Monday, June 3, 2013

Finally, Gay Pride in Seoul 2013

A parade float

Last weekend, there was a gay pride march in Hongdae, the area near Hongik University in Seoul.

Now, I have been attending gay pride events since I was a teenager, starting with NYC. They're always high energy family events where everyone seemingly has a spectacular time. I've attended pride events in New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Buenos Aires.
Standing next to a sign

They have been having an annual queer festival in Seoul for about 13 years now, and they've obviously held them in the time I was here. However, gay pride, or the Korea Queer Cultural Festival as it is known locally, isn't a widely known event. Most people have no idea it even exists. As a result, I have always tended to not get wind of the festival happening. This explains why I missed it both times the first two years I was here. In 2010 and 2011, I heard about the event after it was held, which was unfortunate.

Last Friday, the day before, I heard of this year's event from a small post on facebook. I knew I was going to attend this time!

Being L, G, B or T is quite taboo in Korea in general (and yes, it's taboo in much of the USA as well). In the years that I have been here, I feel like I've seen the dialogue at least being started, which is an improvement. People, the young in particular, are more open minded to the existence and tolerance of LGBT folks.

This year, the event was held in Hongdae. I wanted to see the parade in particular, so I used this map as a reference. I went to the neighborhood, ate lunch and studied with a friend. We then walked outside at about 4:30 pm to look for the parade.

The parade was supposed to begin at that time, but at first we had trouble even finding it! The local vendors didn't know what was even going on, and this was despite them displaying rainbow flags for the event!
A street food vender displaying a rainbow flag

We walked around, and eventually ran into the official parade route. Turned out, we had arrived just in time.

The parade itself was cool. In the past, they held parades, but they were known for being underwhelming and all of the participants wore masks. I even heard rumors that you weren't allowed to take photos.

Marchers holding a sign
At least, this year was different. It was closer to a typical parade held in the west: There were the GLBT advocacy groups marching. You had the drag queens and floats with dancing half-naked men. The loud music and the cheering crowds! Some wore masks, but I saw plenty of faces out and proud. Lots of people joined the parade by just hopping over the fence and walking with the other marchers.

Many of the participants carried signs showing their pride, and even simply declaring that they exist in society, and that they should not be ignored. Marchers called for an end to discrimination against LGBT individuals.

It was exciting to see in Korea, though shorter and smaller to what I'm used to seeing. It was still fun nonetheless, and I'm glad I finally had a chance to attend!

Personally, I only stuck around for the parade, but there's more to the Queer Cultural Festival. It also includes music concerts, presentations, booths and parties.

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