More than 400 non-affirming Christians desperately tried to disrupt the Opening Ceremony of the Korean Queer Cultural Festival (KQCF) this week by handing out inflammatory leaflets, screaming through megaphones, provoking arguments with inflammatory remarks directed at LGBT members, speaking in tongues directly with the lord, and displaying a series of hate filled signs.
The propensity and impact of the hate is best summed up using a queer expat’s experience as he approached the event.
Mr Genesis’s heart began to beat faster as he walked to exit 5 of City Hall Station on June 9.
“Do they know I’m one of the queers?” he asked himself as he faced some haters.
To the LGBT community, their hate was visible – a simple black X drawn on their facemasks to signify their opposition to homosexuality.
“I wondered if they would notice my rainbow bracelet,” Genesis thought.
Crippled by fear, Genesis said he hid the bracelet and sheepishly made his way out of exit 5. The emotions he was experiencing are not unusual for someone in his position.
“As I ascended out onto Seoul Plaza all I could see and hear was hate,” he said.
“Hate by people who suppose themselves as Christians. Hate speech scrawled on placards and hate speech echoing through the air. I looked into the distance and saw where the Opening Ceremony was to be held.”
The LGBT community and protestors were separated into sections by a yellow plastic fence that said: Police Line, Do Not Cross.
There was the human chain of police standing in front of the temporary fence.
“Taking in this was rather overwhelming. In Sydney, Australia I had experienced a few offhand comments against Mardi Gras but here in Seoul was a horde of hundreds of very vocal protestors simply trying to silence us.”
Some of the protestors tried to break outside of the police line.
“I witnessed scuffles with police as they tried to get in. I looked across the plaza. Would they mob me as I tried to make it across? This was a valley of intolerance and fear.”
Genesis said his anxiety calmed when he was permitted into the LGBT section.
There were other members of the LGBT community gently saying hello to each other, calmly displaying placards scrawled with Truth and Love.
“There seemed to be an excitement that did not give way to the monstrosity just beyond that yellow fence,” Genesis said. “I placed myself on the grass and sighed in relief thinking that revolution doesn’t have to be loud,”
More than 250 members of the LGBT showed up for the opening ceremony despite the KQCF’s request that people watch the event online from home to minimise the MERS contagion.
More than 1,400 computers accessed the live feed of the opening ceremony with some people hosting events at their homes with multiple people viewing a screen projection of the event.
Ambassadors from six countries attended and spoke at the event demonstrating their support for the LGBT community in Korea.
“Life is hard for sexual minorities in Korea. The Queer Festival is a rare opportunity for them to walk the street with pride and let the world know homosexual people exist,” Yoo Ji-young, executive director of the KQCF, said.
Protestors mostly came from non-affirming Christian groups although no churches, prior to publication, took credit for the protests, letters, or placards.
A significant amount of protestors held signs with similar hate filled messages. Examples of signs, translated into English:
“Fags out, ex-gays are the human rights!”
“Seoul citizens, cast out the fags.”
“Mayor Park Won-soon please protect our children. Parents oppose the Seoul Square Fag Festival. Coalition of parents for a moral next generation.”
“Can queer create the next generation? No!”
“Believe in Lord Jesus. Only Jesus.”
“Homosexuality will destroy humanity – be gone.”
“Fags dishonour ancestors.”
“Prevent fag’s bad human rights. Should be cancelled.”
“Cancel fags promoting spread of human aids.”
“Aids + MERS virus. Fag festival combination opposition. Fags will lead to an AIDS epidemic.”
“Seoul Mayor Park Won-Soon, stop homosexual inclination.”
“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s new country will be brought down by fags.”
“96% of people are against fags.”
“Worse than MERS is fags.”
While many protestors held these signs and listened to the protest MC loudly broadcasting his message via subwoofers, some of these protestors spoke in tongues, had seizures, attempted to provoke violence from the LGBT community and police, and handed letters in English containing hurtful and inaccurate information.
Our reporter Philip Iglauer filmed a lady yelling her opinion in his direction.
“We must not perish because of homosexuality,” she yelled in Korean. “This is a land written by Jesus’s blood. Our people’s lives have been spared because Jesus spilled his blood. We must not perish because of homosexuality.”
Peter Daley talked with one protestor holding a sign in English that said “People[‘s] body is the temple of god – not for homosexuality.”
“Her main concern, apart from the ‘sin’ aspect, is the declining birth rate so I asked her if she plans to have lots of kids,” Peter said.
“My husband doesn’t want children,” she replied.
Levi Kaufman described one older lady handing out letters titled “Foreigners who inciting homosexuality” as pleasant looking and like an Aunt.
But the message she was spreading in the letter was far from pleasant.
“Homosexuality is a serious sex addiction…They live a miserable life. It is a lie that homosexuality is in-born trait. Homosexuality can be cured…The true human rights protection is to help them escape from homosexuality…[We] truly love people with homosexuality and that’s why [we] oppose homosexuality. [We] want to help them escape from AIDS and other STDs, from a miserable life…Foreigners should not interfere with the ethics problems in Korea,” the letter said.
Kaufman read the letter and challenged the Aunt who claimed to be an educated person with a PhD.
“I told the lady handing them out that homosexuality precluded Christianity and western influence in Korea and that her message was bigoted idiocy in more ways than I cared to count. She maintained hers was a message of love,” he said.
The same lady was also handing out an open letter to ambassadors at the event, which stated that Korea is “the land of great moral virtue” for more than 5,000 years and demanded ambassadors leave Korea immediately if they do not withdraw LGBT support.
Rev. Kim Kyu-ho, secretary general of Countermeasure Committee for Homosexual Problems, claims that the queer festival is a cultural invasion by those who want to implant their corrupt sex culture in Korea and Asia.
“This is a clear cultural invasion, an attempt to introduce the corrupt sex culture of the west. That’s why we are against it,” he said.
Exploring the contents of the letter
Associate Pastor Daniel Payne of the Open Doors Metropolitan Community Church said he did not see love on the faces of the protestors at the Opening Ceremony like the letter suggested.
“I saw pure hatred. Seething hatred. The kind of hatred that contorts faces unrecognizably. In other words, the opposite of absolutely everything Jesus stood for in his life and ministry.”
Not all the 10 million self-identifying Christians in Korea are opposed to homosexuality. There are several affirming Churches that open their doors to homosexuals regardless of their creed.
Associate Pastor Payne said that these loud protestors do not represent Christianity in Korea.
“Not only that, their hatred is mixed together with a vitriolic strand of racism and xenophobia. For example, they state that homosexuality is a western disease or import. I beg to disagree with them. The toxic import into Korea is fundamentalist Christianity, not homosexuality,” he said.
Homosexuality is a natural phenomenon found in over 1,500 species. Experts say homophobia is an unnatural phenomenon found in only one: humans.
Associate Pastor Payne is a gay man who said, in his experience, people can change behaviors based on religious and social pressure, but not sexual orientation.
“Attempting to even change sexually oriented behaviors is psychologically and emotionally damaging, and often leads to self harm or even suicide,” he said.
A survey by the Korean Sexual-Minority Culture and Rights Center reveals that 76 percent of young Koreans who identify with a sexual minority have considered suicide and 58 percent have attempted suicide.
Lee June-young, a board member of an affirming church and active member of the LGBT community, told The Korea Observer earlier this year that he blames the death of his very close gay friend on a homophobic church pastor.
“On Christmas Eve [my friend] called me and had a handful of sleeping pills. He was calling out for help and wanted to live. His pastor and pastor’s wife were very homophobic. It was the pastor and pastor’s wife’s fault that he died.”
Park Joo-won says he had a boyfriend at 15 and wanted to be a good Christian. His pastor and church were also against homosexuality.
“I naturally tried to contain and get rid of the urges toward boys and when I was in high school, the church started to bash homosexuality. At this point, I felt immense guilt and was disgusted.”
Park said that he has hidden his sexual orientation from his family.
“In my case, if they ever found out, they would bring me to the chief pastor of the church so he can sacrifice himself and wash my sins away,” he said.
“The pastor prays for those who have sinned and the sins of the believers will supposedly be washed away at the cost of the pastor’s suffering.”
Park said there are two ways Korean families try to cure their children of homosexuality.
One is through the church and they have various methods to try to extract homosexuality from an individual. The other is through psychiatric therapy.
Both of these are very traumatic experiences for the confused young person.
Payne said the healthiest sexual self-expression is our God-given sexual expression, straight and queer.
“Understood in its cultural, historical and linguistic contexts, the Bible is silent on living homosexual relationships. And maybe, just maybe, Jesus had something positive to say about the “queer other” in Matthew.”
In Matthew 19: 11-12 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Genesis said the protestors ignore the humanitarianism of their Christ and homosexuals humanity.
“Where are our feelings of love? Our right to bodily autonomy! Of the need for justice? Our desire for self-expression? Our demand for equality? How can they scientifically prove it is not an in-born trait? How is it cured? With horrible psychologically damaging aversion therapy? With self-denial are we cured?” he asked rhetorically.
The legality of the protest
While the police did a great job to separate the protestors from the LGBT event participants and prevent mass violence, the question of why the protestors were allowed to use the public space has not been answered.
Police failed to return our several calls seeking an explanation as to why the protests were allowed to go ahead.
Questions still need to be asked about the legality of the protest.
Genesis said there are feelings of anger towards such an injustice and feelings of disappointment about the protestors at the opening ceremony.
“It highlights just how regressive Korea still is in some aspects and that the State sides with Church. I’m angry because we are trying to be silenced by a group who is so free to be vocal with their hate.”
Genesis is proud to have attended the event and support the LGBT community in Korea.
“I have rights as a citizen of a Western nation and although they aren’t extended here in Korea I strongly believe that as a fellow human being that I should fight for the rights of those who are oppressed wherever I may be,” he added.
The LGBT group and Christian protestors will likely clash once again at the Pride Parade on June 28 as the KQCF has decided to defy the police’s ban to have a march.
On May 30, police rejected the KQCF’s application to hold the parade, citing concerns over public safety and traffic disruption.
“Even if police do not overturn the ban by June 28, we will still hold the parade. We have held the event for 15 years without any problem,” KQCF director Yoo said.
For more photos of the event see www.daehanmindecline.com