Forum Addresses Row Over Gender Change
In a reminder of the difficulties of embracing transsexuals in a country where Confucian values are deeply engrained, participants in a public forum on gender change through surgery were divided over whether the government should allow transsexuals to officially change their gender.
In the forum held at the National Assembly yesterday, Rep. Kim Hong-shin of the Grand National Party claimed that a law should be in place to safeguard the human rights of transsexuals, noting that the issue of their human rights is very serious.
``Society should embrace the existence of transsexuals as the reality and recognize their right to pursue happiness and dignity as human beings, Rep. Song Young-gil of the Millennium Democratic Party said. He expressed his support of a recent ruling by the Pusan District Court, which authorized the registering of a gender change.
The two lawmakers are scheduled to submit a bill allowing transsexuals to officially change their gender later this month.
Judge Moon Yoo-seok of the Chunchon district court told the forum that recognizing the change of gender was in line with the constitution, noting that sex change operations are recognized as proper medical procedure for transsexuals.
Lee Suk-tae, a lawyer of a civic group, was also in favor of allowing people to officially change their gender.
So far, the Supreme Court has not granted legal recognition to transsexuals, officially maintaining their biological gender.
Kim Ju-duk, a lawyer of the Korean Bar Association, expressed a negative view on the issue.
``Sex change and homosexuals are issues that can trigger important social implications, said Kim, calling for a cautious approach to dealing with the matter.
``Recognizing and changing the family register of those who have undergone sex change operations will not solve the fundamental issue, said Rev. Park Young-yul, an official of the Christian Council of Korea. ``We should not forget that the identity and order of the majority of people are important.
The issue of transsexuals has drawn public attention since Ha Ri-soo, a transsexual entertainer, surged to the top of the entertainment industry.
According to the Korean Medical Association, there are approximately 4,500 transsexuals in South Korea, but the actual figure is thought to be much higher.