The Korea Herald


Seoul refuses to give permission for pride parade

LGBTQ+ rights group accuses Seoul city govt. of condoning bigotry, discrimination

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : May 4, 2023 - 13:48

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The Seoul Metropolitan Government said Thursday it has turned down a request to hold a pride parade in July to advocate for the social acceptance and rights of sexual minorities at Seoul Plaza in central Seoul.

The organizing committee of the Seoul Queer Culture Festival on Wednesday was denied permission to use Seoul Plaza to hold the event on July 1. The Seoul Plaza event was to be a part of a 17-day festival for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and more community, which kicks off on June 22.

According to the municipal government Thursday, the LGBTQ+ rights group and Christian broadcasting company CTS Culture Foundation -- intending to host a concert for youth wellness and recovery -- both applied on the same day 90 days ahead of time to use the 13,200-square-meter plaza in front of Seoul City Hall on July 1, and the authorities gave CTS Culture Foundation preference.

The Seoul city government, led by conservative Mayor Oh Se-hoon, said the decision was made based on a municipal bylaw that an event designed for children and adolescents‘ well-being is given priority when multiple applications overlap for the same dates. It added that both of the applicants refused Seoul’s request to reschedule their events.

It also denied rumors that the municipal government had provided financial support to CTS Culture Foundation for the youth well-being and recovery concert.

The decision drew a strong backlash from rights groups representing the LGBTQ+ community.

Activists argued that the scheduled event by the religious group is designed to incite bigotry toward LGBTQ+ people and is an event for youth well-being in name only. It also denounced Seoul for neglecting a bylaw that stipulates there can be no discrimination when deciding who has the right to use Seoul Plaza.

“Beneath Seoul‘s stance (to prioritize a Christian event for youth over one for equal rights for sexual minorities) lies hatred toward sexual minorities,” rights group Rainbow Action Against Sexual Minority Discrimination of Korea said in a statement Thursday.

“Seoul is turning a blind eye to the notion that the event was motivated by bigotry toward the sexual minorities, and is rather condoning bigotry and discrimination,” it continued.

The SQCF said in a statement that it would find ways to stick to its plan.

A spokesperson from CTS Culture Foundation said it pushed ahead with the plan to host the event “to avoid the rainy season.”

The first LGBTQ+ festival in Seoul took place in 2000 with some 2,000 participants.

The city‘s first pride parade in Seoul Plaza was held in 2015, after a landmark ruling by an administrative court in 2015 overturned the police’s decision to ban the parade there.

A Christian-affiliated Korean political party, the Christian Party, lost a legal battle in 2016 as it sought to block the festival for the social acceptance and rights of sexual minorities.

Pride parades have taken place in Seoul each year since then, except for a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, with organizers reporting an estimated 135,000 participants taking to the streets in 2019.