Mayor Park Won-soon of Seoul has issued an apology for indefinitely delaying a human rights charter that would have protected lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender South Koreans from discrimination in the municipality's greater region, reports Pink News.
Park's apology comes after activists staged sit-ins at Seoul City Hall one week ago. The demonstrators sought to protest the city government's decision to delay adopting an LGBT-inclusive municipal human rights charter, allegedly caving to pressure from Protestant church groups.
"It is my responsibility and fault," Park said in a written statement. "I am sorry for the emotional pain that you have suffered and will make whatever statements that you demand."
The mayor said he understood that his decision to delay the charter because of its inclusion of language aimed at ensuring equality and nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people had caused harm.
"This is an occasion for me to offer comfort for the emotional pain that you have suffered and to apologize to you," Park's statement read. The mayor went on to assure that protection against discrimination would be provided.
"Regardless of any misunderstanding or statement, no citizen will be subjected to discrimination or disadvantage," the mayor's statement said.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government's waylaid human rights charter, originally planned for enactment on December 10, World Human Rights Day, would have had the power of law to prohibit discrimination.
Although he gave no specifics about what the government would do going forward to protect Seoul's LGBT residents from the anti-LGBT sentiments that likely underpinned the objections to the charter in the first place, Mayor Park said "practical ways of resolving the difficulties" would be found.
The mayor did discuss the creation of an advisory panel, made up of some of the same people who protested at City Hall, tasked with finding ways improve the lives of LGBT people in the Seoul Capital Area, where almost 26 million people (nearly half of South Korea's entire population) live.
"The protesters concluded that the promise made by the mayor during the private conversation was important," said a statement issued by the group Rainbow Action. "Through a meeting with Innovation Officer Jun Hyo-gwan held in the morning of December 11, the protesters confirmed the metropolitan government’s will to implement plans for the creation of a collaborative panel consisting of the relevant organizations to eradicate discrimination in city governance. They therefore decided to conclude the sit-in."