The Korea Herald


Reality check: How diverse is Korea really? LGBTQ+ in workplace (7)

Homosexuality still a taboo in Korean workplaces

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Feb. 5, 2024 - 16:27

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In Korea, the issue of workplace diversity rarely extends to sexual minorities, but some companies -- mostly big exporters with world-class brands and local units of global firms -- have adopted corporate policies that prevent discrimination based on sexual or gender identity.

The first company to do so was IBM Korea. In 2011, the Korean unit of the US firm announced a job posting that expressed a preference for hiring individuals from sexual minority groups.

Major Korean firms, including Samsung, SK, LG and Posco, prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation through their company guidelines.

Still, Korean workplaces are generally the last place where an LGBTQ+ worker would consider revealing their sexual orientation.

In a survey conducted by local civic group Dawoom of 3,431 participants identifying as from sexual minority groups, 66.3 percent of respondents said they were most hesitant to reveal their sexual identity at workplaces, due to fears of violence, threats and harassment. Schools, family environments and public places followed.

The same survey asked to whom they came out, and only 7.3 percent of respondents -- the smallest portion -- reported having disclosed their sexual orientation to their boss. The second-smallest portion of respondents, 15.2 percent, said they had come out to colleagues at work.

The survey found that 78 percent of respondents shared their sexual orientation with non-sexual minority friends, which was the highest percentage. This portion was followed by mothers, counselors, medical workers and fathers.

Is South Korea really becoming more diverse? The Korea Herald offers a reality check by examining data on representation in the fields of politics, business and society according to gender, age, ability, sexual identity and nationality. A complete version of this series was printed in the Jan. 2 edition of The Korea Herald. – Ed.