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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The 16th Annual KQCF Pride Parade

Last Sunday brought the 16th Annual KQCF (Korean Queer Culture Festival) Pride Parade, something that this year almost didn’t happen. Earlier this month the police issued a notice banning the parade from taking place due to there being too many other rallies occurring on the same day, which ‘’coincidently’’ included an opposing anti-LGBT demonstration. The reason being that it would simply just cause too much disruption to traffic and pedestrians in the area.

Shortly before this on May 21st the Seoul police announced a new controversial procedure stating that any groups that wanted to submit a rally declaration for the date of June 28th must do so in person on May 29th and permission would be granted on a first come first serve basis. Unfortunately as soon as this statement was released, news came to light that members of the ‘Love Your Country, Love Your Children Movement’ group led by pastor Song Chun-gil, had already started standing in line over a week before the submission date, in an obvious attempt to stop the parade from happening.

'Pace' Rainbow flag'

Several other right winged Christian groups also camped outside the Namdaemun Police Station for most of May to try and stop the parade from taking place. They initially succeeded in doing so meaning that the date had to be changed from June 13th to June 28th. After this set back the organisers were determined not to let the same thing happen again, however unfortunately it did. After a long long fight, on June 16th a South Korean Court finally overturned the ban and ruled in favour of the KQCF Pride Parade. They stated that the police’s reasoning was invalid and stressed the importance of freedom of speech as members of a democratic society.

The writings on the flag!

Finally the day arrived and the LGBT community and their supporters from all over Korea and in fact the world, joined in their thousands to celebrate Pride. The protesters were also there in their masses and it really was unlike any other pride I have ever been to before. Coming from the UK where we have marriage equality and its generally a safe and open place to be, it was quite shocking to witness the amount of people protesting against the cause. Most of what they were saying however, was in Korean and for the first time whilst living here it made me thankful for not fully understanding the language.

''DMZ''!

 The protesters on the other side of the ''DMZ''!
 
The protesters played their music as loud as they could in an attempt to drown out the festival’s own sounds to (I think) no avail. They also used mega phones, banners and at points pure force to try to get their point across. But (for the most part) instead of retaliating and creating a war between the two sides, the LGBT community, determined not to let anything ruin their day of celebration, stood their ground and chose to quite literally laugh in their faces. The only anger that was expressed from what I could see, was from the protesters themselves, which I think only enforced the fantastic atmosphere that was felt during the entire event.

 Sooo many police!
 
 
Doing an awesome job!
 
The supporters created a wall of safety around the edge of the festival and held rainbow coloured strings to further emphasize the unity that was felt during the whole day. The parade itself went without fault and it really was an incredible experience to be a part of. As we all marched together to the sound of K pop and Lady Gaga’s ‘Born this Way’ you really could feel a sense of utter liberation flowing through the air. The police did a fantastic job at creating barriers and removing any disobedient protesters from the area, and although there were only a few floats, they were all really unique and aspirational.

 Flags during the parade!
 
...true story!
 
 All in all I can truly say that this was the best Pride I have ever been to. I felt extremely proud to be a part of it and for a country that still has a long way to go in LGBT equality, it certainly was a step in the right direction.

 Well done KQCF, well done!!!

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