Kim Seong-hoi, the newly-appointed religion and multicultural secretary of South Korea, faced major backlash for his apparent endorsement of gay conversion therapy.
Kim was initially criticized for his 2019 Facebook post, in which he described homosexuality as “a type of mental illness.”
He faced even more backlash for his recent post on Tuesday, in which he apparently owned up to and attempted to apologize for several previous remarks. Kim also added that “some people have innate homosexual tendencies, but in many cases, I think people mistake their learned habits as natural qualities.”
He continued by saying “in such cases, I think homosexuality can be changed by receiving certain treatments, just like how smokers receive smoking cessation treatment.”
Kim also criticized media outlets for “digging” into his past.
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.
He is a senior official under conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol, who was sworn into office on Tuesday.
Yoon had made controversial remarks of his own during his campaign, pledging to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality if elected.
Top comments on Kim’s Facebook post included one user asking, “Don’t you need to resign soon??? And not burden the president.”
Another posted, “So you’re saying my taxes go to this kind of human’s salary, right? Can gay conversion therapy also treat this kind of human too? Probably not, right? Let’s drive out Yoon Suk-yeol as soon as possible and eliminate this man’s job as well.”
A campaign group called the Rainbow Action Against Sexual Minority Discrimination of Korea responded to Kim’s remarks, calling for his resignation and stating that “it has already been confirmed that the so-called conversion therapy is unscientific and goes against international human rights law.”
“As a person who declared his duty to comply with the constitution, how will Yoon take responsibility for the situation in which sexual minorities are insulted within the first two days of his term?” the group said.
Out of a population of 51 million in South Korea, nearly a quarter identify as Christian, making the religious community a politically significant group.
Not only is same-sex marriage illegal in South Korea, LGBTQ-plus rights remain strongly opposed.
A Korean pastor was previously suspended from duty after holding a blessing ceremony at a queer festival in 2019, which allegedly violated the laws of the Korean Methodist Church (KMC).
Featured Image via KBS (left), Getty Images (right)