Somewhere Under the Rainbow
Queer rights activists in South Korea step up efforts to support and protect LGBTQ youth, with plans to build a long-term shelter and resource center in Seoul.
by HANSOOK OH
IN APRIL OF 2003, a gay South Korean high school student who went by the name Yook Woo-dang committed suicide in the Seoul office of a queer rights organization, Dong In Ryeon (also known by the English name Solidarity for LGBT Human Rights of Korea). Though just 18, Yook had already been active in the fight for LGBT equality, often writing opinion articles and even participating in demonstrations against the war in Iraq “under the rainbow flag.” Along with his last $30, the young, devout Catholic teen left a suicide note, which expressed both encouragement to his fellow queer rights activists, as well as his indignation with discrimination against sexual minorities, especially by the Christian right.
“How cruel and anti-biblical it is to discriminate against sexual minorities,” Yook wrote. “After death, I can proudly say that I am gay, with no need to suffer, no need to hide myself anymore.”
The tragedy shocked the nation and brought the issue of LGBT youth to attention. The following year, LGBTQ activists (the “Q” stands for both queer and those questioning their sexuality) successfully pushed for the repeal of an anti-gay provision in the country’s Juvenile Protection Act, which had categorized LGBTQ-related web content as profane and harmful to minors.
But, despite some gains in the LGBTQ movement, over a decade after Yook’s death, Dong In Ryeon and other queer rights organizations find themselves still struggling against stigma and discrimination in South Korea. Whereas the LGBTQ movement in the United States gained great momentum in recent years—with the repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” military policy and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and the more than doubling in the number of states allowing same-sex marriage—queer South Koreans remain a very vulnerable minority group. And, knowing that there are many more Yooks out there calling out for acceptance and support, members of Dong In Ryeon and other affiliated organizations, collectively calling themselves the Queer Korean Alliance (QKA), are rallying to help the most voiceless among them: LGBTQ teenagers. QKA’s goal is to build South Korea’s first long-term shelter and resource center for LGBTQ teenagers in Seoul, called Rainbow Teen Safe Space. Continue Reading »
Frozen has captured the hearts of millions, and not just in the States. Over the weekend, Frozen became the highest-grossing animated feature ever in South Korea with over 6 million admissions, which translates to more than $44 million in Korea so far. Continue Reading »
Fighting for Access
Sam Kang draws from his family’s early immigrant struggles as he vies to represent California’s diverse and progressive Assembly District 15.
by NAMJU CHO
At the tender age of 10, Sam Kang filled out paperwork and drafted business letters in English for his immigrant parents. By high school, he was helping his parents obtain government permits and licenses.
“I grew up watching my immigrant parents run all kinds of small businesses, including a motel, a T-shirt print shop and a sandwich shop, where they would fail and start again, over and over,” Kang recalled. “I saw my parents struggled a lot from what they didn’t know and that they would have been more prosperous had they had more access to information.”
This issue of access—especially for individuals striving for the American Dream that is becoming ever elusive—would become a common thread in Kang’s life, motivating him first to become an attorney helping underserved communities, and propelling him today to seek elected office and fight for those principles on a larger scale. Continue Reading »
photos by ZACK HERRERA
Hundreds gathered Saturday at the Americana at Brand, a popular shopping and restaurant destination in Glendale, Calif., to ring in the Year of the Blue Horse, with traditional Korean fan dancing, a parade led by Chinese “dragons” and performances by Asian American YouTube singers Clara C and Jason Chen.
The mood was vibrant and energetic—just like the supposed spirit of the Blue Horse—as families flooded the center green to watch the entertainment and visit craft tables, where children made their own paper horse figurines.
Visitors could take a ride on a paper lantern-adorned trolley, and by nighttime, enjoy a water show at the venue’s famous fountain, choreographed to the classic Chinese song “Give Me a Kiss” by Wan Fang. The fountain show, at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., continues through February 16. Continue Reading »
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