A City Upon A Homo Hill

From Gei to Homo, Korean Homosexuality Transformed

By 1989, Korean homos began to appear more substantially in the media. On one side, the media painted them as being “not particularly of… AIDS” and having “anal intercourse with their partners, as well as with foreigners.”Cheol-ho Kim, “The Reality of Korean Homos Who Aren’t Afraid of AIDS,” Sunday Seoul, February 12, 1989, 42–43, Serial Publications Room, National Library of Korea.

At the same time, the media admitted that the total number of homos infected with AIDS was much smaller than the total infected. Since the first Korean AIDS patient was discovered in 1985, only four homos out of forty-seven Koreans were found to be infected.Se-ho Kim, “Infection of AIDS, The Flame Under Our Feet, Spreads In Country,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, June 26, 1989, sec. Society, 10.

Like its treatment of geis in 1985, Sunday Seoul also provided a public stage for the homo. Rather than interviewing homos directly, however, Sunday Seoul published a three-part memoir from an anonymous homo contributor between February and March 1989. The publication had two major consequences. Displaying the sensational title “Homo College Student’s Shocking Confession” prominently on its covers, Sunday Seoul displayed to its readers the world of Korean homos that had been previously opaque, if not invisible. For the closeted homos, the confession would also highlight how they could discover this world by themselves.

The memoir discussed the author’s serendipitous venture into the homo community. On one level, the memoir depicted the psychological experience of being a closeted homo and slowly discovering his own sexuality:Anonymous, “I Was a Homo: The Shocking Confessions and Memoirs of a Homo College Student (1),” Sunday Seoul, February 26, 1989, 134, Serial Publications Room, National Library of Korea.

In his drunken stupor, he suddenly embraced me. I instinctively pushed his heavy body away from me, but for some reason I didn’t hate it. It was a strange feeling. The other person was a man, yet for a moment I felt his embrace to be warm and comfortable.

As innocent as his reaction was, the author rebutted himself for “not having the courage to strike his cheeks,” all the while acknowledging that he “recognized his ecstatic feelings.”Ibid., 135.

For the cis readers, these statements indicated that the homo identity was not created, but discovered. For the closeted readers, these statements provided a comparative basis by which they could determine if they were actually homo or not.

The memoir also depicted the homo community as being especially mysterious and elusive, almost as if homos had a world of their own that others were forbidden to enter:Anonymous, “I Was a Homo: The Shocking Confessions and Memoirs of a Homo College Student (2),” Sunday Seoul, March 5, 1989, 134–136, Serial Publications Room, National Library of Korea.

“Could we head somewhere together? It looks like the store’s closing, anyways.” “What do you need?” “You’ll understand when you get there. If you don’t believe me, please feel free to refuse…. I’ll head out first. Please clean up and head out.”

Anonymous,
“I Was a Homo: The Shocking Confessions and Memoirs of a Homo College Student (2)”

In other words, the other party set an ultimatum wherein if the author refused to comply, he would receive no information about the world of homos, the Jongno district. While this scene appears to be mystical at best, it also suggested that mutual trust for a new homo entering the homo community was crucial to the maintenance of that society.

In these Sunday Seoul publications, the homo depicted themselves as having culture and traditions of their own, with specific locations to visit and actions to take. For instance, homos would meet at certain cafés and theaters at certain times of the week in order to cruise for new partners:Anonymous, “I Was a Homo: The Shocking Confessions and Memoirs of a Homo College Student (3),” Sunday Seoul, March 19, 1989, 70–72, Serial Publications Room, National Library of Korea.

“I learned that there were several homo-specific cafés, saunas, theaters, and even motels around the Nakwondong area.”

Anonymous,
“I Was a Homo: The Shocking Confessions and Memoirs of a Homo College Student (3)”

The implication of Sunday Seoul’s article on public baths in 1986 was, in fact, true.S, “Homosexual Sex at Public Baths In Daylight,” 34–35.

The above quote confirmed that there were indeed homo-specific commercial establishments that allowed for the homos’ existence. By depicting themselves as economic consumers, the same as any other modern Korean consumers, the homo depicted themselves as a modernized male homosexual that was removed from the traditional roots of namsadang and transvestitism. In other words, the homos declared themselves as a non-negligible part of modern Korean economy and society. All in all, these reports informed not only the public, but also homos outside community, regarding this hidden world of the homo.