SEOUL, KR — (05-05-23) — In a blow to LGBTQ Rights in South Korea, the organizers of the country’s biggest Pride parade, Seoul Queer Culture Festival, said they were denied their annual permit. The organization is vowing to press ahead with their event, even after the Seoul Metropolitan Government denied them permission to use the central plaza where the celebration is usually held.

The administrative decision is being viewed as another blow to the LGBTQ community in a socially conservative country that is moving at a glacial pace when it comes to recognizing LGBTQ civil rights.

“The festival will not be stopped and will take place on July 1,” said Yang Sun-woo, head of the organizing committee for Seoul Queer Culture Festival. “The committee is holding an emergency meeting this week to consider holding the event at a different venue.” said Sun-Woo.

She continued…“We were unfairly denied access to the public space where South Korea’s LGBTQ community has celebrated pride every summer for years,” said Woo, calling the metropolitan government’s decision “discriminatory” and “un-transparent.”

Seoul City officials said in their defense that they had received two applications to use Seoul Plaza, a large green space outside City Hall that is a focal point for demonstrations and events, on July 1. They gave priority to a Christian group requesting to hold a youth-oriented concert there over the Pride parade.

Rainbow Action, a coalition of sexual minority groups in South Korea, accused Seoul City of “aligning with homophobia and discrimination” by allowing a Christian group to “block our gathering.”

Especially when city officials know that the annual PRIDE Parade attracts tens of thousands of pride participants that have gathered at Seoul Plaza in front of the South Korean capital’s City Hall every year since 2014, except for a two-year hiatus in 2020 and 2021 due to the covid-19 pandemic.

While PRIDE turnout is impressive, LGBTQ rights remain a contentious issue in South Korea, amid entrenched gender norms and dominant social conservatism.

In fact in 2022, over 15,000 counter protesters backed by Christian and socially conservative groups rallied against the annual Pride Parade event, yelling homophobic slogans through loudspeakers into the rainbow-filled Seoul Plaza. It’s no wonder there is always a heavy police presence during PRIDE Season in Seoul.

City authorities said they made a lawful and impartial decision about the usage of the plaza. “Based on municipal ordinances … events for children and teenagers get a priority when requests are filed for a same date,” said Jeong Sang-hun, administrative director at Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Article by: Paul Goldberg, Staff Writer

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