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The legacy of Kim Bo-mi, South Korea’s first openly lesbian student president

 

Interview with Kim Bomi, 26 December 2015
Video from HuffPost Korea

This is a follow-up post to my previous post on Kim Bo-mi’s election at Seoul National University (November 2015).

Kim, the first openly lesbian student president at Seoul National University and in the country, discusses her coming out prior to launching campaign activities as both a symbol of resistance towards the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” atmosphere in South Korean society as well as to be true to herself. Her primary concern before making the decision to come out to the public was on how her family would be impacted by her decision, since everyone, not just her friends and family, would be able to know that she was lesbian.

But in the end, Kim decided that it was worth taking the risk. She hoped that her example would encourage those who wanted to be true to themselves, while acknowledging that those who chose to keep their private lives private should have the right to do so – and it seems that she has succeeded.

In the Huffpost interview, Kim talks about how coming out to the public has changed people around her and how diversity manifests itself in having respect for others who hold different opinions from ours. A high school friend who had told her homosexuality was “abnormal” contacted her after seeing her campaign and apologised for being ignorant. A friend who does not understand homosexuality has nevertheless promised to “pray for her”.

Others have followed suit. In March 2017, Baek Seung-mok, of  Sungjonghoe University, came out to the public as part of his campaign for student council presidentship. His thoughts mirror those of Kim, particularly on how he was “taken for granted to be straight” and how he had to endure male students’ “locker room banter” on fellow women students.

Baek has also been engaged in Sim Sang-jung’s campaign in the 2017 presidential elections, and identifies as a feminist. He states that South Korea needs politicians who are feminists who are not “just feminist with their words” as well as politicians who are part of the LGBT community.

Kim, who has finished her term as student president at the end of 2016, has resumed being a “regular student” and discusses life behind her time at the student council. She plans on attending law school and becoming a human rights lawyer. Voicing her opinion on feminism, Kim points out that fears of sexual harassment pervade the lives of young women, that women continue to be discriminated in the job market, and that everyone must work towards making the country more equal.

References

[HuffingtonPostKorea Interview] Kim Bo-mi, South Korea’s First Openly Lesbian Student Council President
[허핑턴포스트코리아 인터뷰] 한국 최초의 커밍아웃한 성소수자 총학생회장 김보미
www.huffingtonpost.kr/2015/12/28/story_n_8872682.html  

 

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Seoul National University Elects Country’s First-Ever Openly Lesbian Student President


Kim Bomi with HankyorehTV (23 November 2015)

Seoul National University (SNU), the mecca of Korean higher education and a source of admiration/grief for many high school students, has been home to QIS (Queen in SNU) since 1995. Their website has a roughly translated English version, and is mobile-friendly.

Kim Bo-mi, a 22-year old at the Department of Consumer Science, ran unopposed and was elected with 86.8% of votes on a turnout of 53.3%. Kim has previously served as Vice-President of the Student Council (VP). She came out four days before the voting period (16th- 19th November), to much press coverage and public appraisal.

 She and incoming VP Kim Min-seok (Dept. of Political Science and International Relations) campaigned for the following items

  • To ban human rights violations, i.e. sexual assault and harassment
  • To ban Protestant organisations from evangelising inside the campus
  • To promote basic civic knowledge, i.e. CPR
  • To recognise male students’ absences caused by army drills as justifiable

Kim Bo-mi campaigned this August and September for the dismissal of two SNU professor accused of inflicting sexual violence on students. She was also responsible for creating the Student & LGBT Human Rights Council as a body of the SNU Student Council.

She also states that the clause on banning evangelising was proposed by her colleague Min-seok, a devout Protestant himself (and if you have been on a Korean campus, you’d surely agree the constant pestering of the combi – Korean Jehovah’s Witnesses and American Mormon missionaries, will get to you). As the SNU campus suffers from evalgelisers who even enter the dormitories without permission and en masse, they decided it was time to put a stop to them. Kim has agreed to speak with the SNU Christian Students’ Association on this matter.

After a quick look at the Korean media, I saw that articles treating her election have been thronged with negative, irrational comments (several commented on her physique and one even lashed out anger at her posture in the photographs as ‘rude’). One extremist Protestant website has condemned her campaign as one of the “many attempts by the gays to overthrow Christianity and the higher education system”.

Kim has simply stated that she has received many calls from reporters since her coming out in the Chosun article.

References 

[Interview] Kim Bo-mi, President of the Student Council at Seoul National University (Video), 24 Nov 2015, HuffPost Korea
[인터뷰] 김보미 서울대 총학생회장 당선자(동영상)
http://www.huffingtonpost.kr/2015/11/23/story_n_8629260.html

Chosun Ilbo, November 24th, 2015. http://news.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2015/11/24/2015112402177.html

Image by SNU Journal via HuffPost Korea

This post originally appeared on Blogger

Seoul by Erika Henell (May 2015)

S E O U L from Erika Henell on Vimeo.

 

 

 

Here’s a video of Seoul’s major tourist destinations and nightlife by blogger Erika Henell. I’ve been following her blog since a few years, and found out she recently visited Seoul.

She often posts daily outfits and makeup tutorials inspired by Korean and Japanese celebrities (as of recently, Park Bom seems to be one of her faves), as well as cosplay and gyaru looks.

The video provides a sneak peek into:

  • Hongdae: Mecenapolis & street performances
  • Gyeongbokgung Palace
  • Myeongdong shopping center
  • Korean food
  • Namsan Tower
  • Insadong
  • Seoul Nightlife

 

This review was posted on 25 November 2015 on Blogger.

Seoulsearching Day 2: In Sashimi We Trust 

During my two-week “research trip” to Seoul, I had one primary personal goal in mind: to eat a ton of fresh hoe (sashimi). So when my friend Y said that her friend N had a Noryangjin Sashimi Fest in mind, I hopped onboard.

Here is the Large Sashimi Takeout box from one of Noryangjin’s many stalls. You choose a seller, the fish, the quantity, and they pack it up for you in a styrofoam box filled to the brim with ice cubes. We paid about 45,000 KRW for the Large box.

Which came with three boxes of chobab (sushi), spicy cold noodles, fresh ssam veggies, plenty of soy sauce and pickled ginger and wasabi. We were four and couldn’t finish all of the sashimi.

A round of Easter chocolates followed…

Apparently Thai Milk Tea is all the craze at the moment. So here it is.

And here is a random picture of one of our usual dinners.

Millennial South Korean Feminist Movements – Press List

“They say it’s a shame to be living in this strange country”

“But we who fight are not ashamed of anything”

(Picture from Womenlink)

Here is a list of material covering millennial South Korean feminist movements. As a researcher, I am trying to compile a comprehensive list of academic literature, verified news articles and noteworthy opinion writing, and art projects on this topic. Please let me know if you feel something else should be added to this list at iamemilysingh@gmail.com

1. On Movements (Megalia, Womad, and others)

Haengdonghaneun Megalia (Megalia in Action)
행동하는 메갈리아 
(Anonymous, 6 Sept 2015 – 4 Dec  2015)
http://timetree.zum.com/123516

Korean Feminism Reins In the Collective Power of the Internet 
(Emily Singh, 8 Jan 2016)
https://realkoreans.com/2016/01/08/korean-feminism-reins-in-the-collective-power-of-the-internet/

Megalia: South Korean Feminism Marshals the Power of the Internet
(Emily Singh at Korea Exposé, 29 July 2016)
https://koreaexpose.com/megalia-south-korean-feminism-marshals-the-power-of-the-internet/

“Megalia” seonghyang ttara womadeu, ladism deungeuro bunhwa (Megalia Splits into Groups Such As Womad And Ladism) – Retrieved from archive.fo
‘메갈리아’ 성향 따라 워마드·레디즘 등으로 분화
(Kim Seo-yeong at Kyunghyang Daily, 8 July 2016)
https://archive.fo/20160724175513/http://news.khan.co.kr/kh_news/khan_art_view.html?artid=201607082152005&code=940100#selection-1613.0-1613.27

In Defense of Feminism
(Se-Woong Koo at Korea Exposé, 7 Aug 2016)
https://koreaexpose.com/in-defense-of-feminism/

In Defense Of South Korean Feminism: Rise Of Megalia & Other Online Communities
(Korea Observer with Chance Dorland, Se-Woong Koo, and Emily Singh)
http://www.koreaobserver.com/in-defense-of-south-korean-feminism-rise-of-megalia-other-online-communities-63318/

2. On Misogynic Incidents and Crime

South Korea gaming: How a T-shirt cost an actress her job
(BBC, 15 Aug 2016)
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-37018916

Gangnam Murder, 17 May 2016

A woman is murdered for no other reason than being a woman. The assailants waits for hours outside the unisex toilet at a Gangnam noraebang (karaoke) until a woman goes into the cabinet alone. Upon her leave, he stabs her unto her death.

Misogyny in South Korea, Part I: Gangnam Murder
(Erik Thurman at Korea Exposé, 22 Nov 2016)
https://koreaexpose.com/misogyny-korea-gangnam-murder/

Murder at Gangnam Station: A Year Later
(Seohoi Stephanie Park at Korea Exposé, 18 May 2017)
https://koreaexpose.com/murder-gangnam-station-year-later/

‘Molka”: Illegal Spycam / Hidden Camera Porn

“There could be one of you”: S. Korea’s Spycam Porn Epidemic
(Jieun Choi at Korea Exposé, 20 October 2017)
https://koreaexpose.com/south-koreas-spycam-porn-epidemic/

Soranet

Soranet pyeswereul duleossan daseot gaji jujang [Five Hypothesis on Soranet’s Shutdown] 
소라넷 폐쇄를 둘러싼 다섯 가지 주장
(Ize Magazine, 07 Dec 2015)
http://www.ize.co.kr/articleView.html?no=2015120609567280857

 

Pedophilia, Hebephilia and Lolita Culture

Twitter User Flags ‘PedoFILA’ Controversy
(Jieun Choi at Korea Exposé, 10 April 2017)
https://koreaexpose.com/fila-ad-pedofila-controversy/

Sulli and K-Pop’s Lolita Hypocrisy
(Haeryun Kang at Korea Exposé, 20 Jan 2017)
https://koreaexpose.com/sulli-k-pops-lolita-hypocrisy/

3. On Legislation

Reproductive Rights: Menstruation & Contraception

Government Mulling Easier Access to Menstrual Cups
(Jieun Choi at Korea Exposé, 25 October 2017)
https://koreaexpose.com/government-mulling-easier-access-menstrual-cups/

4. On Education

It Was Just Our Body. It Was Just Underwear
(Written by Sodam Cho and translated by Haeryun Kang, 12 October 2017)
https://koreaexpose.com/just-body-just-underwear/

5. In Pop Culture

Sulli and K-Pop’s Lolita Hypocrisy
(Haeryun Kang at Korea Exposé, 20 Jan 2017)
https://koreaexpose.com/sulli-k-pops-lolita-hypocrisy/

 

 

 

Seoulsearching, Day 1: Homophobia

 On April 13th, the commander-in-chief of the Korean army was found guilty of ordering the army’s intelligence unit to “find the gays”: The army’s intelligence unit used fake IDs on Grinder and Jack’D to blacklist and interrogate gay soldiers, sexually harassing them in the process.

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(In response to the report which exposed the Korean army’s blacklisting, interrogating and sexually harrassing of gay soldiers)

“Take me [into custody] too, I’m a gay woman” […] “Don’t say, ‘There aren’t any fucking faggots around me’, because I fucking am one, you fuckers!”

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“Dear Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Korea, I am ÜberButch, the cute queer fairy who protects love and justice in the world. In the name of justice, I won’t forgive you!”

– From the sodomizing lesbian warriors

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<Enactment on the Management of Troops>

Article 254 (2). A commander may not carry out active investigations on homosexual soldiers, i.e. though questionnaires in one’s sexuality, etc

Article 254 (4). A commander may not ask for the collection of data proving [a soldier’s] homosexuality.

Article 256 (1). All soldiers are banned from inflicting the following on homosexual soldiers: physical aggression, verbal aggression, sexual harassment and sexual violence.

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“Dear Commander-in-chief,

[…] I was told I was a great soldier, but I still liked dick then. If liking dick deteriorates a soldier’s ability to fight, are you saying that all heterosexual women soldiers are terrible soldiers? […]

I wonder what you thought last year, at that meeting you had with the US Commander-in-chief, Erik Fanning, because he’s gay too. Did you think he should have gone to jail ?

[…] Also, if you don’t like men who like dick, don’t buy Apple products. Apple commemorates Alan Turing, [who was gay].”

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“Borrow a spy camera detector from us!” – Women Students’ Council, Yonsei University.

Yonsei University, Ewha Woman’s University, Korea University and Seoul National University have all had spy cams installed in their women’s toilets by unknown perpetrators. Thousands of such “toilet spy cam” videos are uploaded and shared every month – with those watching them getting a thrill from the “humiliation” they can cause the woman by taunting them online.

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Candidates to the presidential elections on May 9th. Key candidates Moon Jae-In and Hong Joon-pyo have repeatedly used the sentence “I disagree with/I cannot condone homosexuality”. Mind you, not “I disagree with legalizing gay marriage” – they disagree with people being homosexual.

 

A Night in Shanghai

 

A Samsonite full of stroopwafels and chocolate

Amsterdam – Frisian Islands -Denmark – Southern Sweden – Baltics – Russia – Mongolia – Beijing – Xian – Shanghai. In other words: Avoiding Ukraine.

img_7855

Good morning Shanghai!

People ask me what the difference is between Korean, Chinese and Japanese food. You gotta try them to know. Spices, I say. The Chinese use the biggest variety of spices of the three.

My poor Chinese skills telling me this is “Cold tea”, containing “water, white sugar, and black tea”

A bento from FamilyMart. Smart that there’s two layers of packaging: one box for the rice, one for the sides. Korean bento makers should do this too.

Sweet sausage: Chinese cooking sure is adventurous.

“Tomato water”. Revolutionary. And confusing.

Seriously. Who does this?

Goodbye Shanghai. See you soon!

South Korea and Racism. Again.

Sam Okyere talks about racism in South Korea

Just because you don’t know it’s called “being racist” doesn’t mean you’re not being one

A couple of years back, I wrote about racism in Korea. Recently, Ghanaian-born South Korean TV star Sam Okyere’s JTBC interview has got South Koreans thinking about the issue of racism once again. Okyere’s experiences of racism, optimistic outlook, and integration in South Korean society echo those voiced earlier by Stanley Hawi in 2015.

Racism exists in South Korea. There’s no denying this (There is racism in every society, no matter how”educated” or less “educated” their general population may be on the issue). It manifests itself in different ways: Here in South Korea, white women are labelled whores, because they are sexually liberated, so I, also a man, deserve to have a go at them. Korean women who date white men are seen as sluts, because they remind me of the government-sponsored whores we leased to the GIs. South Asian women are seen as subhuman, because we bought you, and thus you are a living doll, to be ordered around.

The sentiments felt by Sam are shared by many people of colour in South Korea. The stupid questions Sam has been asked, such as “How many lions do you have at home” were thrown at people around me. These are not limited to the “less educated middle-aged women you meet in the subway”, as Sam recalls. They were reproduced by well-travelled, foreign-educated middle-upper class South Korean students at elite universities.

When a professor at Korea University stated, during a lecture in international development, that “Africa will never develop”, virtually all the African students immediately shot out of their seats and started speaking. The hurt ringing in the phrase “How can you make such a statement” from a Kenyan student was echoed by many international students. She was shot down by the professor, who hurriedly dismissed the class. She walked up to the professor and talked to him for several minutes. He eventually apologised, but I don’t know how sincere he was about this.

Why I’m writing about racism (again)

Racism is a topic that’s been on my mind a lot this year in the Netherlands, because it’s hit me in the face, over and over again. In fact, it annoyed me so much that I started a Twitter account where I will chronicle each and every one of them.

Racism is not a yes/no question. It is a spectrum. A person who is nice to whites without any particular reason yet does not show the same niceness to people of colour is a racist. He or she is inflicting positive racism on the former, and negative racism on the latter. By assuming a white person in a suit must be educated, by saying that those speaking with a British accent sound “smart”, by saying white women are “liberal”, we are boxing them into packages labelled “white” “British man” and “white woman” and expecting they be the same as the “standard” white, British man, or white woman. And even those who think such things agree humans are not Tesco-packed beef wrapped in polyester, who come with a price tag, a nutrition etiquette, and whose price depreciates because of a single characteristic.

When a man’s experience of racism is read out in a “black accent”

Uzo Paul Chiedozie talk about racism on the same programme Stanley Hawi appeared in.

In the February 27th episode of “Hello Counselor”, Nigerian student Uzo Paul talks about the racist experiences he’s come across in South Korea so far, using much of the same narrative Stanley Hawi and Sam Okyere have testified to.

A black man is mistreated for being “African” – by individuals. It’s just individuals who are ignorant. “Educated Koreans” don’t treat him that way – he has many South Korean friends. He struggles but still loves South Korea. He loves the food. He has a South Korean girlfriend. The girlfriend is abused publicly by fellow South Koreans and the black man is sorry about this. But he hopes, that by his “being strong and assimilating into Korean culture”, these racisms will eventually disappear.

The cast and the audience reacts the same way. The MC begins by reading his story, in a mocking rendition of what he perceives to be an “African accent”.

What is particularly shocking in this episode is how a story of racism is read out in a racist manner by the MC. He reads out Uzo’s “story”  using a thick accent. The cast and audience burst out laughing. This is racism.

Lee Michelle, finalist of Kpop Star Season 1 and member of now disbanded SuPearls comments: “I overcame these [racist] difficulties thanks to my family and friends. Not everyone in the world can love me. […] If I work harder for the people who love me, life will surely get better”. 

Eventually, racism is reduced to a “personal, unfortunate incident” that the victim has to “pull through, since they’re in a foreign country, and that’s how things are here”. Even a programme dealing with racism is rife with racist attitudes. The victims play nicely, they don’t accuse South Koreans of being racist. The audience is left feeling good, and they all pat each other on the back – “We aren’t like that. We are not racists”.

Stanley, Sam, Uzo are all saddened by the “unfortunate incidents” – but happy at the end, because they are optimistic things will get better. Never, ever, are they angry. Because the last thing South Korean TV wants to see is a black person who is angry. An angry “African” will only prove the stereotypes to be true, that “Africans” are emotional and get violent. The “victims” must play the part, sad, soft-spoken, innocent – or what is an outstanding example of tone policing.

In “(I am) Twenty-Three, and Decide to Die”, Cho Eunsoo writes about her 10-month journey in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar and more

Tales from the Motherland

Racism is harshest on black people. It’s also a crime by association. Travel writer and author of “(I am) Twenty-Three, and Decide to Die (스물 셋, 죽기로 결심하다)” (surely a pun on Veronika decide morir by Paulo Coelho) Cho Eunsoo’s Facebook and Naver Blog regularly receive comments such as “So, did you suck black dick?”. Whenever there is a photo of a Korean woman with a black person, you can safely assume some anonymous Korean man will comment on her “promiscuity”, just because.

As I’m not running for the Oppression Olympics, I’m not going to start comparing my experiences to those faced by Sam and Stanley. Our experiences are different, yet lie in the same realm of ignorance mashed up with racial superiority.

Whenever I tell my flatmate Jonas that another Dutch man has screamed “Hey Miss China!” at me, he says “That’s not racism, it’s just a stupid person being stupid to you” and I shoot back “You don’t know racism because you’ve never experienced it. Shut up“, he concedes. He doesn’t start yelling at or threatening me, but that doesn’t make Jonas’s support for racism go away. By denying the “Miss China” part as racist, he is delegating the axis to me  – I am the problem. I am the “over-sensitive prick” who is making a “big deal”. When Jonas tells me and my other flatmate Haley that “catcalling is a compliment, you girls should appreciate it”, he is being part of the problem by disregarding our experience (Before you ask me why I’m still living with Jonas – it’s the university’s 12-month minimum contract for student housing. I’ve looked into it. Multiple times).

A friend of mine is currently living in New York City and living together with her boyfriend from Trinidad and Tobago. She “came out” to her mother about their dating and living together, but she says she and her mother will never tell her dad. “He will die”. I still think she is one of the most courageous women I know.

It took my grandparents three years before they let my stepfather, a Dutch national, enter their apartment. “We have a reputation to keep; we cannot have the neighbours think we have a white man in the family”. When a white, middle-class man is rejected for not being Korean, how it must be for a black student (students not having much money, of course) – I will not claim to understand their pain, because I will never experience it to such an extent, but I will acknowledge that it is pain.

And often, acknowledgement is all we need.