As US president Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un conclude an historic summit in Singapore, we take a look at what it’s like to be gay in North Korea.
North Korea is one of the most closed-off and secretive nations in the world. Little is known of life within the nation’s borders, farless about the lives of LGBT people in the country.
So here’s what we DO know about LGBT life in the world’s most secretive country:
It’s not technically illegal to be gay in North Korea
Contrary to popular belief, North Korea has no specific law prohibiting same sex relationships.
But don’t start waving your Pride month rainbow flags just yet. North Korea denies the existence of homosexuality altogether, on the grounds that the people of the country all have ‘sound mentality and good morals’.
Thousands of people in North Korea are gay
North Korea’s only known gay defector is Jang Yeong-jin. He escaped his country in 1997 by crossing heavily armed border between his country of birth and South Korea.
Yeong-jin said that there are thousands of gay people living miserably in the so-called ’Hermit’ nation. He said that many people don’t even have a word for their LGBT feelings.
Lesbians executed for crime of ‘capitalism’
In 2011 the country executed two lesbians. The government said the women had become ‘influenced by capitalism from Japan and brought corruption of public morals.’
Moreover, the women were executed for ‘being tinged by capitalism, not demoralization’, a government sponsored radio station.
North Korean soldiers photographed in romantic embrace
A few years later, in 2015, photographs of two North Korean soldiers emerged showing them in a passionate embrace. The pictures came from CCTV footage from a South Korea security camera and went viral. The fate of the two men is unknown.
A 2014 report by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea detailed a number of human rights abuses, including persecution of citizens based on gender.
The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office has the following advice for LGBT people on its website: ‘Although there’s no specific legislation outlawing homosexuality in North Korea, same-sex relationships are considered unacceptable by the authorities’.
Trump and Jong-un met in Singapore this week to sign a denuclearization agreement for North Korea. It was the first meeting months after tensions rose between the two nations. Trump spoke of a ‘special bond’ between the two leaders and promised more developments in the months ahead.
Neighbouring South Korea is a more tolerant country. The capital, Seoul has an active gay scene. However, dozens were arrested last year when the country’s military conducted a ‘gay witch hunt’.