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PRIDE MONTH IN KOREA

It’s that colorful time of year again as LGBTQIA+ Pride Month flashes its rainbow flags across the world. No corner of the free world is left untouched by the liberating light of pride. Though still a new celebration in South Korea, with the first Pride Parade held in the hearty capital of Seoul in the year 2000 with a turn-out of only 50 people, LGBT Pride Month in Korea has only been on its way up for the last 2 decades.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Each year more and more queer people from all backgrounds come out of their shells, to flaunt their identity proudly- even allies and parents of queer children come to show their support. But it isn’t without its downfalls. There is still a considerable amount of opposition that takes place even in the face of the parade, groups of anti-pride organizations and communities gathering on the edges to protest… the protest? It’s dramatic irony by its very definition.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Nevertheless, Seoul Queer Culture festival never fails to create a safe and enjoyable space in the name of queer freedom, support, and rights. With 2 weeks of activities and events thrown, it really is a party to not miss when you walk the streets of Seoul each year in June. Pride Month in Korea is proving to be an unbeatable force.

So, what is the Seoul Queer Culture festival? Formerly known as the Korean Queer Culture festival, it’s a period of 1 to 2 weeks from late-May to mid-June of various film festival activities, queer organized meetups, club nights and loads more, culminating in a Pride Parade right at the end.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

There’s also the Daegu Queer Culture Festival, which has been held every year since 2009, following the same structure of scheduled activities and events. Busan also held its first Queer Culture festival in 2017, which had an extreme amount of opposition from local churches. The festival was a success, and continued to be held the next year, and the year after too.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus outbreak, there’s been inconsistency with the newer iterations of Korean Queer Culture festivals across other cities in Korea, however in 2022 Seoul Queer Culture festival is making a rambunctious comeback with its queer rally, with over 55 brands backing the parade, celebrity endorsements and an estimated 15,000-20,000 participants to take part in the activities. This year’s Pride Month in Korea is already setting up to be a blast.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

The journey to getting here hasn’t been easy. As South Korea is still quite a conservative country, queer culture has yet to thrive in the same way we see in countries with older queer communities such as the UK (which was the first to hold a pride parade) and the US.

However, the glimpses we get of queer culture being celebrated in Korean media are hopeful and deeply soul warming. Holland (Go Taesob) was the first openly Gay K-pop idol in South Korea. He made his debut in 2018, with his stage name paying tribute to the first country to legalize same-sex marriage.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Holland is a big proponent of South Korean Queer Pride, and though he has faced backlash and opposition within his industry and from musical peers, he still perseveres through the hate and stands tall as a face of change in South Korea.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Other celebrities in South Korea who are openly LGBT include famed entertainer Harisu, who has identified as female since childhood and went through gender-reassignment in the 1990’s, and lives as a successful transgender woman, having had a very active career across South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong for decades.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Names such as Aquinas, Som Hein and Former Wassup member Jiae also provide positive influence over bisexual Pride in Korea.

Queer themes are also making its way into the mainstream media through critically acclaimed films and drama’s. Netflix’ Itaewon Class really took queer acceptance into view for broader audiences with a transgender character. Ma Hyeon Yi is a supporting character, and the show follows her character arc as a secondary plot line.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

It tells the story of how she grows with her ambition, working to build a better life. At first, she lives in secret of her queer identity, but eventually we witness a soothing and tear-jerking tale of her self-acceptance alongside the people in her Danbam crew taking her in as she is to no fault.

Towards the end of the show, we see her come into her own skin, with the will and readiness to go through with gender-reassignment with ample of support from the surrounding characters.

You won't stop eating these delicious Korean snacks once you try the first one, do you dare? Happiness here: Seoulbox

Also, Girls Generation’s Seohyun did a stellar performance as Ji An Na in Hello Dracula as a gay woman who lives by the debilitating constrictions of her mother and experiences a harsh break up with her girlfriend of 8 years. The performance was chilling and moving all at once, surprising fans with Seohyun’s ability to portray the character in an authentic and intricate light.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

It’s not easy portraying queer characters in the media, with the dialogue, mannerisms, context- especially when the social understanding of the experiences and personal culture are still widely misinterpreted by non-queer folk. So, it’s absolutely outstanding that we get these amazing performances that aid in bettering everyone’s understanding of queer culture.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Even the Korean lexicon is expanding to accommodate the eruption of queer identity and inclusion in South Korea. Some Konglish words (borrowed words from English) include 프라이드 peu-ra-i-deu (Pride), 엘지비티 el-ji-bi-ti (LGBT), 게이 (Gay), 트랜스젠더 teu-raen-seu-gen-deo (Transgender).

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

But there are Korean words used widely to describe and refer to queer people and queer experiences like 성소수사자 seong-so-su-sa-ja (LGBTQ+), 동성애 dong-seong-ae (homosexuality), 성지향성 seong-ji-hyang-seong (sexual orientation), 양성애 yang-seong-ae (bisexuality), 범성애 beom-seong-ae (pansexuality), 무성애 mu-seong-ae (asexuality) and the verb for coming out is 동성애자임을 밝히다 dong-seong-ae-ja-im-eul bak-hi-da.

동성 means ‘same sex’ so if you see those characters in a word then you know that the topic is on queer themes.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Queer Pride flourishes across Seoul each year with the younger generation, and nothing seems to stop it for long. (Even if the festival was banned in 2015). This year is no different. Whether you’re queer, and ally or just wholly accepting, Seoul Queer Culture Festival is all about inclusion.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

In 2021 the Korean government officially endorsed the festival as imperative to the growing wider Korean culture with #YouAreIncluded, and each year there is more example of wide acceptance and government intervention to traverse the path of change. If you find yourself in Seoul, join the party. Celebrate equality and individuality. Show your support. Be proud of Pride.

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Author: Anya

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