Community News

Homophobia Stoked in South Korea over Covid-19

Paul Wright May 11, 2020

Concerns about the forced outing of LGBT people have emerged after reports that a man visiting LGBT clubs in South Korea tested positive for Covid-19. The man, 31, tested positive last Thursday. By Friday 14 of his contacts were confirmed to have Covid-19. LGBT people are fearful of being forcibly outed after local social media users posted footage from the the bars and clubs in the capital, Seoul, whilst urging followers “to help put a stop to these disgusting goings-on.” Seoul’s LGBT venues are mainly based in the Itaewon district.

Being LGBT in South Korea is not illegal unless in the military, though discrimination is widespread leading many to keep their identities secret from families and work colleagues. “I don’t usually go to gay clubs and it`s been two years since I visited Itaewon.” Hong Yoo-jin, 35, told The Guardian. “But I read on gay community websites that Youtubers are joining gay apps to out gay men live. So myself and everyone I know have deleted out photos from al our accounts.”

Health agencies have a list of the approx 1,500 who visited the Itaewon venues last weekend and are urging them to get tested. South Korea had relaxed venue attendance restrictions after containing Covid-19 under the condition that guests sign into venues and maintain social distancing. Because of the fear of being outed many visitors to LGBT venues gave false names. “My credit card company told me they passed on my payment information in the district to the authorities. I feel so trapped and hunted down. If I get tested, my company will most likely find out I`m gay. I`ll lose my job and face a public humiliation.I feel as if my whole life is about to collapse” said Lee Youngwu.

South Korean prime minister Chung Sye-kyun urged the public to “refrain from criticising a certain community as it will not help efforts to contain the coronavirus spread.”

Chingusai, a gay men`s human rights group, is offering counselling and legal aid services for those affected by recent events.

For more information, visit