by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
The 16th Korea Queer Cultural Festival (KQCF) held its opening ceremony at Seoul City Hall Square as planned, despite fierce protests from non-affirming Christian groups.
Due to the rising number of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) cases, the KQCF committee decided to minimize the risk of infection by holding the opening ceremony with only 50 staff members. The organization also urged LGBTQ supporters to watch the live-stream of the ceremony on YouTube.
“We cannot stop people coming and joining the opening ceremony, but you should understand that we may not be able to take care of the participants,” Yun Candy, a member of the festival committee, told the Korea Observer.
Despite health concerns, many non-affirming Christians decided to rally outside city hall and protest the opening ceremony after receiving a text message from Professor Gil Won-pyoung, an anti-LGBTQ activist.
The message read: “If you want to go to the Queer Festival on 9th of June do not go to Seoul Square, go across the pedestrian walkway to the other side of the road and wear a mask marked with an X to silently (individually) protest against the homosexuals.”
Although Gil said he understood the risk of contracting MERS at the event, he encouraged Christian protestors to bring their children to the opening ceremony.
“Take your children to Chunggye Square and provide the right values regarding homosexuality,” he wrote in his message. “We have a duty as Koreans to do our utmost best to show our morals, as Korea is the only country to prevent the trending flow of homosexuality.”
Since the early 2000s, KQCF has grown to be one of Asia’s largest LGBT festivals with more than 20,000 participants. This year’s festival consists of four special events scattered throughout the next two weeks, including a film festival and pride parade.
However, last month, the Seoul police rejected the KQCF committee’s application to reserve the Seoul Plaza for the pride parade after anti-LGBTQ protestors applied for the same venue.
The Namdaemun Police Station also recently banned both LGBTQ activists and non-affirming Christians from parading the streets of Seoul on June 28, the final day of the queer festival. In its prohibition notice, the police claimed that simultaneous rallies by the LGBTQ community and non-affirming Christian groups would disrupt pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
It is unclear whether the annual pride parade will still take place this year, especially since nearly 2,000 Koreans remain quarantined after having contact with infected patients. As of June 9, seven people have died from MERS and at least 95 have contracted the virus.
Featured image via KQCF