+
North Korea's first openly-gay defector is now engaged to his American boyfriend
via Vietnam Mobiography / Flickr

Jang Yeong-Jin, 62, has had a perilous journey to find true love. Growing up in totalitarian North Korea, he had no idea there was any such thing as being homosexual. He thought that he had a medical problem because he wasn't attracted to his wife.

He got married at 27 and when it came time to consummate the relationship he felt terribly uncomfortable.

"I couldn't lay a finger on my wife," he told the BBC. "I went to so many hospitals in North Korea because we thought that I had some sort of physical problem."


It never occurred to Jang or his family that there could be any other reason for his lack of interest in women. "There is no concept of homosexuality in North Korea," he says. North Koreans live a communal existence so men frequently hold hands, but it's just assumed that it's a sign of close friendship.

"North Korea is a totalitarian society — we have lots of communal life so it's normal for us," Jang said.

Kim Seok-Hyang, professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Women's University in South Korea, has interviewed dozens of defectors and says the concept of homosexuality is unheard of in the totalitarian state.

"When I asked them about homosexuality, they didn't catch on quickly so I had to explain it to every single person," Kim told the BBC.

Jang wanted to file for divorce so that he and his unhappy wife could both live freely, but given the country's draconian family laws, he realized it would be best if he defected to South Korea. In 1996, Jang braved crossing the border, but when he couldn't make it from China to South Korea, he returned home.

The next year, Jang escaped to South Korea by crawling through the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), making him one of the few people to successfully do so.

In 1998, he was reading an article about his defection in a South Korean newspaper when he came across a review of an American film about two gay men that featured a photo of them kissing.

"When I saw that, I knew right away that I was this kind of person. That's why I couldn't like women," he said. After the revelation, he became a regular in Seoul's gay bars. Eventually, he met a flight attendant and the two started a relationship. Unfortunately, the man conned Jang out of his life savings.

What it's like to be gay in North Korea?www.youtube.com

This experience soured Jang on relationships, but in 2020, he met a Korean man living in America on a dating app. After four months, he flew to America to meet him but when he first saw him at the airport he was unimpressed by his casual, American style of dress. "Seeing how he dressed, I assumed he was an ill-mannered and blunt man," Jang says.

But soon, after many long picnics and bottles of wine, he began to grow on Jang.

"The more I got to know this man, the more I could see that he had a very good character. Although he is eight years younger than me, he is the kind of person who likes to care for others first," he said.

After two months he proposed to Jang.

The couple hopes to marry later this year.

"I always felt fearful, sad, and lonely when I lived alone. I am a very introverted and sensitive person, but he is an optimistic man, so we are good for each other," he said.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via YouTube

This article originally appeared on 02.15.22


These days, we could all use something to smile about, and few things do a better job at it than watching actor Christopher Walken dance.

A few years back, some genius at HuffPo Entertainment put together a clip featuring Walken dancing in 50 of his films, and it was taken down. But it re-emerged in 2014 and the world has been a better place for it.

Walken became famous as a serious actor after his breakout roles in "Annie Hall" (1977) and "The Deer Hunter" (1978) so people were pretty shocked in 1981 when he tap-danced in Steve Martin's "Pennies from Heaven."

Keep ReadingShow less
via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

Keep ReadingShow less