Photographing the Neglect of South Korea’s LGBTQ Community
Gowun Lee’s series, I'm Here With You opens a window onto the LGBTQ community in South Korea, reflecting upon how sexual minorities are still forced to hide their presence within the country’s rigid contemporary society.
The majority of LGBTQ people in South Korea hide their true identities from their colleagues, friends and their families. Despite a recent surge in LGBTQ activism, Korea remains a very conservative country and those who come out face being disowned by family or dismissed from their employers. Many Koreans still express bitter hostility toward LGBTQ people, while others simply deny their existence. The Korean military actively hunts down gay soldiers, going so far as to mount sting operations using gay dating apps and when someone does come out, parents and family members often choose to ignore the truth.
I'm Here With You literally and metaphorically represents sexual minorities living in Korea who are forced to hide their sexual identity. The LGBTQ individuals photographed - all facing away from the camera - remind us of how Korean society continues to neglect and refuse to accept them. By creating these images, my intent is to both implicate the viewer in the nation’s larger refusal to acknowledge the identity of LGBTQ individuals and, more importantly, to spur us all to take action and change this attitude once and for all.
Words and Pictures by Gowun Lee.
Gowun Lee is a South Korean visual artist exploring themes related to social issues. She received a BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts, New York, and her images have been featured in The Guardian, CNN Style, and Aperture Magazine, among others. Follow her on PHmuseum and Instagram.
This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.