Translation: Homosexuality in Korean News During the 50’s and 60’s “Mental Disease”, “Special Environments”, “Murder of Passion”

The following is a translation of Section 1 of Homosexuality in Korean News During the 50’s and 60’s. I’ll be translating one section a week. If you see any mistakes in my translation, please leave a comment below. ^^ 

The following is a translation of Section 1 of Homosexuality in Korean News During the 50’s and 60’s. I’ll be translating one section a week. If you see any mistakes in my translation, please leave a comment below. ^^ 

Until same-sex attraction was removed from the WHO’s list of mental illnesses in 1990, it was handled as a mental illness. The articles on the subject of same-sex attraction that immediately catch one’s eyes are those related to mental illness. Looking at articles from that time, they included counseling for those who felt same-sex attraction along the lines of “Isn’t this probably a mental illness” and “Treatment is probably possible”, reflecting the diagnoses of psychiatrists.3) While stipulating same-sex attraction as a mental illness, it was furthermore defined as ‘sexual deviation’ tied together with bestiality.4) While curing this ‘mental illness’ may be difficult, it was said to not be impossible and some articles stated a treatment period of more than ten years.5)

Furthermore, same-sex attraction was viewed as a temporary pubescent sexual impulse existing as a natural state which would leave the system upon reaching one’s 20s. “While one may enjoy same-sex attraction, it is natural to move beyond and seek heterosexual love as one finds that same-sex attraction is not satisfying.”6)  Homosexual attraction was an abnormal sexual attraction and an incomplete sexual attraction when compared to heterosexual attraction.

Media’s perspective became fixed in this way, and while homosexual attraction was treated as  “ordinary normal society”, it was mainly introduced as occurring in special environments.7) Furthermore, within the special environment, the ‘sex murders’ cases were overwhelmingly reported on.  In terms of male homosexuality, the majority of mentioned cases were relationships between composers and singers, student-teacher gay scandals,8) anal rape,9) dating in the military,10) love-triangles in prison,11) or same-sex love between beggars.12) For homosexual females, usually it was along the lines of couples strengthening their relationship through promising to “live as ordinary female workers that are unmarried”,13) and presenting the ensuing crime of passion that occurred when one partner changed their mind.14) In this way, within the social context of the time, homosexuality was consumed as a kind of scandal through special gossip papers.

Interestingly, unlike the way these “special environments” were treated, homosexuality was treated differently when it related to intellectuals or the middle-class. In May, 1968, there was a murder case surrounding Yun Ju-bok(66). The criminals, Lee Mo-gun(19) and Byeon Jong-guk(20), were known to have sexual relations with Mr. Yun and receive payment, and when Yun did not follow in his promise to send them abroad to study, the two killed Yun in a fit of rage. Normally, articles related to crimes of passion would be in a corner or mixed with foreign gossip, but in this case, it was reported under “The State of the Middle Class”, and was treated as a heavy subject placed with a large headline under “Social Problems”.15) 

▲ Two Real Criminals Arrested, Dong-a Ilbo 1968.5.1.

Even odder, this was given the title of “Our Country’s First Case” ,16) but as aforementioned these crimes of passion had continuously occurred under the Japanese occupation. Why did the reporters at that time not look at these earlier examples? It is possible that this was treated separately from the special environment cases. 

Under the Japanese Occupation, there was a case where a well-known female from Incheon engaged in a same-sex relationship and attempted to commit suicide wither her partner reported as a cover-story under the headline of “A Daughter from a Well Respected Family Shocks Society”. At that time, the Joseon Ilbo reported on the event two days later,17) but it is difficult to find any other reports on any other suicide pacts between same-sex couples. Contrary to the articles mentioned earlier, this not only serves as a counterexample to the statement that homosexuality “in actuality” happened only in lower social strata or under a “special environment” but also, regardless of the “actuality,” how homosexuality was represented and marginalized as a property of this “special environment”. 


4) 「앗! 당신은 변태성욕자? : 심리학자가 말하는 변태성욕자라는 건 과연 무엇을 두고 말하는 것일가? 당신은?」, 『희망』 2, 1965.4., 192쪽.
5) 「동성애 의학상 치료 가능한지… 장기간 정신분석 요법으로」, 『경향신문』 1976.2.14., 5면.
6) 「횡설수설」, 『동아일보』 1939.7.12., 1면.
7) 「생활상식 : 동성애는 남성에게도」, 『희망』 2, 1965.4., 105쪽.
8) 「결국 「스캔들」로 끝난 연예가의 「단막촌극」. 琴湖東군은 동성연애, 姜美愛양은 애정도피」, 『조선일보』 1965.1.10., 조간 7면 / 「동성연애 못 견뎌」, 『동아일보』 1965.1.11., 3면 / 「연예계 두 추문」,  『경향신문』 1965.1.11., 7면 / 「『스캔들』의 줏가 올린 두 사람의 화제 : 영화배우 강미애양과 가수 금호동의 경우」, 『희망』 1, 1965.3., 111쪽.  
9) 「동성애의 남자에게 삼년 징역연도」, 『조선일보』 1938.5.28., 석간 2면.
10) 「강요당한 저승에의 同道, 소대장 총에 간 김일병 사건」, 『동아일보』 1962.9.20., 7면.
11) 「삼각관계로 수인을 살해」, 『동아일보』 1933.3.5., 3면.
12) 「변심한 동성애인을 심야 야외서 타살」, 『동아일보』 1936.4.24., 4면. 
13) 「질투로 표변한 동성애, 宜동생 刺殺하고 음독, 가해자는 필경 절명」, 『조선일보』 1939.7.11., 석간 2면.
14) 「동성애의 怨刀, 신혼 친우를 刺傷. 질투심골이 올라 신방에 침입, 수원읍내의 살인 미수 사건」, 『조선일보』 1937.3.26., 석간 2면 / 「변심한 동성애인 때려 상해」, 『경향신문』 1971.5.12., 8면.
15) 「빗나간 지성」, 『경향신문』 1968.5.2., 3면 / 「진범 두 대학생 검거」, 『동아일보』 1968.5.1., 3면.
16) 「범인 체포에 공 뺏겨 마포署선 분풀이?」, 『동아일보』 1968.5.4., 6면.
17) 「최초의 「동성연애 자살」, 「沈비행사의 처」와 「洪蘭坡의 질녀」의 情死」, 『조선일보』 1973.8.28., 조간 4면.

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