Over 150,000 attend South Korea LGBTQ+ Pride festival despite Seoul Plaza ban News
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Over 150,000 attend South Korea LGBTQ+ Pride festival despite Seoul Plaza ban

More than 150,000 participants converged in Seoul’s downtown Euljiro district on Saturday for the 25th Seoul Queer Culture Festival (SQCF), despite authorities denying the event its customary venue, Seoul Plaza, for the second consecutive year.

The SQCF organizing committee has persistently sought to host its annual parade at Seoul Plaza since 2015. Although officials claim the plaza operates under an open notification system, the committee reports that city-sponsored programs overwhelmingly occupy the space, with even prime weekend slots filled with events like “Book Plaza” or “Lawn Planting.” This, they argue, reveals a systemic bias effectively excluding events like Pride.

Seoul city authorities have repeatedly denied or canceled venue reservations for academic events organized by the 2024 SQCF committee, leading to accusations of ongoing discrimination. A discussion on “The Power of Culture to Realize Democracy” was canceled just a week before its scheduled date at Seoul Citizens Hall, with officials calling it “political” and even accusing the committee of falsifying its application. Similarly, when the committee proposed holding a lecture on American human rights struggles at the Seoul History Museum, their application was denied, citing concerns about “social conflict” and potential disruption to museum operations.

The SQCF committee, which has filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission, claims that Seoul’s actions denying them public spaces and scrutinizing their eventsreflect a deeper societal problem. They contend that it is discrimination, not LGBTQ+ people, that should be banned. Despite some advances, such as South Korea’s Supreme Court ruling granting health insurance benefits to a same-sex couple, they say progress remains fragile. As Human Rights Watch reports, South Korea still struggles with pervasive and systemic discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.

These tensions were palpable at Saturday’s festival. While thousands celebrated in the main streets, just a few hundred yards away, Christian protesters denounced LGBTQ+ rights, holding signs that read “No!! same-sex marriage” and “The country built with blood and sweat is collapsing because of homosexuality.”

Despite repeated legislative efforts and growing societal support, South Korea has yet to enact a comprehensive law that clearly protects individuals from bias based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Current legislation, such as the law establishing the National Human Rights Commission, provides limited protections but doesn’t explicitly extend these protections to LGBTQ+ citizens.