Seoul mayor Park Won-soon endorses same-sex marriage in first for South Korean politics

His stance on gay rights could invite controversy from the country’s social conservatives

Roisin O'Connor
Monday 13 October 2014 14:52
Seoul mayor Park Won-Soon
Seoul mayor Park Won-Soon

Seoul mayor Park Won-soon has become the first mainstream politician in South Korea to openly endorse same-sex marriage.

In an interview with Bay-Area daily the San Francisco Examiner, published on Sunday, Mr Park said that he hoped South Korea would become the first Asian nation to legalise same-sex marriage.

His stance on gay rights could invite controversy from the country’s social conservatives, yet he has been cited as a likely candidate for the 2016 presidential election.

Coming out in support of gay rights is a rarity in South Korea, with a vast majority holding negative attitudes towards LGBT people, according to recent polls.

Mr Won-soon, who started his career as a human rights lawyer, said: “I personally agree with the rights of homosexuals. But the Protestant churches are very powerful in Korea. It isn’t easy for politicians.”

A Seoul city spokeswoman confirmed the mayor’s comments to the Wall Street Journal, which were made in late September during a visit to San Francisco.

Politicians are under considerable pressure from religious groups that oppose gay rights. This year’s annual gay-pride parade in Seoul was met with protests by Christian groups, and the authorities of the district that hosted the event later announced that they opposed it.

Local think-tank Asan Institute for Policy Studies showed just 21.5 per cent said they had little or no objections to homosexuality, with a quarter saying they supported gay marriage.

However, due to an increase in mainstream media coverage, South Korea’s views towards homosexuality have improved in recent years, with an advance in the number of films and television shows that feature gay characters.

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