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Anti-gay protesters derail Seoul human rights charter

The Seoul Metropolitan Government on Sunday announced that it was indefinitely postponing the enactment of the charter of human rights for citizens of Seoul after fierce protests from gay rights opponents.

The charter, which was proposed by the SMG to raise awareness about human rights in August, included a clause that stated a person “has the right not to be discriminated against based on his or her sexual orientation or sexual identity,” among others.

The specific clause has been protested against by gay-rights opponents, many from Christian communities, which eventually led to a disastrous end to the last of the six hearings held at the City Hall on Friday.

Almost half of the 180 citizen volunteers selected by the SMG to be a part of the enactment of the charter, furiously left the venue in the middle of the hearing on Friday, soon after they were told that the inclusion of the clause on gay rights would be decided by a vote.

The 180 citizen representatives include a total of 30 human rights experts, activists and scholars.

After those who refused to vote at all left the city hall, the citizens who remained participated in the ballot. While 60 out of 73 of them voted in favor of gay rights, the SMG said it was postponing the charter’s enactment as the citizen members had “failed to agree on the final copy of the charter successfully.”

“The charter of human rights for Seoul citizens is supposed to be a pact created and enacted by the citizens themselves,” said the SMG in a statement.

“Unfortunately, working on this charter has been creating more social conflicts. We would like to take more time to listen to a variety of opinions from our citizens on this matter.”

Initially, the SMG had been planning to finalize the charter on Friday and announce its enactment on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day, which was proclaimed by the U.N. General Assembly back in 1950.

In October, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon told a U.S. newspaper that he personally supported same-sex marriage during his visit to San Francisco.

According to a study last year conducted by the local think-tank Asan Institute for Policy Studies, 78.5 percent of 1,500 surveyed Koreans expressed unease about homosexuality. Only 21.5 percent of the participants said they did not feel “uncomfortable” with it.

In June, an annual queer parade in Seoul, one of the largest LGBT events in Asia, was disrupted by hundreds of Christians who knelt on the street and prayed in protest.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)
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