Celebrating Seoul’s 20th annual Queer Culture Festival, the event patrons continue to raise awareness of the Korean LGBTQ+ community through activities such as a pride parade, film festivals, and a series of lectures and information sessions. Having begun on May 21st, the events are planned to continue until mid-July (who needs one pride month when you can have two?). So far, the festival has received international support from allies such as the European Union, as well as domestic groups such as Solidarity for LGBT Human Rights of Korea.
On June 1st, Seoul received a record amount of pride participants. Reaching over 70,000, the pride parade exceeded the previous year’s populous by 10,000, illustrating the rapid growth of LGBTQ+ support. Luckily, the event passed with no violent incidents, unlike in previous years where the protestors have caused disruptions to the festival. The parade extended throughout the capital, marching from the city hall to the US embassy, where a large rainbow flag flew proudly. Unfortunately, the US embassy has faced criticism for this statement to which Harry Harris, the American ambassador for South Korea, responded: ‘LGBTI rights = Human rights. US is committed to defending human rights for all, incl LGBTI persons’.
As previously mentioned, the event has received severe intolerance from religious protesters in the past. For example, in 2018, 210,000 protestors attacked the march spewing their hatred and discrimination. They were seen physically assaulting those supporting the march and holding plaques that exclaimed ‘burn in hell’. Actions such as this caused fear among the community, Jeezy Yang, an activist and music artist, stated that ‘people feared going [to pride events] because they were scared at making their identity and orientation known to the public’ – they were concerned about the social repercussions as well as their safety.
Despite South Koreas increasingly progressive ideals, members of the LGBTQ+ community remain targeted and discriminated against. In fact, many legislations exclude LGBTQ+ protection meaning that their basic human rights are not being met. One of these oppressive legislations includes Article 96-6 of the Korean Military Criminal Act which prohibits same-sex relations with anyone working for the military, labelling them as ‘indecent acts’. If found or proved to have engaged in this behaviour the individual may face up to two-years imprisonment. More so, it is illegal for same-sex couples to adopt or marry. Gay men are even prevented from giving blood as a ‘caution’ against AID’s! A ridiculous stereotype that I thought had been long exterminated. Treatment such as this cannot and should not be condoned.
Looking at the prejudice shown toward the Korean LGBTQ+ community, it is important that we begin to ask ourselves: is enough being done to support the LGBTQ+ groups? How can we aid this cause? How does the international treatment of LGBTQ+ people influence us? It is vital that we acknowledge and understand the troubles other countries face because without recognition these issues can develop, escalate, and multiply. Disassociating from global issues can be incredibly easy as these difficulties seem so distant from us, but it is vital that we remain aware of the world around us. Ignorance is not bliss, it is crimincal. Ignoring these issues would essentially be equal to accepting and promoting them.
In defiance of the intolerance shown, the South Korean LGBTQ+ population refuses to waver and give into prejudice. Instead, they march forward and continue to fight for their rights. Growing from 500 attendees in 1999, to the current 70,000, the community increases with each day. As individuals embrace their identity the world becomes a more accepting and understanding place.