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Patrick Thomsen Compares Narratives of Gay Korean Men in Korea and Seattle

Patrick walking in the Daegu (South Korea) Queer Festival Pride Parade March. (To protect the identity of other marchers, their faces have been blurred out as it can affect employment and even family life.)
Patrick walking in the Daegu (South Korea) Queer Festival Pride Parade March. (To protect the identity of other marchers, their faces have been blurred out as it can affect employment and even family life.)

October 12, 2017

My time back in Korea since I left Seattle in June has been a whirlwind of valuable experiences. I have spent most of my time in the field, observing various festivals, meeting with activists and interviewing informants who are providing rich sources of information to help me with my dissertation. Here in South Korea, the human rights situation on the ground for sexual minorities is rapidly shifting, as are external globalizing forces that are shaping the attitudes of many a young Korean. As Korea’s cultural and historical context has often left sexual minorities here excluded and othered from social integration, recent changes in the prominence of Human Rights frames in seeking greater legal and social recognition for sexual minorities, promises to have a real impact on the way personal stories are being narrated. The support from the University of Washington Center for Human Rights has been invaluable in helping me finance this work.

Anti-LBGTIQ signs held by protesters against the Daegu Queer Festival

Anti-LBGTIQ signs held by protesters against the Daegu Queer Festival. The first sign says: “I don’t want my son to serve in the military with you.” The second sign says: “Homosexuality get out!”

My research centers on the narratives of Korea’s homosexual male population with a comparative focus on Korean homosexual men in Seattle. Thus, with the funds I received as the 2017 Lisa Sable Brown Fellow I have been able to finance a lot of my travel expenses around South Korea which has allowed me to also deal with the administrative costs of studying abroad. So far, I have conducted a number of field interviews (more forthcoming), have developed contacts with South Korea’s LGBTIQ activist community, observed and “accidentally” marched in Korea’s largest ever Pride parade and have come face-to-face with militant Christian fundamentalist groups as well as enjoyed a rather extensive police guard through the streets of Daegu and Seoul. I’ll be staying on a further 9 months here in the Land of the Morning Calm to complete fieldwork and writing before I return to Seattle to submit my dissertation work for committee scrutiny.

I wish to send my heartfelt thanks and appreciation once again to the UW Center for Human Rights for the wonderful support, both financially and academically and am happy to report that things are going well here on the Korean Peninsula.