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Daegu mayor blasts police chief over Pride parade

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : June 18, 2023 - 14:00

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This photo shows an aerial view of participants in the Daegu Queer Culture Festival marching along Dongseongno in Jung-gu, Daegu on Saturday. (Yonhap) This photo shows an aerial view of participants in the Daegu Queer Culture Festival marching along Dongseongno in Jung-gu, Daegu on Saturday. (Yonhap)

Daegu Mayor Hong Joon-pyo has urged for the dismissal of the city's top police official for what he labeled giving "unlawful" permission to the city's Pride parade, where some 1,500 participants celebrated in the city's downtown on Saturday and advocated for the rights and acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

"Permission to assemble does not translate into permission to violate others' rights," Hong, the conservative mayor who was the runner-up for the People Power Party's nomination in the last presidential race, said in a statement via social media on Saturday, based on the argument that the festival needs to apply for city permission if it occupies the street and causes inconveniences such as clogged bus traffic.

"Do the police really serve the country if they block public transit buses on Daegu's most bustling street (Dongseongno) and let the protesters' buses in for the sake of protesters who illegally occupied the street? ... I'm not stopping the Queer Festival. I'm just asking them to get permission to occupy the street open for the public and then hold the festival."

Hong, 69, said that Kim Soo-young, chief of the Daegu Metropolitan Police Agency, should be sacked for "causing inconveniences to ordinary citizens."

"I can no longer rely on him to ensure public safety in Daegu," Hong said, adding he would have sacked the chief police officer if he had the power to do so. In Korea's system, a city's police chief is nominated by the president, Yoon Suk Yeol, also of the conservative People Power Party.

Daegu police refuted the claims in a separate statement Saturday, saying the decision to permit the Daegu Queer Culture Festival was "based on case law" that discouraged authorities from taking administrative actions to block such pride parades -- apparently referring to a 2015 court ruling that overturned a police decision to block such an event.

According to Korea's Assembly and Demonstration Act, a Pride parade does not require city permission and the organizers need only to register the event and how many people will gather there with the police. Although the act stipulates that police may impose a ban on specific demonstrators if need be, the 2015 decision ruled that police cannot ban Pride parades, turning down the police's argument that the occurrence of physical violence is highly likely.

Hong made a surprise appearance at the scene Saturday, arguing that the court ruling "is not designed to permit the use of a street for the public without permission."

The row came hours after police and the municipal government clashed over the legitimacy of Daegu's Pride parade held Saturday. Some 500 public servants and 1,500 police officers faced off at the scene of the LGBTQ+ festival early Saturday morning, a few hours before the event kicked off.

The public servants refused to clear the way for the members of law enforcement, who were attempting to control traffic and prevent clashes between those against the festival and the festival participants. The public servants withdrew from the scene hours later, allowing the festival to proceed as planned.

Saturday's festival was the second of its kind held in Korea so far this year, following the Chuncheon Queer Cultural Festival held May 14 in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province.

It was also the 15th Daegu Queer Culture Festival to be held in Dongseongno in Daegu.

Daegu Mayor Hong Joon-pyo (center, front row) speaks to reporters at the scene of the Pride parade in Daegu, Saturday. (Yonhap) Daegu Mayor Hong Joon-pyo (center, front row) speaks to reporters at the scene of the Pride parade in Daegu, Saturday. (Yonhap)

Legal actions against the festival might be nothing new to the organizers, but this year's opposition appears to be the toughest in recent memory, with the conservative mayor's backing.

A religious activist group and an association of area street vendors in May accused the organizers and LGBTQ+ rights activist Bae Jin-gyo of illegally occupying the street and selling goods at the 2022 festival. The accusers followed up by filing an injunction to ban the parade, which Hong supported but was rejected by a Daegu district court two days before the festival.

The Daegu Queer Cultural Festival organizers said in a statement earlier this month that such legal actions constitute "a show of hatred and violence against sexual minorities."

Meanwhile, LGBTQ+ rights groups are looking to hold what will be Korea's biggest queer cultural festival of the year on July 1 at Euljiro in Seoul. The festival in the country's capital city had taken place at the 13,200-square-meter Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall from 2015 to 2022, except for a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizers of this year's event, however, were not granted permission by the Seoul Metropolitan Government for use of the plaza, as the city -- led by conservative People Power Party Mayor Oh Se-hoon -- instead granted use of the space to a Christianity-based group planning a "concert" for youth wellness and recovery, citing that priority should be given to events intended for children's well-being when requests overlap.