(LGBT) people in South Korea can face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal in South Korea, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not entitled to the same legal protections available to heterosexuals. As in many countries, however, the climate for gays and lesbians is evolving and becoming more tolerant.
Homosexuality in South Korea (Republic of Korea) is not specifically mentioned in either the South Korean Constitution or in the Civil Penal Code. Article 31 of the Korean Human Rights Committee Law states that "no individual is to be discriminated against on the basis of his or her sexual orientation."
However, Article 92 of the Military Penal Code, which is currently under a legal challenge, singles out sexual relations between members of the same sex as "sexual harassment", punishable by a maximum of one year in prison. The Military Penal Code does not make a distinction between consensual and non-consensual and names consensual intercourse between homosexual adults as "reciprocal rape." But a military court ruled in 2010 that this law is illegal, saying that homosexuality is a strictly personal issue. This ruling was appealed to South Korea's constitutional court, which has not yet made a decision.
General awareness of homosexuality remained low among the Korean public until recently, with increased awareness and debate coming to the issue, as well as gay-themed entertainment in mass media and recognizable figures and celebrities, such as Hong Seok-cheon coming out in public. But Korean gays and lesbians still face difficulties, and many prefer not to reveal their gay identity to their family, friends or co-workers.