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An American Tourist in Korea: Homo Hill

The would be “gayborhood” of Seoul is represented by a dark alley, two blocks from the main road in a district named Itaewon. To get there, one must pass through Hooker Hill, which is named for - you guessed it - the endless string of hooker bars where anything can be had depending on how much is paid. Next you will pass a few transsexual bars where trans Koreans strut their stuff for anyone who’s looking. Only then will you arrive at Homo Hill, the next street over, which has a short string of about eight bars.

Now, you might think eight bars is a big street but actually, these bars are very small. Just 20 people in some of these bars and they are pushing legal limits. The “scene” in Seoul is surprisingly accommodating, considering that when the common local person is asked if gay Koreans exist, they still say no.

The mood is changing however. Hong Suk-chun, a famous Korean actor, came out in 2000 and later opened a restaurant just down the street from Homo Hill named Our Place.

There is actually a plethora of bars that cater to an open crowd outside of Itaewon, the only problem is that the location of each bar has to be known or it will never be found.

The majority of bars in this genre actually turn off their lights and lock their front doors after normal business hours. To enter these clubs, the side or back door must be accessed. The amount of animosity toward homosexuality is absurd for such a forward and diverse society, yet their strong hold on tradition keeps Koreans from entering human rights arenas.

As more and more Koreans come out of the closet, it is clear that eventually, Korea will have to face the issue of homosexuality. The growing popularity of the Pride celebration, and increasing attendance at gay themed bars show that gay Koreans are going to be visible in increasing numbers. To keep up with the rest of the world, Korea will need to face the fact thta gay Koreans exist and are here to stay.