Korea in Dilemma Over Transgenders Right to Choose

The Korea Times – Shim Sun-ah

Seoul (Yonhap) – At close to midnight, men can be seen entering a cafe in Seoul’s bustling university district, Sinchon, in groups of two or three.

While at first glance it may appear to be an ordinary cafe, its customers don’t just go there to drink beer. On entering, most customers first go behind a curtain in a corner of the cafe to put on women’s clothing, a wig and makeup, before taking a seat for a chat.

Rush, catering especially to crossdressers and transgenders, is a cafe owned by a 46-year-old man who goes by the female name Lee Cho-rong.

“Many people in South Korea don’t really understand the difference between gay and transgender. I’m not gay. I was born a man but eager to live as a woman and be beautiful,?? said Lee, dressed in a red and pink women’s “hanbok,?? Korea’s traditional dress. “Some of our regulars say they come here to take off stress at the end of the day by breaking taboos that say men should not wear women’s clothing.??

Born the youngest of three sons to conservative Protestant parents, Lee keeps his transgender lifestyle secret by living as a man during the day and a woman at night.

“I’m planning to have a sex-change operation only after my old mother dies. There’s no way I could now, my mother might be shocked to death.??