The coronavirus rumor mill in South Korea is targeting the LGBT+ community.
Seoul – and the rest of the country – has been handling the COVID-19 outbreak remarkably well so far. But when the second wave hit, bringing at least 86 new cases, the local press began to speculate that the spread started in several nightclubs in Itaewon district. According to South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 78 of those new patients were men of whom 76 were in their 20s and 30s.
The journalists and bloggers referred to these venues as “gay clubs”, even though none of them label themselves as such.
Disturbingly enough, media outlets began to share personal information about the suspected “patient zero” of the second outbreak. This person’s age, district, and workplace location were leaked online, CNN reported on May 11th.
Seoul’s Mayor Park Won-soon announced on Monday that the authorities collected 5,517 names of people who had visited these nightclubs between April 24 and May 6 and that 1,049 people were currently being tested.
But the potential homophobic violence remains a subject of great concern for the government. On May 11th health ministry official Yoon Tae-ho warned that “leaking personal information of confirmed patients or spreading baseless rumors not only harms withers the but could be criminally punished,” and said there was a trend of “criticism and hate against a certain group to which the infection was linked.”