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Rights watchdog to recommend gov't collect statistics on sexual minorities

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LGBTQ activists hold a press conference at Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall in this March 27 photo, on the occasion of March 31 International Transgender Day of Visibility. Yonhap
LGBTQ activists hold a press conference at Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall in this March 27 photo, on the occasion of March 31 International Transgender Day of Visibility. Yonhap

By Bahk Eun-ji

The nation's human rights watchdog will recommend sexual minorities be included in the government's statistical and fact-finding surveys, concluding that Korea lacks any government-level efforts to learn about the demographics and current conditions of such people, it said, Sunday.

The recommendation follows a series of cases where sexual minorities, including transgender people, suffered discrimination in various sectors, such as the military and college admissions.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) said, Sunday, it decided on the recommendation recently to help the government set up policies to eliminate acts of hate and discrimination against LGBTQ people.

National Human Rights Commission of Korea headquarters / Korea Times file
National Human Rights Commission of Korea headquarters / Korea Times file
Under the decision, the Prime Minister's Office will be recommended to prepare guidelines for statistics conducted by central government organizations to include sexual orientation and gender identity, so the statistics can be reflected in government policies.

The minister of the interior and safety, the minister of health and welfare, the minister of gender equality and family and Statistics Korea will be recommended to create new transgender-related categories in their statistical surveys.

Besides three surveys conducted earlier by the commission, there have been no government-level studies on the demographics of transgender people, and they have been omitted in the health ministry's annual survey on healthcare and medical service, the gender equality ministry's study on family and Statistics Korea's census.

Meanwhile, many other countries are moving to include additional gender options in their censuses, as well as questions about sexual orientation.

The commission said, in order to prevent discrimination against and acts of hate toward sexual minorities, sexual minorities need to be "visible," and for this, statistics and studies on their circumstances are a priority.

"The issue of the human rights of transgender people is underestimated compared to its importance, but the nation lacks reliable data on people's gender identity," the commission said.

It said, among all sexual minorities, transgender people are feared to be the most socio-economically vulnerable because of differences between their legal gender and appearance, limiting their candidacy for jobs and resulting in unfair treatment at work.

Earlier in March, former Staff Sergeant Byun Hee-soo committed suicide after being in a legal battle with the military authorities for being forcibly discharged after undergoing gender-reassignment surgery. In February, controversy arose over the admission of a transgender woman to Sookmyung Women's University. She finally gave up on entering the school.

According to the survey on 591 transgender people conducted by the commission in February, 65.3 percent said that they had experienced discrimination over the past year because of their gender identity.

Some 97 percent of the respondents said they had encountered anti- transgender hate speech through the internet including social media, 87.3 percent through broadcasting and mass media and 76.1 percent through dramas and movies, when multiple answers were allowed.


Bahk Eun-ji ejb@koreatimes.co.kr


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