The National Human Rights Commission of Korea held a meeting on the topic of hate and racism by inviting 9 ambassadors to Korea and 5 diplomats from New Zealand, Canada and Belgium on the 11th.

The purpose was to discuss and share policy cases of each country responding to human rights issues.




One of the many in attendance was New Zealand Ambassador Philip Turner.

Ambassador Turner met the president with his same-sex spouse, Hiroshi Ikeda, for the first time in Korea at the invitation event of the diplomatic corps in Korea held at the Blue House in 2019.

Originally, Korea did not legally recognize same-sex spouses of foreign missionaries.

As a result, it has refused to issue family visas, but it was the first time that Ambassador Turner was issued a family visa for a same-sex spouse.




As an ambassador to Turner, who lives in a country that has already legalized same-sex marriage since 2013, it must have been natural, but in Korea, where the anti-discrimination law to the point of not discriminating against sexual minorities in the public sphere, let alone discussing same-sex marriage, has been in turmoil for several years. It was quite a topic.

It has already been four years since Ambassador Turner took office in Korea, and I wanted to ask what kind of discrimination against minorities in Korean society he sees.

Ambassador Turner, who gladly accepted the interview, spoke for about 20 minutes before the meeting started.



- New Zealand has an equality law that prohibits discrimination against minorities. At the time of enactment, in which field did you have the most opposition?



"The Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Act was passed in New Zealand in 1993. It was a bill that comprehensively prohibited discrimination against an individual, specifically stating 13 elements and unconditionally prohibiting discrimination against it. Color, religion, race, It includes gender, sexual orientation, etc. In fact, when the law itself was passed, there was not much disagreement in our society. Although debates from various fields continued for years, there was not much resistance. Respect for basic rights and non-discrimination were fundamental values ​​that everyone quickly recognized and agreed upon, but the LGBT issues that followed, especially the legalization of same-sex marriage, were much more controversial and divisive issues that the National Assembly had to deal with. The anti-discrimination law not only has meaning as a system as a law, but has also raised public awareness, people's behavior and social acceptance of human rights norms as a whole."



- In Korea, some Protestant groups are still strongly opposed to the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Act. How are these opinions handled in New Zealand?



"New Zealand, like most societies, is a society with many views and opinions. It is true that there were many opinions and debates in New Zealand as it is an issue that can only be controversial depending on each individual's position. The Comprehensive Human Rights Act (Anti-Discrimination Act) Of course, it passed without any major problems, but there was a lot of discussion and debate in advance, and I think this is a process that should be passed in a democratic society. Everyone's opinions should be listened to. In a democratic society, public opinion on any issue We have to discuss and discuss and come to a consensus in the chairperson. That is the role of the Congress. It is to find a consensus among various voices and come up with a solution."



- In principle, this is true. However, in our society, the passage of the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Act has been blocked from time to time from the 17th National Assembly to the 20s, when the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Act was first proposed, and the 21st National Assembly is still standing still. How has New Zealand resolved social conflicts?



"New Zealand's core philosophy has been to revitalize the public sphere, especially to ensure mechanisms for expressing opinions in a peaceful and constructive manner, such as through public petitions, demonstrations and debates in the National Assembly. And in the process, I made sure that there is respect for each other. But I never want to give the impression that New Zealand is perfect. Today New Zealand also faces many problems, especially racism, especially the indigenous Maori people. There has been a long-standing problem of racism in the United States. Unfortunately, the situation is getting worse and worse due to the corona crisis. There are still many problems. But a democratic society is stronger because of open discussion. Parliament, the judicial system, etc. I believe that through the mechanism we have, we can surely come to a peaceful conclusion.”


I wanted to ask about the biggest discrimination that he saw and felt in Korea, where he was staying for 4 years.

In particular, as a LGBTQ ambassador from a country that made anti-discrimination laws 20 years ago and legalized same-sex marriage 8 years ago, I wanted to ask your perspective on our society today.

I asked, "Which area do you think is the most discriminatory in Korean society at the moment?" As he was the current ambassador, he also avoided an immediate answer.

"I am very happy to be able to watch the Korean society undergo a lot of discussion and social change," he said in a very diplomatic response.

So, I changed the question and asked:



- Do you know the case of the late Sgt Byun Hee-soo, who was dishonorably discharged after undergoing gender reassignment surgery and took his life after a lawsuit with the government? Could this have happened in New Zealand?



"Instead of giving a direct comment, I will talk about New Zealand. Discrimination and harassment against LGBT and transgender people in the military has also been a problem in New Zealand. So there was also a lot of social debate and debate about this. In the process, New Zealand The first open transgender soldier came out, who changed from male to female like Sgt. Byun, and he came out in 2010. He is still serving as a sergeant in the Air Force. However, our society too, how should we handle this in 2010? There were no comprehensive policies or guidelines at the military level, so for him, the New Zealand Defense Force and New Zealand Army level, let us renew our approach, after a social discussion, guidelines and guidelines related to LGBTI people were developed. It's a guideline that's designed to ensure that we don't just cover LGBT people, LGBT people, and transgender people, but also ensure the diversity of minorities in the military as a whole."



- What has changed since then? Were there any criticisms that the military was weakening?



“Fortunately, the guidelines worked so well that the New Zealand military was rated by The Hague International Organization as the most LGBT-inclusive military force in the world in 2014. In 2019, the New Zealand military received the Minority Human Rights Award. There are many LGBT soldiers and police who are doing well. It has become natural for them to live together to the extent that they actively participate in the LGBT pride festival while still in service. Embracing diversity is certainly the foundation of a stronger society and stronger national power. This is because each member of society can focus on his/her own work, military strategy, and work instead of worrying about something that should not be done because of their identity.”


During the brief interview, Ambassador Turner emphasized the importance of anti-discrimination laws as much as the power of a democratic society.

It is the belief that in the process of fierce debate in an open space, chaff such as misinformation and fake news are filtered out, and only extracts worth discussing remain.

He emphasized that it is the role of the National Assembly to open the door.




Our National Assembly has consistently ignored this issue until now.

It was a bill against 'minority', so there were no votes, but in the 20th National Assembly, there was even a skit of voluntarily withdrawing the bill that had been proposed at the most due to the opposition of some local residents.

Last year, a member of the National Assembly held a press conference arguing that the Anti-Discrimination Act was the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

It was typical fake news floating around the Internet where a pastor could be fined or penalized for preaching the Bible.



▶ Related news: "The anti-discrimination law is the anti-homosexual punishment law"



In the meantime, however, there have been several reports and public debate processes that correct the facts of these claims in civil society.

As a result, it has become common knowledge to some extent that the current comprehensive anti-discrimination law does not contain any prohibition or punishment for preaching against homosexuality or street missions.

It has also become common knowledge to some extent that discrimination prohibited by the Act is limited to employment, education, access to administrative services, and the supply and use of goods or services.



With this remaining extract, the National Human Rights Commission survey result (2020) showed that more than 8 out of 10 people supported the enactment of the Anti-Discrimination Act, and the legislative petition for the enactment of the Anti-Discrimination Act is in front of the 100,000 requirement for referral to the competent standing committee. It has surpassed 85,000 people.

Of course, there are still strong voices of opposition.

Their opinions should be heard in the public debate process.

It remains to be seen how much the National Assembly, which has consistently ignored this conflict from the 17s to the 20s, will play a role in a democratic and institutional solution to this issue this time.      

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