Korea University’s student council recently revised its rules to ban discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, or SOGI, officials said Wednesday.
The move came as a response to a series of suspected homophobic incidents. Earlier this year, a school club formed by sexual minority students had put up a placard welcoming new students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, but it was torn down by unidentified individuals.
A similar incident had occurred at Ewha Womans University, sparking concerns about deepening animosity against sexual minorities on campuses.
“In addition to the placard incident, there were homophobic remarks during some of the classes and school events. Representatives of all colleges agreed on the need to ban discrimination, leading us to pass the revision,” said Choi Jong-un, the head of the student council at Korea University.
It is first time a student body at a Korean university has stipulated antidiscrimination regarding SOGI in its resolution.
Han Ga-ram, a lawyer and member of the group Korean Lawyers for Public Interest and Human Rights, welcomed what he called “a little overdue” decision, and said it was a proclamation of the students’ will to respect the rights of minority groups.
“I believe it will become a catalyst for people to actively speak out for human rights and freedom of speech regarding sexual minorities among students,” he said. “It is also in keeping with the global trend. Korea voted in favor of a U.N. Human Rights council resolution on SOGI that was passed last month.”
The students’ decision may mark a step forward, but abolishing homophobia along with other discriminations remains a tall order in Korean society where public views about sexual orientation remain conservative.
Moon Yong-rin, the former Seoul education chief, had attempted earlier this year to revise a clause in student rights ordinance which specified that a student shall not be discriminated against based on his or her homosexuality. His attempt to remove the gay protection clause ultimately failed, but the popular support he got offered a reminder of the hostility that sexual minorities in Korea still face.
A recent survey by Asan Institute for Policy, a think-tank, showed that just 21.5 percent of respondents had an open mind toward homosexuality and 25 percent said they supported gay marriage.
Earlier this month, some 70 civic groups began campaigning against the Seoul city’s plans to ban discrimination against homosexuals.