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VIDEO: 1993 AMERICAN SOUL

Unprecedented Korean-language TV talk show features openly gay Chingusai members in Los Angeles, U.S.A.


Guests:

Billy Park
Dredge Kang
Jeff Kim
Sandy Lee

Runtime: Approx. 58 min.

Language: Korean. (English speech is largely inaudible due to Korean voiceover translation)

October 11, 1993

In 1993, a number of Korean American LGBT individuals in Los Angeles organized Chingusai, having heard that similar organizations had been formed in Seoul. Primarily dedicated to social events, the organization also took on improving LGBT acceptance in the Korean American community. This LG episode of American Seoul aired live in Los Angeles on 10/11/1993, National Coming Out Day. The show was simultaneously interpreted into Korean, because only one of the four guests preferred to speak in Korean. We initially wanted all the guests to speak in Korean, to show that it was possible to be queer and Korean, and to counter the idea that homosexuality was a disorder of Americanization. But only one person fluent in Korean volunteered, so we went ahead with the simultaneous interpretation. As far as we know, this was the first such televised broadcast in Korean.

The broadcast followed KoreAm Journal’s August 1993 “The Queer Issue,” and a few articles in the LA Korea Times, a couple talk shows on Radio Korea, and other media. In the KoreAm issue, a number of the models pictured chose to hide their faces. On Radio Korea, which was also broadcast live and took on-air questions, the anonymity of radio allowed more people to participate. In this televised broadcast, we considered pixelating faces so that more people could participate as guests. However, this also could produce the effect of making being queer shameful. So we decided against “hiding” faces during a coming out day program. None of the guests had family in LA, making their participation more discreet.

The program was widely viewed and many people, both supportive (including Chingusai members) and hostile to queer issues called in to participate in the Q&A portion. Chingusai members later discussed the impact of the broadcast. There was some concern that the interpretation was not appropriate, as it was difficult to discuss these issues in Korean. However, many people felt a bit of relief that queer issues were aired. Some Chingusai members had watched the broadcast with their families. One noted that his mother said: “They speak about it without any shame.” She meant this to be derogatory (since we should be ashamed), but we hoped that the effect was to show that homosexuality is not shameful.

Activities such as these increased the visibility of queers within the Korean American community. They also fostered greater acceptance at Korean American community based organizations providing social services. Many community leaders incorporated LGBT sensitivity training for staff, hired LGBT staff, and otherwise contributed to a dialog and climate of greater acceptance.

Special thanks to Dredge Kang for contributing the video and written overview.