That was the question posed to four defectors on the NK News website, perhaps prompted by a CCTV photo released last month of two male soldiers kissing upward of the DMZ.
All four unidentified defectors confirmed that LGBTI people do indeed exist in the hermit kingdom, but only one had actually met any.
One seemingly younger defector said they had heard from grown-ups that men often had sex with one another during their 10-year compulsory military service.
‘It’s tolerable for soldiers stationed on the military bases near neighborhoods. But soldiers who are stationed on military bases located in the middle of the mountains do not get to see women for 10 years,’ they said.
‘That’s why senior officers have been known take charge of “pretty boy privates.” Some of them might have been gay. But others may have done so not because they were gay but because they didn’t have any women around for so many years.’
Another defector said she was friends with many lesbians, who are known to be particularly good girlfriends.
‘They wore men’s clothes, kept their hair very short and acted like men, too. They all liked to date women, not men,’ she said.
‘Parents of girls would do anything to keep their daughters from lesbian girlfriends. So, they would call the police or even slap the girls. But even if the parents of a daughter with a girlfriend call the police, they couldn’t be arrested since it wasn’t against the law.’
She said the police could only make them write a letter promising not to cross-dress and then they were free to go.
‘What’s important is that lesbians would be an object of ridicule or gossip but they weren’t shunned or excluded from North Korean society,’ she said.
The third defector said transgender people also existed in North Korea but sex reassignment surgery was only performed for medical reasons.
‘For instance, if a sexless baby is born, the hospital performs the sex-change operation after discussion with the baby’s parents,’ they said.
‘But I can tell you with full confidence that it is impossible to be a transgender in North Korea solely for your sexual orientation.’
They said medical technology in North Korea was not advanced enough and no one would be able to afford the surgery anyway.
The last defector said they had never heard the words ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian in North Korea but they were aware of people with ‘different sexual preferences.’
‘As long as they were good people, we didn’t have any problem being friends with them regardless of their sexual preference,’ they said.
They said there was gossip but LGBTI people were never treated with contempt, and it was only after arriving in South Korea that they saw homosexuality as a ‘social issue.’
‘I believe you don’t have a reason to be opposed to homosexuality as expressing one’s sexual orientation is equivalent to ex
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