A queer critique of the South-North Korea Summit

[Reposted with a heavy heart from Facebook. April 27, 2018.]

I understand that lots of people are happy about the South-North Korea summit but my heart isn’t there. Not even close.

My head is spinning with the knowledge that an infamous misogynist advisor Tak Hyun-min 탁현민 was likely the mastermind event producer behind the fanfare, that he is probably gleeful that President Moon protected him from so many angry feminists who organized for so long to try to get him removed, that he can count on Presidential immunity from the #MeToo movement — you know, he’s doing important work for the nation, not occupied with frivolous stuff like the rest of us. Every handshake, every camera angle, I know there’s a script, and somebody wrote it.

From what I can tell, the colorful ceremony of “royal guards” was a tradition invented entirely for summits like this, reenacted imagination of a unified premodern past still structured by the military — just in prettier clothing. I know the whole thing is about symbols and scripts, but what can I say. It looked like a cheesy historical k-drama, and I’m not into kings.

In the meantime, workers are still fighting for their lives, the poor are dying, dying alone, and dying in excruciating pain. Queer and trans folks are grieving their dead comrades on the 15th anniversary of Yook Woo Dang’s death, disability protesters are throwing their bodies into the street to demand policy change (and a meeting with the president), and people of Seongju and Soseong-ri are being violently dragged out and shut out of ongoing military build-up in their villages. Human rights ordinances all over South Korea are under attack and right-wing homophobes are winning in overturning what little human rights protections there are. President Moon might be getting accolades for his foreign policy maneuvers but his track record on gender and queer/trans issues have been nothing but abysmal. Obviously, I know that none of this can change overnight with a peace declaration. I’m not asking for the moon (ha ha). But could we please pause and sit with these contradictions even in joyous moments?

In spite of all this talk of peace and denuclearization, there is no commitment to demilitarization or anti-militarism, and dead silence when it comes to comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. My heart weeps with queer feminist friends who resent this political agenda that so clearly separates peace and justice, that so clearly prioritizes military peace over social justice and human rights. On this important historic occasion, I can only sigh with frustration. There’s gotta be more than this. We can do better than this.

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