SEOUL — Tens of thousands attended South Korea’s largest annual LGBT festival on Saturday, vowing to continue fighting for gay rights after the Seoul city government denied them a prime spot and gave it to an anti-LGBT Christian group.
The Seoul Queer Culture Festival, staged outside city hall in the nation’s capital annually since 2015, except for two years during COVID-19, was instead held nearby after the city government in May gave the permit for a Christian youth concert to be held at the prime spot.
“You can see a lot of hateful banners behind me as well as those that support us on our right,” said Yang Sun-woo, chief organiser of the Seoul Queer Culture Festival.
“South Korea is enjoying a rise in global status but LGBT rights here are at rock bottom,” she said.
This year’s march began hundreds of metres from city hall, surrounded by onlookers and anti-LGBT protesters.
The Christian group CTS, which has vocally opposed homosexuality, said it was not trying to thwart LGBT people.
“That we aimed to block homosexuality, as some say, is not true, and this (youth) event was to give courage and hope to young people in this tough time,” said Cho Jong Yun, managing director at CTS.
The city government did not respond to a request for comment when it issued the permit.
The LGBT event’s organisers estimated some 35,000 people joined the march.
Four in 10 South Koreans support legalizing same-sex marriage, according to a Gallup poll in May, supporters have been narrowing the gap with those who disapprove in recent years.
Kim Kyu Jin and Kim Saeyeon, a lesbian couple who married abroad and recently announced a pregnancy, one the first openly LGBT South Korean couples to do so, joined Saturday’s march.
“When we announced our marriage, many friends and queer people around us thanked us for letting them know that there is a way for them to get married too,” said Kyu Jin Kim.
Nicole Kim, a 23-year-old who identifies as asexual, said the Pride event was a rare opportunity for queer people to celebrate themselves in South Korea.
“Some ask why we need this queer festival, but it is the only time a year where we can all enjoy ourselves out in the open.”
Last month, police officers were dispatched at a smaller Pride parade in the southern city of Daegu despite Mayor Hong Joon-pyo calling the event illegal. — Reuters