South Koreans have become more tolerant of homosexuality and more supportive of gay marriage, according to annual surveys conducted over the last four years.
The number of respondents showed no reservations about homosexuality increased from 15.8% in 2010 to 23.7% in 2014. In the same period, those who supported the legalization of gay marriage rose from 16.9% to 28.5%.
The Asan Institute for Policy Studies interpreted this change in attitude as the conservative country ‘consolidating its democratic and liberal values.’
An Asan Poll conducted in December 2014 showed similar results, with 32.8% of respondents showing open-mindedness towards LGBTI people.
This change in attitude was especially noticeable among younger respondents.
Some 26.7% of respondents in their 20s were open-minded about homosexuality in 2010. This figure almost doubled in four years, reaching 47.4% in 2014.
But respondents aged 50 and older did not change their views substantially.
Younger South Koreans were also more supportive of gay marriage. In 2010, 30.5% and 20.7% of respondents in their 20s and 30s, respectively, supported the legalization of gay marriage. In 2014, these numbers almost doubled to 60.2% and 40.4%.
The poll found that religion plays an important role in determining respondents’ attitude toward LGBTI people. Some 70.6% of Protestants had reservations about LGBTI people, while 39.6% of those who did not associate with any religion were more accepting of LGBT responded that they had no reservations.
Interestingly, a significant disparity was observed between Catholics and Protestants, with 49.4% of Catholics expressing no reservations about LGBTI issues.
‘Pope Francis’ embrace of the LGBT community may have contributed to the Catholics’ relatively open attitude,’ the report said.
While Korean society in general is not understanding of LGBTI issues, a considerable portion of South Koreans agreed that the human rights of LGBTI people were not being respected.
According to the Asan Institute’s August 2014 public opinion survey, only 9.6% of respondents answered that LGBTI rights were being respected, in stark contrast to the numbers for women (63.1%), elderly (54%), and children (52.5%).
The results also showed that many South Koreans do not have a clear awareness of LGBTI rights as a human rights issue, as 28.3% of respondents said that they did not know or refused to answer.
‘This shows that while the South Korean public is sympathetic of the LGBT community, it is yet to have a firm stance and does not consider LGBT rights as a particularly urgent issue at this point in time,’ the report says.