South Korea’s most prestigious university has elected its first openly gay student body president last Friday.
Kim Bo-mi, a consumer and child studies major at Seoul National University who currently serves as student body vice president, revealed her sexual orientation during a campaign speech two weeks ago.
“I want the world to be a place in which people who work hard do not suffer,” Kim told a crowd of about 40 students. “I want this to be a world in which no one has to fit under a label of what is ‘normal.’ I want this to be a world in which people can love themselves for who they are and in which they can live confidently. That’s why I am telling you: I’m a lesbian.”
“The fact that I’m a lesbian is just one piece of who I am,” she said. “The things I believe in, the things I’ve done as vice president, and the things I want to accomplish in the future — those things will not change.”
Kim ran unopposed for the position. According to the university’s student council bylaws, voter turnout must exceed 50 percent for the election results to be valid. The voter turnout was stated by Korea Herald to be “unusually high” at 53.3%, with 86.8% voting in favor of Kim.
Conservative opinions still remain dominant in South Korea; however, some Koreans have become more accepting of LGBT rights in the past few years. In a poll conducted by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, support for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Korea has increased from 16.9 percent in 2010 to 28.5 percent in 2014. Support for same-sex marriage is particularly strong among younger respondents.
Kim will begin her term as president on December 1. During her time as vice president, she led an effort to stop sexual harassment from professors.