South Korean activists win rights in Seoul for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered students, 2011-2012

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Timing
Time Period:  
7 September
2011
to
26 January
2012
Location and Goals
Country: 
South Korea
Location City/State/Province: 
Seoul
Goals: 
That the Students' Rights Ordinance be approved by the Seoul Metropolitan City Council with all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered rights clauses (LGBT).
 

South Korea was one of the countries to vote in favor of Resolution 17/19 on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity,” which was adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2011. Yet, on a local level, there was still much controversy when the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education drafted a students’ human rights ordinance on 7 September 2011. The ordinance contained articles that specifically addressed the right of LGBT students to not be discriminated against.

Using the residents’ initiative movement, which established the right of residents to petition for the enactment, revision, or repeal of an ordinance since 2000, Common Action for Sexual Minority Students in Seoul and youth rights activists were able to get the ordinance signed by 97,702 Seoul residents. The petition demanded that the ordinance be passed by the Seoul Metropolitan Council. The final draft of the ordinance was submitted to the city council in October.

Almost as soon as the ordinance was put forward, parents groups organized against the ordinance on the grounds that it would promote homosexuality. The Association of Mothers Concerned about Education as well as some 50 other groups threatened to campaign against any city council member who voted to approve the bill during the next round of elections.

LGBT Activists of Seoul launched a petition on Change.org to build international solidarity and put pressure of the council members to approve the ordinance. At noon on 15 December 2011, the petition closed and they had received 597 signatures. On 8 December 2011, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in a public statement on bullying, announced his stance of solidarity with anti-homophobic campaigns.

On 14 December, Common Action for Sexual Minority Students launched a 24-hour sit-in at the Seoul Metropolitan Council building. The members of the group occupied the building with banners, a long rainbow cloth draped across the floor, and flyers citing that both the Gyeonggi Province and Gwangju Metropolitan City had already passed similar ordinances. A mother of an LGBT youth delivered a speech and a petition signed by 896 Christians who supported the ordinance. The protesters were also joined by human rights activists, lawyers, and youth.

On 15 December, the Asian Human Rights Commission published a letter of appeal and encouraged everyone to forward the letter to the Seoul Metropolitan Council. On 16 December, the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission followed suit.

On 19 December, the Seoul Metropolitan Council approved the student rights ordinance. Immediately following the announcement, the Korean Federation of Teachers Association and the Mothers Concerned about Education, as well as other groups, said that they would continue to fight the ordinance until it was abolished. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) also issued a press release urging the council to reconsider their decision.

On 2 January 2012, in response to the MEST’s request, the LGBT Activists of Seoul launched yet another petition on Change.org asking that the international community express their support of the ordinance and write to the council members. The petition received 336 supporters, and on 26 January, the ordinance was put into effect in all elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools of Seoul.

There is still controversy surrounding the ordinance and all the rights it grants to students, but it has yet to be revoked.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Barsotti, Natasha. "A Queer Seoul Occupation." Xtra! Canada's Gay and Lesbian News. Pink Triangle Press, 21 Dec. 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Honggwonho. "(Translated) Seoul Student Rights Ordinance Rounds Passed, Urging Seoul Metropolitan Council Sit." Newscham.net. News Cham, 14 Dec. 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

LGBTSTU SOUTHKOREA. "Keep the LGBT Inclusive Draft of "Seoul Student Rights Ordinance"" Change.org. Change.org Inc. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

The Seoul Student Rights Ordinance [Korea Today]. YouTube. YouTube, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "UPDATE: VICTORY! Seoul Student Rights Ordinance Passed with Sexual Orientation Gender Identity Clauses Included." International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. WordPress, 26 Dec. 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Feria, Miel. "Student Rights Ordinance with All SOGI Clauses Passed in Seoul, Korea." Philippine Online Chronicle. Vibal Foundation, 20 Dec. 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "Korea: LGBT Students Threatened by Pending Discriminatory Legislation." IGLHRC. International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 16 Dec. 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Guest Author. "Korea: LGBT Students In Danger Of Being Left Out Of Non-Discrimination Protections." The New Civil Rights Movement RSS. The New Civil Rights Movement, 18 Dec. 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Park, Hyun Hee. "Political Dynamics and Effects of the Residents' Initiative Movement: Focused on 'the Ordinance Enactment Movement for Establishing the Sung Nam Municipal Hospital'" Diss. Seoul National University, n.d. Abstract. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Gomes, William. "Call for the Retention of Protection from Discrimination against Sexual Orientation and Gender." Modernghana.com. ModernGhana.com, 15 Dec. 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Oh, Grace. "(LEAD) Seoul Gov't Proclaims Controversial Student Rights Ordinance | YONHAP NEWS." Yonhap News Agency. Yonhap News Agency, 26 Jan. 2012. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Hyo-sik, Lee. "Student Rights Ordinance Approved by Seoul Metropolitan Council." The Korea Times. The Korea Times, 20 Dec. 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Hyo-sik, Lee. "Student Rights Ordinance Causes Stir." The Korea Times. The Korea Times, 26 Oct. 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

SIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION. "FORWARDED APPEAL (South Korea): Call for the Retention of Protection from Discrimination against Sexual Orientation and Gender." Asian Human Rights Commission. Asian Human Rights Commission, 15 Dec. 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Patricia Gutiérrez, 17/12/2012