From personal experience with Korean (Americans) in the US, most Korean gays are well, a little flamboyant and out there. Is this generally the case with the places you mentioned? Or does being in such a conservative country kind of repress this side of them a little bit? Like I said before, Im not worried about stares or gazes, but safety. What would be the typical reaction to say a gay couple holding hands or kissing in public?
This one is a little tricky for me. I knew very few Korean-Americans when I lived in the US and know zero gay Koreans in Korea, so much of this is going to be speculation. If any readers can chime in, I would be quite grateful.
As I learned via Liz Lemon in 30 Rock, Oprah said, "You teach people how to treat you." That's true of course and I think the gay community in Korea might be the same. Koreans go to great lengths to hide their homosexuality, so people will treat it as if it was extremely odd. By hiding their homosexuality, they're teaching the rest of the community just how rare homosexuality is among Koreans. And so, you will almost never see openly gay couples on the streets of Seoul. Perhaps late at night in a gay-friendly area (Hongdae, Itaewon) you might think you see a gay couple, but you really won't be able to tell for sure. If you have what they call "gaydar" in the US, well, you'll need to upgrade because it's almost impossible to spot a gay man (let alone a couple) in Seoul. The average Korean will certainly not be able to tell. It's not uncommon to see older drunk businessmen holding hands or young high school boys massaging each other. All of those things happen in public and, in my case, I used to make sure to mention to my wife, "that's gay". Her response: "No, they're just Korean."
The concept of homosexuality, for the most part, is not the same as Western homosexuality.
From The Koreans post of homosexuality, Foreign/er Joy said...
Do the LGBT's here in Korea express their gayness the same as Western gays? For one I think they are both gay/lesbian and Korean. So being conservative about your gayness shouldn't be so shocking. It is disappointing to hear that westerners thought the Korean gay pride parade to be not the spectacle they expected.
While the more flamboyant characters do seem to be making appearances at the increasingly popular Gay Pride Parades, most of the gay men in Korea are totally protective of their sexuality. Even Chris (who took pictures of the event) blurred out the faces. Would he have done that in the West? Doubt it. He understands the culture here and does not want to be responsible for any unwanted "outings".
I can't find it now, but I remember reading a thread that was written by a gay expat who had just spent the evening in a gay sauna with a Korean guy. When the expat asked the Korean if he wanted to exchange numbers, the Korean replied, "I'm not gay." I'm not here to argue what makes someone "gay", but in Korea, protection and denial seems to be the modus operandi for many men. That said, seeing a gay Korean or interracial couple kissing on the street is something that I have never ever seen and I doubt that anyone else has seen it either, so there is no "typical" reaction that I could predict. I don't imagine it would be a violent reaction, but the deeply felt shame or "han" the Korean would most likely feel if someone saw them in public pretty much ensures that such a sight is extremely rare.
Yet, the gay clubs are filled and there are many gay Koreans dating expats, so there appears to be something else going on here. In another email, you mentioned some details which I will severely paraphrase.
Anyway things were going good between me and [name withheld], but he asked me to *** into a *** and ***** it into his ****. What the cranberries?!?!?! Are acts like this common in gay Korea? Even though I did it for [name withheld], I dont wanna do this freaky-deaky stuff all the time. SO whats the general MO with the Korean community? Freek-a-Leek or Straight Laced?
Let's go with another quote. "You are what you eat." Forgive me for the immaturity of that, but -and I do wish that someone would chime in because this is all opinion- it seems to be that race has nothing to do with how people act behind closed doors. [Name withheld] is a Korean-American and has probably been with American men before. The gay culture in America has evolved more than its Korean counterpart. He might have happened to be with some more *cough* experimental men than you, so he liked his sex a little more -ummm- unbridled. Same goes for peninsular Korean men. If they have been with only Korean men, the above act probably would not happen. However, if an individual has been with a wider range of men from more open or developed gay cultures, then he possibly could be more apt to want some *** on his ****.
I'm honestly not sure if I covered this topic too well, so let me give you some quick answers.
Are gay Koreans flamboyant? Not really.
Does being in such a conservative country kind of repress this side of them a little bit? Yes.
What would be the typical reaction to say a gay couple holding hands or kissing in public? It would not be accepting in the least which is why it really doesn't happen.
I hope I helped a little. Again, anybody want to add something?
Update 7/19/2009: Korea Beat translated an article from the Chosun Ilbo about lesbian bars in Hongdae.
If anybody has any questions, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment.