SEOUL, Apr. 28 (Korea Bizwire) — Sexual minorities’ human rights are attracting voter attention as presidential candidates differ over the highly polarizing issue with a front-runner seen striving to steer clear of it.
The issue was brought to the fore at a televised debate on Tuesday where Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic Party said that he is “opposed to and does not like” homosexuality, though there must not be any discrimination against it.
Moon, the opinion poll favorite, made the remarks in response to a question by Hong Joon-pyo, the candidate of the conservative Liberty Korea Party who has blamed homosexual citizens for the spread of the AIDS virus across the country.
Moon’s remarks have triggered seething criticism from human rights activists and sexual minority circles that demanded Moon offer an official apology and pledge to enact an anti-discrimination law.
To quell the growing criticism, Moon said he is sorry for hurting the feelings of sexual minorities. He added that each individual’s sexual orientation is a “privacy” issue — not a matter that is to be consented to or opposed by a third person.
“There could be some differences between the values (sexual minorities) advocate for and (mine), as I, as a politician, have to make judgments in realistic terms,” Moon told reporters. “I have hurt their feelings due to such differences.”
But Moon clarified his opposition to homosexuality within the military tasked with defending the nation against a provocative North Korea.
“There could be many side effects if homosexuality is allowed within the military where mostly people of the same sex live together in the barracks,” he said.
“There could be coercion due to homosexuality, or somebody could stalk a person in higher authority, and this could also lead to sexual harassment or assaults,” he added.
Currently, South Korea’s military criminal code bans homosexuality on the barracks.
Despite the escalating controversy, Hong doubled down on his opposition to homosexuality.
“(Homosexuality) goes against the will of the God … Thus, I oppose (it),” Hong, a Christian, told reporters. “AIDS is spreading (due to homosexuality).”
Runner-up Ahn Cheol-soo of the center-left People’s Party echoed Moon’s position, saying one’s sexual identity is not a matter of somebody else’s approval or disapproval.
But he opposed the legalization of the same-sex marriage.
Amid the heated debate, the state human rights watchdog announced the enactment of an anti-discrimination law as one of the key tasks for the next government to enhance the country’s human rights.