Happy pride month! A while ago I mentioned briefly how gay Koreans would use certain terms to refer to a partner/romantic interest and I want to delve deeper into the culture! Both with some points on Korean LGBTQIA+ culture and life, and some great vocab!
Korean LGBTQIA+ Life
Korean LGBT culture is still overall hidden and Korean LGBT people still don’t have the equal rights. Gay marriage has yet to be legalized, there’s no joint adoption, discrimination and bullying can be rampant, and they can’t openly serve in the military. But hopefully with more people coming out within recent years that can change and help drive the push to equality and acceptance within Korea.
Quickly here are some key LGBT figures in Korea!
- Hong Seok-Cheon (홍석천) – actor, TV personality & restaurateur; first openly gay figure in 2000 – was shunned and forced out of work initially but has become a key figure and very well-known
- Harisu (하리수) – transgender signer in early 2000s; second person in Korea to legally change their gender
- MRSHLL (마샬) – first openly gay kpop artist coming out in 2015
- Holland (홀랜드) – independent openly gay kpop idol; with his debut MV gaining a lot of popularity in 2018 clearly showing gay romance and talking about his experience being gay
- Jiae (지애) – formally a member of girl group wassup now an independent singer came out as bisexual in 2020
The culture has shifted drastically in recent years. Queer culture is not as underground as it has been; there are many gay clubs, bars, and events going on in Seoul! Itaewon is the most famous area for this, specifically the aptly nicknamed street Homo Hill which hosts many LGBTQIA+ businesses.
LGBTQIA+ Vocabulary in Korean
A lot of Korean LGBT words and terms actually uses the English terms just put into Korean so it’s easy for us English speakers!
트랜스젠더 (or 트렌스): Transgender
트랜스여성: transgender woman
트랜스남성: transgender man
동성애: homosexuality (news-report type feel supposedly)
동성애자: homosexual (“same-sex lover” same kind of feel as 동성애)
성소수자: sexual minority (academic term)
성적 지향: sexual orientation
성정체성: gender identity
퀴어이론: queer theory
성적 취향: sexual preference
Some Quick LGBT Slang
이반: LGBTQIA+ person (이반인 “abnormal people” – note: not derogatory lgbt claimed this themselves)
일반: straight person (일반인 “normal people”)
일스: appearing straight (short for “일반 스타일 “normal style”)
커밍아웃: Coming out
아웃팅: Outing/Being Outed – someone exposes you and forces you out
A great resource I got a lot of these terms from is namu.wiki/w/LGBT, though the site is entirely in Korean so not as beginner friendly. For some general romance terms check out my post here with dating vocab, have a great pride everyone!