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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 12, 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 50
Mayor of Seoul caves to LGBT protest, will meet with activists - Protestors vow to continue sit-in
Section One
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Mayor of Seoul caves to LGBT protest, will meet with activists - Protestors vow to continue sit-in

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

LGBT activists who seized the office of Seoul's Mayor Park Won-Soon vowed to continue their sit-in, even though the mayor agreed to meet with them and explain his decision not to enact a new human rights charter.

The protestors, organized by the LGBT rights group Rainbow Action, said the mayor agreed to meet with them on December 17, but also said they will continue to occupy his office.

In a statement published on December 10 by the Huffington Post, the activists asked for the support of the global LGBT community.

Park, a former human rights lawyer, promised to proclaim a new human rights charter - including protections for Seoul's LGBT community - during his campaign for mayor. He also said he hoped that South Korea would be the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage.

Many South Koreans are evangelical Christians, however, and Park soon began to walk back his commitments after large and rowdy anti-Gay demonstrations, including a disruption of the Seoul Pride Parade by right-wing Christians.

The human rights charter was drafted and passed by a committee composed of 134 Seoul citizens and 30 human rights experts, including professors and activists. The committee passed the final draft on November 28, but two days later the Seoul municipal government announced it would not enact it.

On December 1, Park told a meeting of evangelical Protestant pastors that 'As the Mayor of Seoul, I do not support homosexuality.' He apologized to the pastors for the 'social conflicts' he may have caused by his remarks on LGBT rights and promised to remove pro-Gay provisions before endorsing the rights charter.

Rainbow Action occupied Park's office a week later. In their December 10 statement, the activists accused Park of pandering to conservative Christians for his own political gain.

'Perhaps Mayor Park chose to build a coalition with them as a foundation for his future political career because he is considering running for presidency in the next election,' they wrote.

'We deeply deplore that he has become a turncoat, and are worried about its ripple effect on our previous and potential political allies. The extreme rightists and conservative Protestant groups now have a firm ground to stand behind, and can use the mayor of Seoul's discriminatory comment to justify their agenda of fanatical bigotry.'

To the dismay of LGBT rights advocates, the human rights charter has become intertwined with the division of Korea between nominally Communist and capitalist governments. According to Rainbow Action, conservatives have 'consistently accused Mayor Park of being a pro-North Korea communist who will ultimately lead South Korean society astray.'

In addition to opposing human rights abuses by previous South Korean governments, Park once said he would like to see a friendly soccer match between North and South Korean teams, a statement that provoked outrage from the South Korean right.

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