Executive Director, KSCRC, South Korea
Korean Sexual-minority Cultural & Rights Center (KSCR) was established in 2002 and is an organization that provides culture, human rights, advocacy, research and education related to sexual minorities in Korea. I started the LGBT movement in 2006 with the sexual minority committee of the Progressive Party and have been active in KSCRC since 2013 after working with transgender rights organizations and feminist organizations. Currently, I am serving as the Executive Director of KSCRC. Sharing the vision of an international movement, I am serving as a co-chair of ILGA Asia.
What was life like before COVID-19, and service availability for LBQ women in South Korea?
Before the COVID-19, LBQ women in Korea were being provided services through community activities and organization events. Most LGBTI groups in Korea are active under a name that encompasses all LGBTI people, except for some groups. (But of course, they also provide services to all identities.) Organizations provide opportunities for LBQ women to gather and chat through education, counseling, advocacy and various cultural activities.
In 2019, the LBQ women’s sports festival was held and LBQ women had an opportunity to rethink their bodies and physical activities from the viewpoint of LGBTI people.
With the effect of COVID-19 outbreak, how did you respond to this? Can you detail the evolving service needs of LBQ women during lockdown, and how community groups are able to address the issues?
Many LGBTIQ people lost their jobs or lost their income. It is also assumed that LGBTIQ who used to work as freelancers had a bigger impact.
LGBTIQ Foundation and gay organization carried out a project to provide subsidies to LGBTQ people who are suffering from a crisis in their lives due to COVID-19 and this project quickly closed due to the crowd of applications.
What were the issues that LBQ women experienced during this time? What are the gaps in terms of addressing the issues?
In Korea, the entire LGBTIQ community was severely damaged in May by the spread of confirmed cases through gay clubs. During this time, LBQ women had to be exposed to hate and violence together as members of LGBTIQ community.
How have you, staff, and volunteers working for NGOs been coping?
Activists from many civil society have established the COVID-19 Human Rights Network for the safety of the underprivileged and are dealing with various human rights violations in the COVID-19 pandemic situation. For example, since a confirmed case from a gay club, the media has published a variety of hate-promoting articles; and the introduction of an electronic entry and exit register system using QR codes has led to de facto digital surveillance. In addition, various medical vacancy cases have occurred due to corona.
The human rights network investigated these cases, dealt with human rights violations and produced and distributed ‘social guidelines for human dignity and equality’.
How have you been able to seek resources to fill in the gaps? Who has been able to help provide support to your work during the pandemic?
Many tasks have been dealt with online because many people cannot gather. Activists faced the need to master more online skills, but I don’t think anyone could help them in this situation.
How has COVID-19 outbreak changed the way that you/your organisation and other NGOs will be working in the future?
My organization has been able to establish a stronger and more effective autonomous work system after the COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations have started working from home and thanks to Korea’s strong online presence, fortunately, it seems to be settled and has stabilized.
However, it is unfortunate that activities for the community and the way to meet members/sponsors are changing online. Several organizations have held their general meetings online and training sessions for new members are currently being held online.
Moving forward, what do you think must be adjusted/rethink in LGBTQI work post COVID-19?
LGBTI movement believes that many community activities have already been linked to the internet since the time when the internet was active in 2000. It will be necessary to think about the various events as we are separated from each other according to the current situation.
And more about what services are needed for LGBTIQ people who cannot escape from discrimination, hatred, and exposure to violence because they are in isolation, and for LGBTIQ people who have no access to any medical or social support. Counseling through Zoom etc. has already begun, but it is not limited to counseling. Although it is not face to face, it is necessary to reconsider what methods can be applied to in-person support.
How have you been able to cope as leader of the organisation during this time?
I think it’s important to let the organizations know that they are still there. Of course, organizations are also in a tough situation, but organizations are still doing their best to preserve the community.
As a leader of the organization, the biggest part I can do now is to support the physical/mental health of the members of the organization and continue to envision ways to evolve well in accordance with the changing current situation of the organization.
What would you like to say to donors?
It’s a hard time for everyone. In fact, many donations are being canceled or decreased. Don’t forget. If it is difficult to donate regularly to the community-even if it is a small amount of money-by reducing the sponsorship rather than cutting it off, please continue the relationship with the sponsorship even if it is a temporary donation.