Emperor Park, Won-Soon: A Flip-Flop Aficionado

Author Sabrina Hill 1j

In an effort to keep this brief, Seoul’s mayor, Park, Won-Soon, a flip-flop aficionado of the highest order, this week apologized to his key 2017 Presidential-bid supporters, i.e. the elderly, conservative Protestants of Seoul and beyond, for suggesting that gays should have equal rights. This came after he blocked efforts to pass a non binding equal rights charter that he himself championed as it was being formulated by various experts and citizen volunteers from across the city.

Six days ago, when it looked like the rights charter may be stalled by the power and vocal religious lobby, members of about twenty LGBT groups began a quiet and peaceful sit-in of Seoul City Hall.


The Pro-LGBT Human Rights’ group, Solidarity for LGBT Human Right of Korea said this in their response to Park’s flip-flopping;

He one-sidedly rejected the Charter, which was drawn up by citizens of the metropolis, publicly said he “[did] not support homosexuality” at a meeting with the Korean Presbyterians Association, and overlooked the violence and hate speech committed by homophobic groups during the process of legislating the Charter. [See link to full statement below]

Three months ago, Park himself called upon Korea to be the ‘first nation in Asia’ to legally allow gay marriages in an interview with a reporter following Seoul’s Gay Pride Day (photos and coverage here), said he would like to see Korea beat Taiwan in allowing for true equality.

Many homosexual couples in Korea are already together. They are not legally accepted yet, but I believe the Korean Constitution allows it. We are guaranteed the right to the pursuit of happiness. Park, Won-Soon, San Francisco Examiner

After five days of occupying the lobby to city hall, the mayor say down with members representing the LGBT groups and privately apologized to them, however he stopped short of reversing his reversal. He said he would “look for a practical approach” to resolving this issue, however made no promise to include equal rights protections for sexual and gender minorities. [UPDATE: “In addition, the day after the private talk with the protesters, the mayor dispatched a working-level official for yet another meeting on collaboration with the relevant (ie, LGBT and other) groups eventually to devise measures that will guarantee equality and protection for everyone. Full-fledged meetings will start in January…” Correction provided by KYS]

Park bowing, literally bowing, to his future constituency, that which stretches way beyond just the citizens of Seoul, has decided to withdraw support from the Charter and ordering it be stopped entirely. This is not only a clear violation of his mandate as the mayor of Seoul, but a classic example of Korean politicians yielding to a loud minority of conservative voters, fearing that they won’t have support from an angry right when they seek their next post, and in Korea, it’s always about the next job, never the one you have now.

SEOULfi plans on further coverage of this including interviews with members involved with this action in Seoul, interviews that were not yet ready at the time of this publication. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for future coverage.

For more LGBT Resources in S. Korea Check out these links:

CORRECTION: Parts of this article were re-edited upon confirmation of some of the facts being in error when originally published. The above article now reflects the actual facts of the story. Sabrina Hill and SEOULfi apologize for any misleading information about the Charter and the NGO’s.

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One response to “Emperor Park, Won-Soon: A Flip-Flop Aficionado

  1. I appreciate your effort to report on and analyze the issue. A consideration of several finer points would make the article more interesting and nuanced:

    1. The mayor met with the protesters on the 5th day, not the 6th.

    2. It’d be good to remember that even if the mayor decides to be publicly and consistently homophobic, he’s not likely ever to be supported and voted by the homophobic groups precisely because he belongs to the opposition party–which, to many conservative people, is “communist” (which is completely untrue).

    3. Your argument about South Korean politicians’ inconstancy is complicated and possibly weakened by the fact that the mayor apologized twice–the second time, to LGBT protesters. Indeed, this was the first time for a South Korean politician or government official ever to apologize to LGBT people, who are a true minority in that they’re few in number and weak politically and economically. For this very reason, he can be criticized by the homophobes, to whom he apologized the first time, for “yielding to a loud minority.” Furthermore, not a few ordinary (straight) supporters of the mayor, who’d be considered “progressive” in South Korean politics, are happy with his rejection of the Charter, which implies that they’d criticize his “bowing” to LGBT people. Also, his second apology is public knowledge–he posted one on his personal Facebook, the city government’s official press release briefly mentioned it, and various media have reported it. Considering all of these aspects, it becomes harder to characterize him as an “[E]mperor”–after all, he’s apologized to all of the sides involved

    It’d be more interesting and meaningful to consider fully the implications of the mayor’s apologies to two irreconcilable sides.


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