Jonah Lee, a round-faced 63-year-old with a swoop of graying hair, once spent his days running gay bars and drag clubs in Korea and Japan in the ’70s and ’80s. His flagship, Hot Love, was a hit in both Seoul and Tokyo. Today, Lee is known for something else entirely. He claims, through a ministry he started in the Korean capital in 1994, to have counseled more than 1,200 people seeking to “escape homosexuality.”
Lee’s story — from gay entertainment pioneer to the leading spokesperson for Korea’s ex-gay movement — was made possible by the trajectory of many of South Korea’s Christian churches, which have grown exponentially since Lee first became a Christian almost 40 years ago. Today, many of Korea’s most important Christian leaders have come to preach homosexuality as an existential threat. These churches believe their movement is doing more than just saving people from sin; they believe they are saving the nation itself.
Lee’s path to ex-gay leader is a story in miniature of how homosexuality rapidly went from an almost invisible issue in South Korea to one that is now bringing tens of thousands of shouting protesters to the streets. Read More