Thousands of people gathered in front of City Hall in Seoul to attend Seoul Queer Culture Festival on Saturday, marking the event’s return after two years of pandemic hiatus.
With rainbow flags, colorful outfits, face prints and glitters, participants celebrated their identity and the diversity of sexual orientations, and joined the march for LGBT rights.
This year’s event took place with the slogan “Let’s live, unite and go forward.” In the early evening, the event organizer gave an estimate of about 135,000 people taking part.
Addressing the audience, Yang Sun-woo, the head of the festival’s organizing committee, said LGBT people were “changing the world by just living their lives.”
“Even if the world says we are sinners and try to erase homosexuality, we are all beautiful as we are.”
Speeches at the event were at times interrupted by counter-protesters outside the venue, but the speakers carried on. Among them were ambassadors from the US, the European Union, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.
“I just arrived this week. But I wanted to be part of this event to express the strong commitment of the United States to ending discrimination wherever it occurs and to ensuring everyone is treated with respect and humanity,” said new US envoy to Korea Philip Goldberg.
Talking about the counter-protests from opposition groups, Irish Ambassador Julian Clare said Ireland told the audience not to give up on change.
“In my country, we have traveled the journey from out there to in here, so we know that marriage equality and equality in society is possible. Never ever give up the hope that it can happen.”
Saturday’s main event was cut short by sudden heavy rain, though the march continued as planned. The participants, holding umbrellas and wearing raincoats, marched through the streets of central Seoul as trucks carrying drag queens and activists blasted hit K-pop songs.
Choi Ha-eun, an office worker, joined the event for the first time.
“It’s fun and interesting and (I am surprised) to see so many people who are like me here,” Choi said.
When asked about the anti-LGBT protesters nearby, a university student surnamed Lee who traveled from Gyeonggi Province said she was unfazed.
“I think they have too much time on their hands. I’m not bothered. In a way, they are keeping the fighting spirit going,” Lee said.
A drag queen named Summer, wearing a flower-shaped rainbow dress, said she was so happy to be at the event for the first time in three years.
“It’s so exciting to see so many people here after three years. I would love to see my country become a place where celebratory days like today can be every day (for the LGBT community).
While conservative-leaning religious groups are some of the most ardent opponents of sexual minorities and efforts to pass an anti-discrimination law, voices of support are growing among some Christians, said Duho, a member of the Anglican Rainbow Network.
“Individual priests and churchgoers support LGBT rights and they believe doing so is in line with the teaching of the Bible. We decided to form this network with like-minded people.”
The pro-LGBT Anglican group ran a booth for the third time this year and there are more volunteers each year, he said.
“If you are living by the bible completely, you are not allowed to eat cheeseburgers. My favorite quote is that you should try to save the people that the bible tells you to, not the bible itself.”