed to not conform to the Sex Education Standards. The 30-hour online sexual education training program, titled “Our Children’s Sexuality that We Openly Want to Know”, was provided on “Teacherville”, a remote training institute, and developed in 2014 by Aha Sexuality Education & Counseling Center for Youth, an organization specialized in sexual education. The program included a chapter, named “Understanding Sexual Identity and Sexual Minorities”. The program was cancelled after the Ministry of Education recommended its discontinuation to “Teacherville”. The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education stated that it would carry out job training by providing lecture fees to sexual education teachers, but later withdrew support after receiving civil complaints.[3]

On July 15, 2016, the Ministry of Education held the “Public Hearing for the Results of the Study on School Sexual Education Material and Operation of the Sex Education Standards” at the Korean Women’s Development Institute. However, this caused controversy as individuals who had been active in anti-LGBTI organizations were invited as panelists.[4]

Chungcheongbuk-do Office of Education promulgates “Chungcheongbuk-do Education Community Charter” leaving out LGBTI rights

On May 31, 2016, the Chungcheongbuk-do Office of Education promulgated the “Chungcheongbuk-do Education Community Charter and Code of Practice” without including clear provisions on non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and LGBTI student rights. The Chungcheongbuk-do Office of Education announced the “Draft Charter of Rights of the Chungcheongbuk-do Education Community” on April 29, 2016. In its information materials for collecting opinions the Office wrote, under the question “Do you recognize and encourage homosexuality?”, “There is no mention of the word ‘homosexuality’ in the Education Community Charter”, “the Charter is based on the Ministry of Education’s Sex Education Standards and since the Sex Education Standards do not consider such content appropriate to be taught in pre, elementary, middle, and high school, we did not include it from the beginning”, “in the comment section of Article 4 of the Charter, we excluded from the outset any content that is deemed educationally inappropriate or irrelevant, such as sexual orientation, ideology, marital status, etc. in the article on grounds of discrimination in the National Human Rights Commission Act”, and “we decided to delete the annex on the National Human Rights Commission Act taking notice of opinions from religious sectors”. This sparked considerable controversy.[5]

Public hearing on “Daejeon Metropolitan Office of Education Student Rights Ordinance Bill” foundered

Although a public hearing on “Daejeon Metropolitan Office of Education Student Rights Ordinance Bill” (Daejeon Student Rights Ordinance Bill) was scheduled on April 25, 2016, more than 300 members of conservative groups, including those from the “People’s Solidarity for Love for a Healthy Daejeon” and “National Coalition against the Legislation of Homosexuality”, gathered and stirred up disturbance, which led to the cancelation of the hearing.[6] As a result, the proposal of the Daejeon Student Rights Ordinance Bill was delayed.[7] The Daejeon Student Rights Ordinance Bill does not include “sexual orientation and gender identity” as grounds of non-discrimination or provisions on minority student rights. Compared to other districts that have enacted student rights ordinacnes such as Gyeonggi, Seoul, Gwanju, and Jeonbuk, the Daejeon Student Rights Ordinance Bill lacks in clarity regarding the protection of student rights, concreteness of provisions, and mechanisms to ensure its implementation.[8]

Youth Hotline 1388 provides “conversion therapy” counseling to LGBTI youth

It was found that a counselor of the Youth Hotline 1388, which is operated by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and the Korea Youth Counseling & Welfare Institute, said to a LGBTI youth individual, “Since you are still an adolescent you should receive therapy”, “decide whether or not to live as a homosexual after going through counseling on homosexuality”, “it is better not to convince yourself that you are a homosexual before adulthood”. It was also revealed that there was no content on LGBTI people in the integrated curriculum for Youth Hotline 1388 counselors, and no data on the status of counseling for LGBTI youth. The Hotline website’s “Problem Solving FAQ” section includes sub-categories such as “gender identity(including homosexuality” and ”abnormal sexual behavior(exhibitionism, voyeurism, sadism, etc.)”, which reflects views that homosexuality is “problematic”; the website’s guidebook for parents, titled “Easy Guide on Sex”, mentions homosexuality as “a temporary inclination often experienced during adolescence”, “Korean youth may easily fall into homosexuality as there are fewer coed schools compared to Western societies and thus more opportunities for exposure”, and “temporary misbehavior”.[9]

Middle school ethics teacher subject to Office of Education’s investigation for hate speech and sexual harassment remarks

A middle school ethics teacher in Seoul allegedly made sexual remarks and engaged in hate speech habitually in the presence of students, and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education launched an investigation in December 2016. The school’s students filed a civil complaint to Sinmungo(online petition portal) and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education’s Student Rights Education Center. According to the informers, the teacher regularly made sexual remarks towards female students and made hate speech against LGBTI people such as, “homosexuality is an abominable and filthy crime. Homosexuals should be gathered in one place and burned”.[10]

Chongshin University sues manager of LGBTI group “Kkangchong Kkangchong” for defamation

Chongshin University sued the person who held the flag of ‘Chongshin University Group for Human Rights of Sexual Minority ‘Kkangchong Kkangchong’ at the march of the 2016 Queer Culture Festival and said, “We have filed charges to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office regarding the establishment of ‘Kkangchong Kkangchong’ accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and will make the manager close the accounts” and “the school will expel homosexuals and those who support homosexuality according to school regulations”.[11] Chongshin University claimed that “according to an investigation by the student council and professors, it was found that there are no homosexuals within the school. The members of ‘Kkangchong Kkangchong’ falsely assumed the identity of our students”.[12] However, Chongshin University was criticized for openly denying the existence of LGBTI students and attempting to track down and punish members of “Kkangchong Kkangchong”.[13]

Vandalized university LGBTI group banner

In 2016, there were cases of vandalism on promotional materials put up by LGBTI groups within universities. On March 1, 2016, a chemistry professor at Sogang University vandalized a banner put up by “Solidarity for Queer Liberation at Sogang University Dancing Q” (Dancing Q) with a knife and threw it away in a trash can. The banner read “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning” and “we support the new semester, new start of LGBTI and non-LGBTI students”. Self-governing student bodies such as Dancing Q, Sogang University Feminism Society TTeulkem, etc. sent an open letter to the professor saying “the university is a sanctuary of learning and professors, as educators, should put into practice the value of diversity. The fact that a professor expressed his personal views in a violent manner is a violation of student autonomy and is a shameful and deplorable act”.[14] The Sogang University Student Council and Dancing Q filed charges for damage of property against the professor on March 10, 2016,[15] but in August 2016, the professor received a stay of prosecution for reasons of “having no criminal record and having sent a written apology to the students”. Moreover, there were posters and banners welcoming new LGBTI students that were lost or vandalized in other schools including Seoul National University, Hanyang University, Sungkyunkwan University, Hongik University, Ewha Womans University, etc.[16]

The spread of hate against LGBTI people in universities

Social media groups attacking gay and lesbian people began to emerge in a number of universities. Through the “Kosin University Anti-Homosexuality Group” Twitter account, created on January 8, 2016, comments were posted saying, “let’s use the word HELLGBT(a term linking LGBTI people to hell)”, “if you don’t want to be discriminated against, engage in homosexuality discreetly”. The manager of the Twitter account said, in an interview with Hankyoreh, “My goal is to protect heterosexuals from reverse discrimination from homosexuals”.[17] There have also been other accounts created named “OO University Anti-Homosexuality Group”. The Baekseok University Anti-LGBTI Group Twitter account posted a tweet proposing the “outing” of homosexuals; the Hansei University Anti-LGBTI Group tweeted “homosexuality was removed from the list of mental illnesses because American psychiatrists were blackmailed by homosexuals”.[18]

These movements have continued offline as well. On January 22, 2016, there was a case in which a movie recommending “sexual orientation conversion therapy”, titled “I am no longer gay”, was previewed at a café near Chung-Ang University. Members of the Chung-Ang University LGBTI group “Rainbow Fish” were invited to the screening.[19]

On September 22, 2016, a banner reading “We oppose homosexuality for a healthy church and healthy society”, was put up inside the Mokwon University campus. The banner was put up by the “Preparatory Committee for Restoration of the Holy Wesleyan Movement”, who participated in an event organized by the student council. Although a student requested the removal of the banner saying it is “an act of discrimination against sexual minorities and incitement of hatred”, the University denied the request. In response, members of the “Daejeon LGBTI Rights Group, Solongus” gathered in the University’s stadium in the afternoon to stage a protest.[20]

Instructor at a private university in Seoul replaced for “belittlement of homosexuality”

An instructor for a liberal arts elective course at a private university in Seoul made a belittling statement about homosexuality and the school replaced the instructor as a result. In May 2016, instructor A who was assigned to teach liberal arts elective courses at the school stated during a class that LGBTI identity is a disease and needs to be cured. The instructor said “100% of homosexuals are HIV/AIDS patients” and issued an assignment on the topic, demanding students to agree with his own views. Students refused to take part in the class in response and the student council, central steering committee, and college councils released a joint statement in protest. The university promised to replace the instructor and to establish a policy to send official documents to all colleges and dean’s offices, when hiring part-time lecturers, to ask the lecturers to refrain from engaging in hate speech.[21]

“Seoul National University Human Rights Guidelines” passed at student representative meeting

The “Seoul National University Human Rights Guidelines”, (SNU Guidelines) which include content on the protection of the rights of minorities including sexual minorities, were passed unanimously at a student representative meeting on September 7, 2016. However, the process of discussion with the school administration and procedure to apply the SNU Guidelines to university regulations was postponed. In this process, controversy was sparked when the Seoul National University Christian Faculty Association and Christian Alumni Association posted a notice on their website in September 2016 to promote the “2016 SNU Christian Forum”, saying “Seoul National University is becoming weakened due to ‘human rights’ movements led by homosexuals” and “non-discrimination against homosexuality and religion in the SNU Guidelines is problematic”.[22]

LGBTI candidate who came out elected in university student council and female student council elections

There has been an increase in cases where LGBTI candidates who came out have been elected in university student council and female student council elections. Since Kim Bo-mi was elected as President of the SNU Student Council the previous year, Ma Tae-young was elected as the 28th President of the Female Student Council at Yonsei University[23], Han Sung-jin was elected as the 31st Vice-President of the Student Council at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology,[24] and Jang Hye-min was elected as the 24th President of the Student Council at Kaywon University of Art and Design.[25]

[1] “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. 43.
[2] “Statement – The Ministry of Education exercises control over education by Standardizing Sex Education in the 21st Century, an Age of Democracy! Immediately Repeal the ‘Nationwide Guideline for Sex Education Standards in School’! – Ministry of Education oppresses education in addition to promoting sexual discrimination!”, Coalition for the Retraction of the Ministry of Education’s “Nationwide Guideline for Sex Education Standards in School”, 9/30/2016
[3] “‘Not in line with Sex Education Standards’ … Ministry of Education suspends training of 700 teachers”, Money Today, 10/5/2016
[4] “Ministry of Education invites ‘anti-homosexuality’ speaker to public hearing on Sex Education Standards”, The Hankyoreh, 7/15/2016
[5] “Are you curious about the Chungcheongbuk-do Education Community Charter? Press release”, Chungcheongbuk-do Office of Education blog, 4/29/2016 (Retrieved on 3/21/2017)
[6] “Public hearing for Daejeon Student Rights Ordinance foundered due to opposition from conservative groups“, OhmyNews, 4/25/2016
[7] “‘Daejeon Student Rights Ordinance’ proposal postponed once again”, The Hankyoreh, 5/4/2016
[8] “‘False logic’ against Daejeon Student Rights Ordinance”, The Hankyoreh, 3/16/2016
[9] “Youth Hotline 1388 says ‘homosexuality should be treated…’ Absurd counseling – Counselors lack knowledge and understanding of sexual minorities”, Feminist Journal ILDA. 10/15/2016
[10] “‘Middle school ethics teacher commits habitual sexual harassment and assault’ … Police and Office of Education conduct investigation”, The Financial News, 12/12/2016
[11] “Chongshin Univ.’s Kkangchong Kkangchong illegally uses flag, Chongshin Univ. files charges to prosecution”, Christian Focus, 8/8/2016
[12] “‘Punishment should be given according to school regulations’ vs. ‘Should not be punished for beliefs’”, Hankook-Ilbo, 9/2/2016
[13] “Those who created invisible persons are out to find them – People of Chongshin University ‘We are Kkangchong Kkangchong’”, NEWSM, 12/13/2016
[14] “University professor vandalizes ‘LGBTI group banner’ on campus”, The Hankyoreh, 3/10/2016
[15] “Sogang Univ. students file charges against professor who vandalized LGBTI group banner”, The Kyunghyang Shinmun, 3/10/2016
[16] “LGBTI banners at universities vandalized in the new semester”, Yonhap News, 3/22/2016
[17] “Anti-LGBTI groups emerge at universities”, The Hankyoreh, 1/25/2016
[18] “Hate against sexual minorities in universities at a ‘dangerous level’” University News Network, 2/29/2016; “Anti-LGBTI groups begin to emerge on social media”, The Huffington Post, 1/28/2016
[19] “Anti-LGBTI groups emerge at universities”, The Hankyoreh, 1/25/2016
[20] “‘Anti-homosexuality’ banners on campus, ‘violation of LGBTI rights’”, OhmyNews, 9/23/2016
[21] “Lecturer at private university in Seoul belittles homosexuality … University officials replace lecturer”, Yonhap News, 4/24/2015
[22] “Seoul Nat’l Univ. falling apart due to LGBTI rights movements?”, The Hankyoreh, 9/19/2016
[23] “Tae-young Ma, elected President of the Female Student Council at Yonsei University”, Yonhap News, 11/30/2016
[24] “‘I want to let the world know there are sexual minorities nearby’ Sung-jin Han, ‘comes out’ and wins election to become Vice-President of the Student Council at KAIST” The Hankyoreh, 12/19/2016
[25] “Statement – ‘There is no end to a flowing river’ – We welcome and support the coming out of three 2017 student representative candidates“, LGBTQ University Student Alliance of Korea “QUV”, 12/8/2016