The South Korean government has announced it will investigate the misuse of public funds to promote an anti-gay bill that critics say could put religious freedoms at risk.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Sunday he was “very concerned” by reports that South Korean law enforcement agencies had been conducting investigations of anti-discrimination campaigns run by a group called the South Korean Association for the Advancement of Human Rights (SAHR).
The SAHR has denied any wrongdoing.
“I am very concerned,” Moon told reporters at a news conference.
The scandal has rocked South Korea, which has a strong tradition of protecting religious freedom and has never been directly involved in a major anti-LGBT law.
In January, a gay man was charged with defrauding the South Koreans’ pension fund by filing false financial statements and failing to declare a home as his primary residence.
The law also makes it a crime to discriminate against gays.
“We have never been accused of engaging in discriminatory policies and we are investigating the claims and will hold those responsible accountable,” Moon said.
He added that he would ask the National Assembly to approve the bill in the coming days.
“There is a need for reform in the law, and I am very determined to push for the passage of the bill.”
Moon’s remarks came hours after the South’s Supreme Court ruled the law could be implemented if the National Parliament approves it.
South Korea has never had a major law related to LGBT rights, although in 2013, a federal law passed in an election that was seen as a victory for the LGBT community.
In February, the Constitutional Court overturned the country’s previous gay marriage law, which had banned gay marriage.
The decision also overturned a state-sponsored law that banned gay sex and transgender people from using bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities.
The bill was blocked in court by conservative opposition parties, who said the law was discriminatory.
Critics say the law has been used to target and intimidate LGBT people.
In December, a group of people, including two South Korean pop stars, came out as gay and began performing at gay-friendly venues across the country.
Moon’s government has been accused in the past of trying to silence and harass LGBT people, even as gay rights activists have taken to the streets and held protests demanding changes to the countrys anti-hate laws.
“This law will lead to more people being persecuted,” Moon, who is also a member of the ruling Saenuri Party, said on Monday.
“They will not be able to work or attend school freely and may even face discrimination.”
He added: “I urge the National Diet to approve this bill.”