Korea begins debating gay marriage
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Korea begins debating gay marriage

Original article in Korean is at this link.


Debate is growing after American President Barack Obama revealed his support for gay marriage. In some European countries it is already legal, but in Korea gay marriage has been brought up carefully.

The pink scarf-clad Lee Ji-yeong (not her real name), a 33-year old civil servant, and Kim Ji-yeon (not her real name), a 25-year old college student with bobbed hair, frequently laughed and looked at each other during their interview with the Kyunghyang Shinmun on the 23d. For nearly a year they have lived together, as a couple, in the same apartment and same bedroom. They both said that “we are two people in love.”

They were recently photographed for a special photo exhibition for sexual minorities. When asked why, they answered that “we wanted to show that sexual minorities also have the right to be families.”

They met four years ago at a swing dance club, and at the end of 2010 they happened to become tango partners and then fell in love. Ms. Lee said “I really like you. Did you know that?” and their relationship began.

Love gave them the power to go see the world again. Ms. Kim said that “before I met Ji-yeong I was consumed with the thought that the world would never accept me and so I couldn’t accept the world… But by loving someone I realized I had the power to love the world.” They told their parents and were accepted. Ms. Lee’s mother even encouraged them to “live with courage”.

They live much the same as any couple. Ms. Kim can’t stand it if their home isn’t neat and tidy, while Ms. Lee hates to see dust on the floor. Because of this Ms. Kim cleans the floor while Ms. Lee keeps everything tidily organized. Ms. Kim said that “we don’t divide up the housework that clearly, we just have a tacit agreement to each do what we can.” Ms. Lee said that “because Ji-yeon is a vegetarian I’ve changed my diet… we work at understanding each other.”

However, the world does not recognize their relationship. They were rejected from buying an apartment together, about which Ms. Lee said that “we are newlyweds, too, but it couldn’t work out” and appeared to still feel bitter about it. Two years ago¬† Ms. Lee had a thyroid operation and received outpatient care. She said that “I had to be admitted again but I couldn’t designate Ji-yeon as my guardian.” Ms. Kim said that “when I tried to sign the real estate contract instead of Ji-yeong because she was too busy at work, I had no choice but to pretend that she was my husband.”

Other major problems for them will be raising a child and their inheritance rights. Ms. Lee said that “a single person can adopt, but then one of us will have no legal relationship with our child… the world doesn’t recognize a home with two mothers.”

Their goal of the legalization of gay marriage is not insurmountable. Ms. Kim, a law student who dreams of being a lawyer, said that “I plan to work for a constitutional amendment to legalize gay marriage… however, eventually we need a society that recognizes that sexual minorities have the right to be a family.”