[Press Release] South Korean LGBT Protesters End Sit-in after Mayor’s Apology and Suggestion for Redress

[Press Release]
December 12 (Fri.), 2014

South Korean LGBT Protesters End Sit-in after Mayor’s Apology and Suggestion for Redress

[Summary]
Starting on December 6, the Rainbow Sit-in Protesters of South Korea occupied the lobby of the City Hall of Seoul in protest against the metropolitan government’s last-minute rejection of the Seoul Charter of Human Rights, whose creation it had originally initiated and delegated to ordinary citizens and experts. A former human rights lawyer, Mayor Park Won-soon rejected the Charter, legislated through months of discussion and due process, because its clause prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity incited “social conflict”—in other words, continued hate speech and violent interference from homophobic groups. Furthermore, at a meeting with Presbyterian pastors, he publicly denied support for homosexuality. Rightfully indignant, LGBT people and their allies began the sit-in and demanded a dialogue with and an apology from the mayor. After continued silence and avoidance, he finally had a private conversation with the protesters on the fifth day, where he apologized and suggested to redress unfair treatment and prevent discrimination in city governance, and later dispatched an official for a working-level meeting on plans for the creation of a collaborative panel consisting of the relevant organizations. The protesters therefore ended their 6-day-long sit-in on the evening of December 11 after a victory party on the same premises.

[Full Text]
Starting on December 6, the Rainbow Sit-in Protesters of South Korea occupied the lobby of the City Hall of Seoul in protest against the metropolitan government’s last-minute rejection of the Seoul Charter of Human Rights, whose creation it had originally initiated and delegated to ordinary citizens and experts. The protesters concluded their 6-day-long sit-in on the evening of December 11 after a victory party on the same premises.

A former human rights lawyer, Mayor Park Won-soon had even expressed support for the institutionalization of same-sex marriage in South Korea in an interview with the San Francisco Examiner earlier in the year. However, he rejected the Charter, legislated by citizens and experts through months of discussion and due process, because its clause prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity incited “social conflict”—in other words, continued hate speech and violent interference from homophobic groups. Furthermore, at a meeting with the Korean Presbyterians Association, he publicly said, “I do not support homosexuality.” Such actions by the mayor enraged LGBT people in South Korea and led them to occupy the lobby of the City Hall starting on December 6.

In the end, at 5 PM on December 10, the fifth day of the sit-in, the mayor requested a private conversation with the protesters. Consequently, a delegation consisting of six representatives from both LGBT activist groups and civil NGOs met with him. From the start, dialogue had been one of the protesters’ demands. During the private conversation, the mayor apologized to the LGBT delegation, “It is my responsibility and fault.” Saying, “I am sorry for the emotional pain that you have suffered and will make whatever statements that you demand,” he made it clear that “This is an occasion for me to offer comfort for the emotional pain that you have suffered and to apologize to you” and, “regardless of any misunderstanding or statement, no citizen will be subjected to discrimination or disadvantage.” He also stated, “I will search for practical ways of resolving the difficulties that you suffer from.” On the contrary, the official press release subsequently issued by the metropolitan government mentioned the entire train of events only briefly and inadequately: “deep regret for having provided the grounds for the sit-in.” Nevertheless, the protesters concluded that the promise made by the mayor during the private conversation was important.

Moreover, in the press release distributed on December 10, the same day as the protesters’ private conversation with the mayor, the Seoul metropolitan government rejected the Charter and did not mention concrete plans to reinitiate it. Both the city’s official press release and the mayor’s apology through his personal Facebook account offered vague apologies and lacked concrete plans for measures to eradicate discrimination. Consequently, the protesters at first thought that dialogue with the mayor, only one of their four original demands, had been satisfied. However, through a meeting with Innovation Officer Jun Hyo-gwan held in the morning of December 11, the protesters confirmed the metropolitan government’s will to implement plans for the creation of a collaborative panel consisting of the relevant organizations to eradicate discrimination in city governance. They therefore decided to conclude the sit-in.

Throughout the 6-day-long sit-in, the protesters were showered with support from both home and abroad. Indeed, over 300 NGOs including those for human rights, people with disability, women, civil society, laborers, and other minorities provided signatures of support in just one day. In addition, moving messages of support poured in from LGBT rights activist groups, major figures, and grassroots organizations overseas. Furthermore, countless people visited the City Hall and joined the cultural festival held every evening by the protesters. Through the sit-in, South Korean sexual minorities showed that the government and hate-mongers alike may not thoughtlessly disregard their rightful demand and movement for full social citizenship. The sit-in also served as an occasion for LGBT people in the nation to have more self-confidence and to confirm the future direction of their continued fight for justice and equality. The protesters are deeply grateful to friends and allies around the globe for their solidarity.

[Video links]
LGBT Occupy Seoul City Hall : Thank you message to our friends around the world

[Links]
Statement of the Rainbow Sit-in Protesters: “Your Human Rights Stand Here”
https://lgbtqact.org/?p=737

Media Contact
Minhee Ryu
minhee.ryu@gmail.com

20141212_Press_Release_Rainbow_Action_South_Korea

20141212_Press_Release_Rainbow_Action_South_Korea

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