As South Korean authorities investigate another outbreak of COVID-19 from a cluster traced back to a popular Seoul nightclub in the Itaewon neighbourhood, popular with the LGBTQI community, journalist Hyunsu Yim has tweeted about the resulting discrimination.
The emergence of a serious “second wave of infection” after South Korea’s recent relaxation of social restrictions has authorities investigating thousands of people potentially linked to a COVID-19 cluster in an LGBTQI nightlife district in Seoul where 29 new cases were found according to officials from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). All nightclubs and bars have since closed.
As authorities scramble to contain the new outbreak, the LGBTQI community may feel reluctant to come forward as homosexuality is taboo in South Korea with widespread discrimination including hate speech or job loss.
South Korean journalist, Hynusu Yim, tweeted about the country’s “rude awakening that homophobia can cost lives”
“South Korea is on the verge of a rude awakening that homophobia can cost lives as gay people on dating apps are now receiving threats of being doxed. First, let me explain what’s been happening here. We were doing a great job keeping the daily cases to single-digit levels.
That was until a new cluster of coronavirus cases emerged this weekend. Where? At a nightclub in Itaewon, a nightlife district in Seoul. It’s dampened the mood of the country that largely felt like it was on the winning side in a fight against the virus”, says Yim.
Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho acknowledged concerns from the LGBTQI community who feel that coming forward would force them to be outed and face discrimination.
“We release the movement of confirmed patients to encourage anyone who might be exposed get tested voluntarily,” he told a briefing.
“We urge you to refrain from distributing patients’ personal information or groundless rumours, which not only hurts them but can also be subject to punishment.”
“Our top priority is to minimise the spread of the infections in the greater Seoul area,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a meeting with government officials on Monday.
Local media outlets reported the names, ages, and workplaces of clientele who may attended gay clubs and saunas in South Korea, prompting homophobic speech in newspapers and online.
As Hynusu Yim elucidates in his series of tweets, the frustration and fear LGBTQI South Koreans are facing as a result of coming forward for testing only heightens reported feelings of suicide and isolation.
“But the frustration is now turning into a palpable hatred. At least two gay men who took down their photos from dating apps in fear of being outed have received ominous messages like “you took your pictures down” and “you’ll see soon” from blank profiles.
Unlike other club-related cases, many want to not just criticize the clubgoers but lump the whole community together. The witch hunt remains online for now, but it’s slowly starting to resemble the homophobia during the AIDS crisis”.