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Friday/Saturday, and a movie review: Miracle on Jongno Street/종로의 기적

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November 27, 2011 | 03:09am
Mood: thoughtful

Friday night I went to Sangmu to Kkunori with Megan, Susan, and Lauren, and we drank soju cocktails. We also ended up receiving dried squid service (free). Not so great. Today I hiked Geumdang-san, which is a mountain right behind my house. I went with Lauren and Marisa and it was a grand time. Four days of exercise in a row! Word!

This evening I went to the Kunsthalle flea market, the grand opening of Tequilaz, a GS25 to drink with Jodi and Blair, and then I went back to the Kunsthalle to watch the documentary "Miracle on Jongno Street."

"Miracle on Jongno Street" is about how a group of friends live their lives as openly gay men in Seoul. It was fascinating but I felt it could have been edited differently: cut the second guy all together and indicating how they know each other would have been good. Are they really friends? We only saw two of them interact one time. I also think the director/narrator - who gave a brief autobiographical introduction of himself in the first five minutes of the film - would have been wise to actively participate more often. The four men would talk to him as if he were a friend and we eked out a little information about his life through his responses, so you could say he was the fifth friend - but more could have been done to stress this in the film. In the Q&A with the director following the film, Hyuk Sang Lee stated that he wanted to show that gay men aren't all the same: they can be fat, they can be ugly, they can love another person to the detriment of no one. I believe that Lee managed to depict this quite admirably. It's interesting to note that the film was quite optimistic; all four men came out in various ways to a variety of people, problems were solved, and issues were surpassed. It would have been the easy way out to show a group of depressed, down on their luck men. Instead all four are fighting for something better: a way to identify oneself as more than your sexuality (Joon Moon So), the rights of all LGBT people as a whole (Byeong Kwon Jang), the acceptance of oneself and of oneself by others (Young Soo Choi), the acceptance of AIDS and HIV (Yol Jeong), and, quite simply, love (all featured men).

It's a movie I find fascinating to discuss because there are so many aspects to be covered. I started writing this with the point of saying this was not what I've experienced during my own interactions with gay Korean men. However that's an unnecessary statement: everyone is different, and these men are different from the Korean men I know in one fundamental way- they're all out of the closet. It's hard to fathom how difficult it could be to an openly gay man in a country so conservative as Korea. You cannot enter the public sphere as a gay man; you simply leave it. These men are brave because they are willing to risk everything - their livelihoods, their families, their friends, and even their lives for something that is inherently a part of them. The men I've met at gay bars in Korea - while not out of the closet - are similarly brave in that they've realized what they are and they are taking action to embrace that part of themselves. The men I've met through other means of communication are similarly brave; they may not be able to go to the gay bars due to worry of outing or job issues, but they have discovered the part of themselves that is Gay, with a capital G, and they cannot contain it. I applaud these men and all men who struggle through similar, and even more difficult, situations. I wonder if I would be able to find the courage in a similar situation. I am lucky.

I'm happy I watched this documentary. It was one of the best decisions I've made in a long time. I'd also like to applaud the Gwangju Kunsthalle for featuring this film. The opportunity for this film to be viewed and available in the public sphere is incredibly important and proof that things are improving, however slowly that may be. In a country which has a grand total of four gay movies, "Miracle on Jongno Street" earns its place in gay history and makes a huge impact as it does so. Bravo.

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