South Korea’s Pride Parade has been rejected by the Namdaemun Police Station and Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency due to pressure from conservative groups according to the Korea Queer Cultural Festival’s (KQCF) organising committee.
The Pride Parade originated in Seoul in 2000 with only 50 people attending. Last year around 20,000 people attended.
However, for the first time in Korean history non-affirming church groups blocked the pride parade in 2014 causing major traffic jams and tension between the Christian groups, the LGBT members and the community.
“This is the sixteenth year of the Pride Parade and last year the hate groups started to try to ban sexual minority groups,” Yun Candy said.
“Mostly they are conservative Christians, they came to our pride parade and sat in front of our parade and stopped it for five hours,” she said.
A police officer at the Namdaemun Police Station claims that they rejected the application because they expected a major standoff between LGBT and Christian groups.
“We are not sure who caused the four-hour long standoff during last year’s parade because it took place outside our jurisdiction,” he said.
Simon said that he witnessed thousands of non-affirming Christians and their supporters lay on the ground to prevent the 2014 Pride Parade participants moving through the street.
Photographs from the event demonstrate Simon’s recollection of events to be accurate.
“As the parade started, Christians had already blocked the road that leads to Yonsei University,” Simon said.
“So, slowly the parade march took a diversion. But, the protesters blocked them too. So we were blocked for hours by people who lay on the floor.”
Simon alleges that some of the protesters had babies and there were many senior citizens.
“The people on the floor were cordoned off by the police but it took police a long while to actually try to move them. Also, many of the protesters shouted at the pride goers and some spat at us too,” he said.
Fast forward to early May 2015 and the KQCF organising committee attempted to apply for public space for the Pride Parade at Seoul Police Agency but were rejected due to the anti-gay Love Your Country, Love Your Children Movement – a supposedly Christian Group – applying for the same public space for an event.
The LGBT community then tried to secure space in Namdaemun. The police station were to accept applications on May 29 for rallies on June 28.
The same Christian group lined up outside this police station on May 20, more than one week before the station would accept applications.
The LGBT community then lined up May 20 to submit their application May 28.
Both groups stayed up all night standing or sleeping in line taking turns going to the toilet and getting food.
The Korea Observer covered this and encouraged expats to assist the LGBT community by either lining up or bringing food.
Several individuals, groups and non-profit organizations donated food and The Bird Riders delivered that food for free to LGBT supporters in line.
The community’s efforts were in vein.
The Namdaemun Police Station issued a prohibition notice on May 30, stating that they are banning street marches from both advocates and opponents of the Pride Parade based on Article 8 of the Act on Assemblies and Demonstrations.
“Rallies may be banned wherever two or more rallies are planned by groups with conflicting goals and on Article 12 where rallies may be banned whenever there is a possibility of inconvenience to pedestrian and vehicle traffic,” the prohibition notice states.
Article 12 states that the head of the competent police authority may ban an assembly or demonstration on a main road of a major city if it is deemed to be necessary for smooth flow of traffic.
“I think the police are scared, worried, or afraid of the conservative Christian groups,” Yun said.
Due to the application rejection Kang Myung-jin, chief organizer of KQCF organizing committee, said they tried to deliver a complaint letter and request a meeting with the head officer who made this decision.
“The police said there’s no head officer today and banned to enter the police station without any reason. After quarrelling for a few minutes we were told to supply the documents to the Public Service Center,” Kang said.
“We urgently wanted an answer so we asked to arrange a meeting that night.”
Kang said they were informed by a trusted source that the head officer was inside the Namdaemun Police Station.
“So we said to the police at the station that we were going up to meet him. They threw us away physically manhandling us using violence,” he alleged.
The KQCF released a press statement Monday to express their concerns about the pride parade’s prohibition.
“This decision is suppressing the right of sexual minorities to speak up against society, as well as instigating hatred and violence against sexual minorities. Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and Seoul Namdaemun-gu Police Station should withdraw its ban on outdoor rallies on May 30th 2015 at once, and should guarantee the Pride Parade of KQCF to be held safely and peacefully,” the statement reads.
The KQCF started a petition that they hope to deliver to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.