Taoiseach Leo Varadkar discusses LGBTQ+ issues with South Korea president Yoon Suk Yeol

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met with President Yoon Suk Yeol to discuss gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his visit in Soutch Korea, standing in a room and smiling at the camera.
Image: Via X - @LeoVaradkar

As part of a three-day trade mission to Seoul, South Korea, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met with President Yoon Suk Yeol to discuss gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

Varadkar’s visit comes after the South Korean constitutional court upheld an existing law that prevented military personnel from engaging in same-sex relationships last week. Under South Korean law, same-sex relationships within the military are punishable by up to two years in prison. The constitutional court justified the decision by arguing that same-sex relationships posed a putative risk to combat readiness. 

“I do very much respect the right of any democracy to make their own laws. But as somebody who represents Ireland on the international stage, I will always advocate for equality for women, equality for minorities and equality for the LGBT community,” said the Taoiseach prior to his visit with the President of South Korea today.

“And it is good to see countries like Singapore, for example, being one of the first countries in Asia to change its laws in relation to decriminalising homosexuality. It has happened in India as well,” the Taoiseach added. “Probably a journey to go for other countries, but definitely something that I will want to discuss with the president tomorrow, always respectful of the fact that democratic countries can make their own rules.”


Varadkar was joined on the delegation by Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, and Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris. 

Following this morning’s meeting, Varadkar spoke with reporters, saying: “In my meeting with President Yoon, we discussed how we can deepen our political, economic, educational and cultural ties. We discussed our commitment to multilateralism and the rules-based international order.

“I congratulated the President on Korea’s election to the United Nations Security Council for the 2024-25 term and offered Ireland’s assistance, given our own recent term on the Council. I also assured President Yoon of our shared commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation.

“The global impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine was a major topic of discussion, along with the escalating conflict in the Middle East, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel,” he added.

Ireland’s history was also a talking point for the two world leaders, with President Yoon congratulating the country on the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The Taoiseach similarly laid a wreath at a South Korean monument honouring the Irish lives lost during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. 

In addition to a number of soldiers, the monument also pays tribute to seven Columban priests and an Anglican nun who lost their lives in the conflict.

“150 people from Ireland gave their lives fighting in the Korean War,” Mr Varadkar said. “This is a very important connection between Ireland and Korea and one that we honour and want to continue.”

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