LGBT rights in North Korea

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LGBT rights in North Korea
North Korea
North Korea
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Not outlawed. Though practices "against the socialist lifestyle" (perhaps anti-gay) are prohibited
Unknown if there are any
Gender identity/expression Heavily obeyed gender roles for both male and female. (See example)
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Adoption -
Military service No
Discrimination protections None

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in North Korea may or may not face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents.

Criminal Laws

It is difficult to definitively know what the legal status is for LGBT North Koreans. The official government statement is as follows;

"Due to tradition in Korean culture, it is not customary for individuals of any sexual orientation to engage in public displays of affection. As a country that has embraced science and rationalism, the DPRK recognizes that many individuals are born with homosexuality as a genetic trait and treats them with due respect. Homosexuals in the DPRK have never been subject to repression, as in many capitalist regimes around the world. However, North Koreans also place a lot of emphasis on social harmony and morals. Therefore, the DPRK rejects many characteristics of the popular gay culture in the West, which many perceive to embrace consumerism, classism and promiscuity." [1].

This would seem to suggest that homosexuality per se is not illegal, although it is unclear what the age of consent is. However, public displays of affection, gay-themed clubs, gay-rights activism or sexual promiscuity are probably all frowned upon, if not illegal. On the other hand, some reports suggest that conduct deemed to be "against the socialist lifestyle" is an anti-gay law [2].

Family Law

North Korea does not recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnership benefits. Most North Koreans face strong social pressure to marry a suitable person of the opposite sex, with the government rarely allowing for divorce [3].


The North Korean governments censors all forms of the press, publication, communication and other forms of mass media. North Koreans who have since defected have stated that homosexuality is not talked about publicly, and that most gay North Koreans are pressured to marry someone of the opposite sex [4]. Voice of America’s Korean Service noted that homosexuality is a forbidden topic to discuss in the nation [5].

Gender identity

It is unclear what the North Korean's governments policy is with regards to transsexuals or transvestites. However, traditional gender roles are strongly prompted by the government as part of the socialist lifestyle.


No political party or organization is permitted to exist, without formal approval by the government. Neither of the two permitted, government run political parties have made any sort of formal statement on LGBT-rights. No laws are known to exist to address sexual orientation or gender identity based discrimination or harassment.

In the 1960s, the North Korean government sent workers to Cuba as a sign of solidarity, most of whom were charged with homosexuality by the Castro government and shipped back to North Korea.

North Korea opposed the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity, which called for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, though its precise reasons for doing so remain unclear.


Officially the government claims that the AIDS-HIV has not reached North Korea. The government has permitted some United Nations NGO's to educate health care workers about the pandemic, but it would appear the no public discussion of the pandemic is permitted [6].

See also



*Some information provided in whole or in part by