SEOUL, Dec. 4 (Korea Bizwire) – Despite the widespread social stigma surrounding sexual minorities in South Korea, most young people are supportive of the LGBT community, according to a new survey.
Nearly 8 in 10 school middle students said they would continue a friendship with someone after finding out they are gay, the survey by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education revealed.
The findings mark a notable shift in the perception of the LGBT community among young people, whose views on sexual minorities often contrast with older generations.
In 2014, reports of a controversial witch hunt survey at a female high school, urging students to write in the name of gay students they knew of, sent a shockwave though online communities, while drawing criticism from human rights groups directed at school authorities with lack of knowledge on the LGBT community.
Another major case of discrimination against the community in recent years includes the alleged probe into gay soldiers in the South Korean army, which sought to track down and punish serving members of the army on gay dating apps, culminating in a six-month prison sentence for an army captain who engaged in a sexual act with another man, despite pressure from the international community.
Despite the struggles, only 18.6 percent of middle school students said they would distance themselves from or cut times with gay friends, while nearly 30 percent said a friend’s sexuality ‘isn’t relevant, though it’s a little uncomfortable’, the survey learned after polling 664 third-grade middle school students in July.
Around 4 in 10 students said they would continue a friendship with someone who didn’t identify as straight, while nearly 13 percent said they would seek ways to help LGBT friends.
The perception of transgender people was similar to that of gay people, with a slightly higher 24.2 percent of the students saying they would distance themselves from transgender peers.
When broken down by gender, female students held more favorable views than their male counterparts, who were nearly twice as likely to not warm to members of the LGBT community.
Around 1 in 10 students said they had experienced worry about their ‘sexual orientation’, while 3 percent had contemplated their ‘sexual identity’.
The survey also addressed the lack of sex education in school as well as the need for education on sexual minorities.
More than 40 percent of the students said that sex education currently offered in school was ‘not very helpful’, with 33.4 percent in support of more LGBT studies opportunities in school.
Despite the progressive outlook of many students, 4 in 10 students admitted to having used a derogatory term for sexual minorities, with many of them using the terms simply because their friends also used them.
Findings from the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education’s survey, which were first released by Ewha Womans University Korean Women’s Institute researcher Kim Ae-ra during a sexual equality conference last month, follow in the footsteps of another survey on sexual minorities by Gallup Korea earlier this year.
The survey by Gallup Korea in June showed that an overwhelming majority of the South Korean public believe in equal employment opportunities for sexual minorities.
However, the findings also identified challenges facing the LGBT community in South Korea, with only 5 in 10 people acknowledging homosexuality as a legitimate form of love.
When it came to same-sex marriage, South Korea had a long way to go from reaching a public consensus, with 58 percent opposing the legalization of marriage between two people of the same gender, while only 34 percent showed support.
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)