Story by: Jay Jang, Heezy Yang, Photos by: Simon Hunter-Williams
The Korean Queer Culture Festival has been a central event for Seoul’s LGBT community for more than a decade. This year is no different, and despite resistance and some confusion in the days leading up to this year’s event over its possible cancellation and police protection, it will go forward as planned.
Albeit some changes in logistics and the timetable, the event is still slated to take place in Sinchon on Saturday. The event, originally scheduled to start at 12 p.m., will now start at 2 p.m.
The Traffic Department of Seodaemun District, where the festival is to take place, was originally scheduled to start its regular car-free zone earlier for the festival from 10 a.m., but set-up will now run from the regular 2 to 10 p.m. Activities end at 7 p.m., with after-parties scheduled for later in the evening at multiple venues in Sinchon and Itaewon.
Throughout the week, there has been general confusion regarding the legality of the festival. News outlets and queer community groups in Seoul reported in the past week that the district office had withdrawn its official approval for the event.
In response, a person claiming to be a KQCF staffer writing as Nagpec Lee said on Facebook on June 3 that the reports were incorrect and that only the start time had been changed.
“We go an approval from Seodaemoon (sic) District Police Office, and they will guard for the parade,” Lee wrote. “It demonstrates that we will have (the) festival safely and legally approved.”
Lee also wrote that the embassies of the U.S., Germany and France would participate in the festival with promotional booths.
The Traffic Department told Groove Korea that as police were notified of the event in advance, problems would only arise in the case of noise or overcrowding.
Meanwhile, the festival is facing another challenge in the form of a counter-protest by conservative groups scheduled for the same day and time. The second event represents a continuation of opposition to the festival by Korea’s conservative sectors.
Vincent, an assistant professor at a university who wished to remain anonymous, feels the building tension is actually a good sign. “As the festival has been growing, the awareness has been growing as well as the opposition. This might sound bad, but I feel it is good, as the social consciousness of the Korean population is being challenged when it comes to the reality of Korean LGBTQ people especially.”
Jinmo Yang, a third-year student at Sogang University, believes going forward with the event is crucial. “To me, it’s an event that gives me pride as a part of LGBT culture and furthermore it makes me think about many things, such as how I am going to live my life as a gay person in this world.”
Elise, a teacher in Seoul, adds, “Seoul Pride is a message to all LGBTQ people in Korea who feel alone or alienated that they are not alone.”
Korea Queer Culture Festival
What/When: Saturday, June 7 from 2 to 7 p.m. (booths open at 2 p.m., opening show at 3:30 p.m., parade at 4:30 p.m., closing show at 5:30 p.m.)
Where: Sinchon transit mall in Seoul, in front of the Uplex building
Parade after parties
What/When/Where: Official After party at Bar Fly in Sinchon from 4:30 to 9 p.m.; Sinchon Station, line 2, exit 1
What/When/Where: Official After party at Babylon in Itaewon from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.; itaewon Station, line 6, exit 2
What/When/Where: Unofficial After party at The Meet Market at Myoung Wol Gwan in Hongdae from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.; Hongik University Station, line 2, exit 9
Korea Queer Film Festival
What: Features, docs and experimental films from Korea and abroad
Where: Sungmisan Theater, Mangwon Station, line 6, exit 1