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What It’s Like Being Gay In North Korea

“Most gay men in the North end up marrying whether they like it or not, because that’s the only way they know… I was too embarrassed [at first] to confess that I [defected from North Korea to South Korea] because I felt no sexual attraction to my wife… I couldn’t explain what it was that bothered me so much… In North Korea, no ordinary people conceptually understand what homosexuality is… [even in the university] it was always treated as some strange, vague mental illness afflicting subhumans, only found in the depraved West.”

“In winter, when soldiers were given only two threadbare blankets each and little heat, it was common for us to find a partner and sleep hugging each other at night to keep warm… We considered it part of what the party called ‘revolutionary comradeship.’”

Jang Yeong-jin, a North Korean man who escaped to South Korea speaking with The New York Times about his gay life in North Korea. Last April, he published a book about his experiences entitled, A Mark of Red Honor. North Korea is largely regarded as a Stalinist dictatorship that uses work camps and measurements of political loyalty to control each person’s political involvement and food allotment. Food shortages and nearly universal marriage are common with state-approved divorces being extremely rare.

Though he currently resides in South Korea, Jang has avoided joining ranks with the South Korea LGBT rights movement, saying, ”If I succeed as a writer, I will have greater influence and will be able to have an independent voice [on LGBT issues].”

(featured image via j-pics)