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KOREA - Apr 3, 2003

Korea's Youth Protection Committee has decided to remove anti-gay language from the Youth Protection Act that was passed in 1997. On April 2, the Korean National Human Rights Protection Committee officially advised YPC that the phrases "distribution of homosexual love is illegal" and "homosexual love is harmful to youth" must be removed.

Article 8 of the Youth Protection Act included within its "deliberation standard" of harmful media the following: "To describe bestiality or the commission of adultery by mixed couples of men and women, incest, homosexual love, abnormal acts such as sadism/masochism, sex mania, acts of prostitution, and other forms of sexual intercourse frowned upon from the point of view of society in general."

The Youth Protection Act underpinned government efforts in 2001 to censor lesbian and gay Internet content when the the Information and Communications Ethics Committee (ICEC) distributed a list of "harmful 120,000 websites" to Korean ISPs to be blocked from viewer access. These included gay websites such as advocate.com, ilga.org, gaytoronto.org, gayvancouver.org, etc.

Even before the ICEC labeled homosexuality officially within its category of "obscenity and perversion," the Commission on Youth Protection sent official notification to Exzone.com, the first online gay community in Korea, that it was labeling the site "obscene" in accordance with the standards of the Youth Protection Act. The government subsequently moved beyond labeling to active and extensive blocking of gay sites throughout Korea. On July 30, 2001, Ivancity.com, the gay site with the largest membership in Korea, was taken off-line with neither advance notice nor request for content modification from its website host. In addition, two other popular gay sites at Daum and Say Club--the major Internet Portal Sites in Korea--were closed at the behest of ICEC.

The Korean LGBT community has fought against the anti-gay law for the last two years. On January 10, 2002, Exzone.com in affiliation with Lesbian and Gay Alliance Against Discrimination (LGAAD) and the Lawyers for a Democratic Society filed the first lawsuit against Korean government for blocking access unconstitutional. A court decision was made on August 14, 2002 that freedom of speech and expression were not applicable regarding homosexuality, and outrageous penalties, including two year imprisoment, could be enforced. This decision envigorated local and international human rights efforts to have the law changed.

Korean queer activist, Husa Yi, calls the reversal of the Youth Protection Act wording "one of the most important turning points in the Korean LGBTQ rights movement".

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