A British expat took on the mayor of Seoul last Friday (6 March) over rights for gay couples.
It was a bold move by Simon Hunter-Williams in a country where homosexuality remains taboo.
‘How can I stay in Korea with the man I love? Where are my rights please?’ he asked.
‘I also fell in love with a Korean like many people. The only difficulty is the person I fell in love with is a man.’
The English professor, who has lived in Korea for five years, was applauded by the more than 100 mostly Europeans at the town hall meeting, but the MC did not translate his comments into Korean as he did for all the others.
Mayor Park Won-soon did address his concerns, but just to say LGBTI rights was a ‘very sensitive topic in Korea.’
Before the meeting, Hunter-Williams slipped Park a note, identifying himself as a gay man who hopes to marry and start a family with his Korean partner.
‘The mayor has my email and cell phone number and is yet to prove himself,’ he told Gay Star News.
In October, Park said he hoped South Korea would be the first country in Asia to legalize gay marriage but u-turned after a Christian backlash.
Hunter-Williams made the direct appeal to the mayor after making several phone calls to the immigration office about applying for a partner visa.
‘The first officer laughed at me. The second said it was illegal and the third, the same,’ he said.
One officer suggested Hunter-Williams move to Shanghai where the UK embassy is allowed marry gay British nationals and their partners.
‘I then went to the Human Rights Office who said this wasn’t a human rights issue and that Korea doesn’t have human rights,’ he said.
Hunter-Williams sent a letter to President Park Geun-hye on Monday (9 March) calling on her to legalize gay marriage and visa.
‘Obviously we both love Korea and want to marry in Korea, but it’s a country where an interesting brand of Christianity seems able to manipulate government,’ he said.
‘Time will tell. Anyone who follows Korean politics knows how messy it is.’
Watch Hunter-Williams take on Mayor Park below: