South Korea: Samsung & Google censor LGBT apps

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Samsung and Google have banned popular gay social networking programs from their app stores in South Korea, where LGBT activists are facing increasing discrimination.

Samsung, the largest manufacturer of smartphones worldwide, and one of South Korea’s biggest technology companies, previously rejected an application from the gay hookup app Hornet to be listed in its app store back in 2013.

In a company memo sent from Samsung to Hornet’s CEO, the company said the app could not be listed because, “due to the local moral values or laws, content containing LGBT is not allowed” in places like the Middle East, parts of east and south Asia, and even LGBT-friendly places like the U.S., Argentina and Iceland.

Samsung spokesperson Kelly Yeo has confirmed that the company does limit LGBT content on a country-by-country basis, but said it now does so based on “local laws and customs” instead of “local moral values or laws” and that Samsung is “continuing to update our policies.”

“We recognise that there were some inconsistencies in our policies and some of the wording could have been misinterpreted,” Yeo told BuzzFeed.

“Samsung Electronics’ global Code of Conduct provides our core statement of respect for the diversity of our employees, business partners and customers throughout the world.”

Many Android smartphone users still get their apps from Google Play rather than Samsung’s own store, and Hornet, Grindr and other LGBT networking apps are still available, even in South Korea.

However, South Korea’s most popular gay dating app, Jack’d, is not available on Google Play in country – the company deleted Jack’d from its store a few years ago, without notifying the app’s developer – though it still has over 500,000 users.

Many view the move as yet another worrying attempt to enforce censorship on the gay community in South Korea, where LGBT activists are facing increasing attempts by government and conservative activists to silence them.

The country’s new justice minister, Kim Hyun-woong, recently called for restrictions against a pride march that has been held for in Seoul for over fifteen years.

“It does not go by our society’s traditional values or norms, therefore I believe there should be restrictions against it,” he said.

However, the Pride march went ahead, after a South Korean court ruled that police could not ban the Pride parade from marching in the capital – though it faced fierce opposition and protests from Christian groups in the country.

Last week, the first ever lawsuit challenging Korea’s ban on same-sex marriage was launched.

The lawsuit, which was heard behind closed doors in the Seoul Western District Court, hopes to build on the momentum of the US Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling two weeks ago.