[KS] Re: Public awareness of homosexuality in South Korea
kimchee at nwlink.com
Wed Oct 4 21:30:29 EDT 2000
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On 03-Oct-00, k u s h i b o wrote:
>> Well, the *concept* of "homosexuality" seems to have been a relatively
>> recent western invention. My guess is that if you found a Koreanist
>> who was a scholar in gay/lesbian studies, and asked them whether
>> homosexuality existed in Korea before westernization, instead of
>> answering your question they would start deconstructing the world
> I'm not sure I would completely agree with that. There is a Korean word
> for "homosexuality" that is a string of Chinese characters. It's basically
> "same gender love person," or something to that effect. And hasn't
> homosexuality been referred to in literature going back to the
> ancient Greeks and the Biblical Hebrews? That doesn't seem to me to be a
> "recent" western invention, but I may be missing your point.
I should have said: the concept of "homosexuality" seems to have been a
relatively recent invention in the West. It is true that same-sex
sexual *behavior* has been documented in literature going back to the
ancient Greeks and the biblical Hebrews, and has probably been going on
since we were still in the trees. However the ancient Greeks, biblical
Hebrews, medieval Christians, etc. do not seem to have had the idea that
engaging in same-sex sexual behavior constituted a sexual identity or
sexual orientation. While same-sex sexual behavior is as old as the
hills, the modern psychological concept of "homosexuality" as sexual
identity or sexual orientation is regarded by many scholars in the field
of gay/lesbian studies as a relatively recent invention. (At least,
that's what I gather. I have not read widely in the field, and most of
what I *have* read has been way over my head!)
I have little doubt that (some) Koreans were engaging in same-sex sexual
behavior long before any Westerners appeared on the scene. But if
modern Koreans have the concept of "homosexuality" as sexual identity or
sexual orientation (as seems to be implied in the act of "coming out"),
it does seem possible to me that they could have gotten that concept
from the west (then again, they may not have, I really don't know).
> On the other hand, there is a subtle difference between "homosexual" and
> "gay" which might arguably relate to your point here. "Homosexual"
> putatively refers to the act and orientation itself, whereas "gay"
> refers to the culture and lifestyle that sometimes surrounds it. Thus,
> someone could be homosexual without being gay, I suppose.
No, that's not what I was talking about. I was talking about the idea
that homosexuality or gay-ness is an "orientation" or an "identity."
Sorry for the confusion.
> My understanding is that there is a differentiation in
> the minds of many Koreans between the words *homo* (spelled "homo" in
> Korean) and *gay* (spelled "kkae"?). The former refers to what we would
> consider gay or homosexual in North America, but the latter refers to
> gay men who try to make themselves up to look like women.
Sounds like what we in the U.S. would call queens or drag queens.
> My cousin here says that Korea invented the concept of "Don't ask, don't
> It's okay to do engage in whatever sexual proclivity you desire
> (assuming it's between consenting adults, I guess) as long as it doesn't
> upset or disrupt your family and other obligations. This applies, of
> course, to heterosexual adultery that is not only rampant in Korea, but
> arguably *expected* after marriage.
That's kind of the impression I got regarding the two women having an
affair. If the student had run off with her female lover and refused to
marry the man her family had picked out for her, there would have been
hell to pay. But since she dutifully married him and dutifully produced
a child, nobody seems to have held it against her that she'd had an
affair with a woman.
Or maybe it's just because she came from a very prominent family and
they managed to keep it hushed up. :)
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