South Korea faces major anti-queer backlash after COVID-19 outbreak

Itaewon (via Wikimedia Commons)

The South Korean city of Seoul has experienced another outbreak of the coronavirus, which reportedly originated with a gay man. The patient in question visited several of the city’s gay bars last weekend. Now, the city’s LGBTQ community faces a major public backlash.

The 31-year-old man likely infected at least 14 other people, according to The Guardian. Now members of the public have begun soliciting funds on social media to have the city’s gay venues shut down for good.

Though homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea, queer citizens still face social stigma and discrimination. With the outbreak of COVID-19 traced to gay venues, that stigma could get even worse.

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“I don’t usually go to gay clubs and it’s been two years since I visited Itaewon [Seoul’s gay neighborhood],” said Hong Yoo-jin, a 35-year-old IT worker. “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 our photos from all of our accounts.”

“The company where I work is a regular Korean company, which means they are very anti-gay,” another unidentified gay man told The Guardian. “I have taken part in conversations where my boss and colleagues said all gay men should be put to death in a gas chamber. If they find out that I was at a gay club, they would most likely tell me to leave under some other pretext or make my life there a living hell so I would have no choice but to leave.”

South Korean police say they have the names of 1,500 people who visited gay venues last weekend. Law enforcement is also encouraging anyone who may have visited any of the locations go get tested for COVID-19 immediately.