Since I arrived in Korea, I have heard rumors about the elusive “Homo Hill”. This super-offensive name is for the one area of Seoul with a gay community, and more importantly, gay bars. It’s supposed to be one of the few places in Seoul where you can (kind of) let your freak flag fly, and escape the (fairly) sexually conservative Korean society.
I finally made it to the Hill this weekend, and I’ll be honest- I was disappointed. My friend pointed out that I am from an area with one of the most historic and impressive progressive bar scenes in the world. Which is true. But I couldn’t help feeling bad for Seoul’s LBGTQ community. There were about six “gay bars” and only a couple had dancing. I didn’t see anything for lesbians. (There is allegedly a different area for the trans community, so I obviously need to check that out next.)
South Korea still has a lot of hang-ups about homosexuality. People tend to be open-minded in theory, but they lack any practice, so to speak. For instance, I asked my oldest students how they felt about gay marriage, and they agreed that it was a good thing. However, both of them said that they didn’t know any gay people themselves. Even Jong-in, who is very liberal by Korean standards, hadn’t really hung out with anyone who identified as gay until this weekend. It has to be difficult for homosexual people in a society that puts a premium on homogeneity. However, much like in the US, things in Korea are changing; there was even a Queer Festival in June.
And even though I was disappointed, I still managed to dance my face off until two in the morning, surrounded by gorgeous gay men. I didn’t hate it.