South Korea LGBTQ community faces backlash after COVID-19 spreader
The South Korea LGBTQ community is reeling from homophobic backlash after a man infected by the coronavirus who went to clubs in Seoul’s gay district was reported by the media.
South Korea had earlier achieved praise for containing the COVID-19 pandemic via their “track and trace” model to reduce new cases to a handful a day.
With this first local infection after their recent efforts to contain COVID-19, the country faces fears of another community spread.
South Korea LGBTQ community faces homophobic outing
When a 29-year old man tested positive and 14 of his contacts were confirmed to be positive for the virus, the LGBTQ community in South Korea expressed worry about their privacy.
This after a South Korean major media outlet, Kookmin Ilbo, had reported that the man had visited gay clubs in Seoul’s Itaewon district.
King Club had already confirmed the man had visited their premises.
A local Korean daily had first posted the story online and referred to the establishment as a “gay club.” Other news media outlets followed suit.
Because of this, Korean gay community websites have warned that people are joining gay apps to out gay men.
Already, health officials have tracked 1,500 people who visited the clubs and called on those who were at the premises to get tested.
Human rights groups warn of media targeting
Human rights advocates slammed South Korean media for highlighting the fact that the man was gay and had visited gay bars.
They said this could push greater hate and homophobia against the South Korean LGBTQ people while also hindering the government’s efforts to contain the virus.
In a statement, an association of human rights groups said: “Revealing detailed personal information such as age, residence and occupation leads to outing the individual and promoting prejudice and hatred against sexual minorities.”
Choi Jin-bong, a media communications professor at Sungkonghoe University, said: “For readers to get the whole picture, emphasizing whether the bars were for gays does not help.”
“The coverage focusing on gay bars was another bad example of the media’s excessive competition for online traffic and advertising,” Choi said.
HRW speaks up for South Korea LGBTQ community
Ryan Thoreson, Human Rights Watch Researcher, said that if South Korea doesn’t act on the matter, the LGBTQ community may not come forward if they were exposed to COVID-19– which would compromise health efforts.
Thoreson further pointed out that the community faces greater risk of discrimination by the plan by Seoul to push for home visits accompanied by the police for those who refuse to come forward for testing.
“South Korea’s government must be mindful of human rights in combating Covid-19– including the rights of groups who are vulnerable to discrimination,” Thoreson said.
Homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea but there is still rampant discrimination, prejudice, and social stigma against the LGBTQ community.