South Korea Pride event blocked in favour of Christian youth concert

People hold up a rainbow LGBTQ+ Pride flag during a parade in South Korea

Organisers of South Korea’s biggest LGBTQ+ event have vowed to keep the Pride celebration going even though the government said their chosen venue will instead be used for a Christian youth concert. 

The organising committee for the Seoul Queer Culture Festival (SQCF) said on Wednesday (3 May) that it was denied permission to use the Seoul Plaza venue from 30 June to 1 July, as part of a days-long festival celebrating the East Asian nation’s queer community.

But the Seoul Metropolitan Government said they’d received two applications to use the venue – one from SQCF and another from a Christian group requesting to hold a youth-oriented concert – both for 1 July. 

Government officials gave priority to the Christian concert, held by the CTS Cultural Foundation, over the LGBTQ+ Pride parade. 

The religious foundation is linked to Christian broadcast CTS, which has vocally opposed LGBTQ+ identities and the Pride event, Reuters reported. 

Yang Sun-woo, head of the SQCF organising committee, told the Washington Post that the “festival will not be stopped” despite the setback, and the group plans to go ahead with the event on 1 July. 

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“We were unfairly denied access to the public space where South Korea’s LGBTQ community has celebrated pride every summer for years,” she said. 

She also felt the government’s decision was ultimately “discriminatory” and “un-transparent”.

Rainbow Action, a coalition of queer groups in South Korea, accused Seoul government officials of “aligning with homophobia and discrimination” by allowing a Christian group to “block out gathering”. 

City authorities said they went with the Christian concert because “events for children and teenagers get a priority when requests are filed for a same date”, according to the Washington Post.

A representative for the CTS Cultural Foundation told Reuters that the timing did not aim to blocking the LGBTQ+ Pride festival. 

Queer people do have some protected rights in South Korea, but anti-LGBTQ+ hate remains rampant in the country due to deeply entrenched social conservatism and gender norms. 

Additionally, South Korea’s evangelical religious groups have huge influence on political policy and have been particularly loud in spreading anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. 

There’s no national law protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Queer students face discrimination, bullying and harassment in South Korean schools. 

South Korea still lacks legal recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions, and queer couples are prevented from jointly adopting. 

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