SEOUL — Kim Kyu-jin doesn't describe herself as an activist. That's a label that tends to scare people in South Korea's conformist society. She sees herself as just a working woman who wanted to get married to the person she loves.

Same-sex marriage is not recognized in South Korea, so Kim and her fiancee flew to New York last year to tie the knot in a Manhattan marriage bureau.

Then they returned home and celebrated just like any ordinary South Korean couple — with what is known as a “factory wedding,” a cookie-cutter ceremony. Kim and her spouse, who requested anonymity to avoid possible problems with her employer, wore flowing white dresses.

“By doing a factory wedding, I thought that I might give a message: that we’re just people, we’re just Koreans, we just want to get married like everyone else,” she said. “So it was a political choice.”

Advocates for same-sex marriage in South Korea, and many of its East Asian neighbors, remain mostly on the sidelines of national debate. South Korea’s vibrant online culture, however, offers a forum to challenge views on a range of gender-related issues, from same-sex relationships to the pay gap for women to the definitions of beauty promoted by the country’s huge cosmetic-surgery industry.

Kim, 28, started giving interviews, including during prime time on national broadcaster KBS and another on the main news page of KakaoTalk, South Korea’s leading messaging app.

“I thought that this would influence society and the government,” she said. “So I did it for my own good.”

Then came the backlash.

The article received about 10,000 comments, 80 percent of which were negative, she said. Some people told the couple to “Get out of Korea.” Others worried that society and families would fall apart on a tide of lesbian weddings. Some replies were intensely malicious, threatening and sexual.

After consulting a lawyer, and pushing the police to talk to portal sites, she is suing the 100 most malicious commentators.

“My mom has always been quite negative of my sexuality, but my dad has supported me,” she said. “But when it came to going public, not so much.”

Kim’s parents come from the socially conservative region of Busan in southeastern South Korea. Her grandparents are very conservative, she said, and her father was worried.

“He claimed that he was worried that I might get too much attention, and there might be malicious comments like, from, I don’t know, churches,” she said. “But I think deep down he was quite scared that people around him would find out that I am a lesbian.”

Her father felt his daughter wasn’t listening to him. They argued, he didn’t come to her wedding in Seoul, and now they aren’t talking to each other.

Kim and her spouse are not the first couple to test South Korea’s legal and societal boundaries on same-sex marriage.

In 2013, filmmaker Kim Jho Gwang-soo celebrated a symbolic marriage ceremony with his longtime male partner. The pair exchanged vows in public on a bridge and afterward fought an unsuccessful legal battle to register their union.

The church and conservatives oppose same-sex unions, often vehemently. Right-wing lawmakers introduced legislation last year that would remove any reference to “sexual orientation” as a possible source of discrimination under the mandate of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.

Even liberal President Moon Jae-in, a former human rights lawyer, said on the campaign trail in 2017 that he disliked homosexuality and had “no intention” of legalizing it.

As president, Moon has said he opposes discrimination, but he has also said that society “has yet to reach a consensus” on legalizing same-sex unions and that the issue needs more discussion.

Human Rights Watch reported in November that LGBT youth in South Korea experienced indifference or outright hostility that left them feeling isolated and jeopardized their mental health.

Kim said she feels attitudes are gradually changing. South Korea’s largest alcoholic drinks company, Oriental Brewery, posted its support for the Seoul Queer Culture Festival on social media in May with a rainbow-colored can, a first for a major South Korean company.

Kim said she was worried that she and her spouse would be turned away from wedding halls in Seoul. Then her wedding planner called and asked.

“The owner replied, ‘It’s the same money, what’s the big deal?’ ” Kim said. Nor were their hairdressers or other suppliers bothered, she said.

“I’ve learned that [South] Korea is very capitalist — everything is consumer first,” she said. “I think the private sector is beginning to look at gay people as customers.”

Kim’s employer, a European consumer goods company, treats the pair as a married couple. She dreams of one day being its first non-European, first female and first openly gay chief executive — a “totem of diversity,” she said.

But the couple still face many obstacles in their daily lives.

Their incomes are treated as separate for the purpose of securing a mortgage, they cannot sign medical consent forms as next-of-kin, and for inheritances, Korean law gives close family members automatic precedence, leaving anything that benefits an unmarried partner vulnerable to legal challenge.

After the ceremony in Manhattan, the couple honeymooned in the Seychelles, but their return to South Korea was a slap back to reality.

“When you come to Korea, you need to write a customs entry card, and you need to check how many family members you are with,” she said. “I said zero.”