[UPDATED] Korean Christian groups are trying to block Seoul’s Queer Festival and Pride Parade
Image via Korean Queer Festival
Extreme Christian groups are attempting to block the Korean Queer Culture Festival and Pride Parade scheduled to be held in Seoul next month.
According to a post in the LGBT and Allies in Korea Facebook group, the Love Your Country, Love Your Children Movement group are trying to prevent the Pride Parade on the 28th June from taking place by applying for permission to hold a rallies in areas of the planned parade route.
Members from the group and from the Queer Festival’s organising committee are camping outside Namdaemun Police station after a sudden change in procedure for declaring public protest in the area.
“On May 21st, the Namdaemun Police Station’s Public Information Division posted a sudden notice on their homepage. It said that if anyone wants to submit a rally declaration form for June 28th, they should stand in line in front of the police station and the police station would accept those forms on May 29th in the order that they were standing in line.
“Someone has already read this and started standing in line in front of the police station; the Love Your Country, Love Your Children Movement Headquarters (나라사랑자녀사랑운동본부) led by pastor Song Chun-gil. This is obviously to interfere with a certain event that was planned to be held on June 28th. A dozen or so people are taking turns standing in line so they don’t get tired.
According to the same post, other organisations have already conducted a similar campaign in other parts of Seoul forcing the parade to move to a date two weeks later than initially planned.
“In Hyehwa as well, hate groups camped in tents in front of the police station to stand in line all day and all night ever since the beginning of May to interfere with the Queer Pride Parade that was to be held on June 13th. In the end they succeeded in submitting rally declaration forms for every space in Daehakro from June 12th to 14th, and prevented us from being able to hold the Queer Pride Parade in the area.”
Festival organisers are contending that the police gave the anti-LGBT demonstrators a tip off about the sudden change in procedures, which apply only to this date. Myeong-Jin Kang, Organizing Director of the Queer Culture Festival told JTBC, a cable TV channel: “We can’t help but feel that they’re siding with those that only wish to disrupt what was already a planned event. So that’s why we’re here, waiting in line to register for the gathering…”
Pride was initially due to be held in Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall but due to a pre-booked event this was not possible and it was instead moved to Daehakro. It later had to be abandoned entirely after interference from opposing groups – despite support from the local community, according to the festival organisers. It has now been moved to the 28th where it be held at Seoul Plaza.
This should be fortunate for Seoul’s LGBT community and its allies as in theory the parade route should be safe and legal. It was reported last week that Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon met with the leader of a Christian organisation to reject their requests to cancel permission for the festival to use Seoul Plaza. He said:
“Seoul Plaza usage requires not a permit but a notification so anyone can notify and this time the gay festival’s notification was acceptable so there is not other option.”
“We will not block gay organisations or opposing rallies” Park continued, “Cases of harming public morals or disrupting social order will be settled by following the law.”
Park is the same liberal-leaning, former human rights lawyer who offered support to LGBT rights in an interview with the San Francisco Examiner, later backing down on the comments when they didn’t play well in Korea.
But unfortunately, things are not going down so well in Namdaemun Police station, the area in which Seoul Plaza is located. The Korean Queer Festival has been constantly updating its Facebook page with the latest happenings on the scene – uploading photos and accusing the police of blocking their entrance to the station, lying to them and applying different standards for them than for the Christian groups.
Without the co-operation of the police, the parade could quickly become unsafe for all participants. Given past unrest during Pride, this is a very serious concern for the organisers.
There are just under two days left until the police say they will accept assembly declarations for the day of the Pride parade. Organisers and supporters of the Korean Queer festival have now been standing outside of the police station for days on end waiting to see if their declaration will be accepted and if they can safely and legally hold the parade in this area of the city. If anything good at all can come out of this situation, it’s the way the LGBT community and its allies in Seoul have rallied round the festival camping outside the station, bringing food and supplies and having impromptu gatherings.
There are ways you can help if this is a cause you care about. This story has been all but ignored by mainstream media so they need all the support thay can get. If you live in Seoul, the group will still be appreciative of any supplies you can bring. If you are non-Korean in Korea or a non-Korean living outside of Korea from a more LGBT-friendly country you can pressure your embassy in Korea to publicly endorse the Queer Culture Festival and put pressure on local officials. A list of embassies participating in the parade can be found here. We’re happy to see the UK, EU and US embassies getting behind the festival.
[UPDATE] The Korean Queer Culture Festival organisers have now issued a public statement condemning the actions of the police. Here is a short excerpt:
We condemn the Namdaemun Police station for the use of violence against the representatives who were pushed out during the process of requesting a meeting with the Chief in Police and handing in the joint statement from the sexual minorities, human rights, and civil society groups. We hold Namdaemun Police station responsible for an official apology and timely response. We further request that Namdaemun Police station devise a safety measure for the anticipated violence used by the anti-LGBT groups and Christian groups during the opening ceremony and the Parade.