June is rapidly approaching, and that means it’s time to pump up the bass and get ready for pride! All over the world, major cities will be holding weekend-long, week-long, and sometimes month-long gay pride events, festivals, and parades. While you probably won’t find rainbow flags streaming through Nampo-dong or leather-clad men dancing to electronic music on the street in Kyungsung (unless it’s 5am and Kino Eye has kicked out the last of the late-night revelers), our neighbors to the north have put together a week-long pride festival complete with a parade.
The Korea Queer Culture Festival celebrated its tenth anniversary last June and will be held this year in downtown Seoul from June 2nd through the 13th; the parade will take place on Saturday the 12th. The festival is small, but scrappy; for being held in a country in which homosexuality is regarded as non-existent, taboo, abnormal, or perverse, having thousands of participants take to the streets with pride in their hearts and on their sleeves is a powerful commentary on the changing social climate in Korea.
For those who fear the retributions of coming out — losing a job, being disowned from family, becoming a social outcast, all of which are real threats if you’re queer — the festival offers special stickers to wear for participants who do not wish to be photographed or videotaped.
Despite its small stature, the Korea Queer Culture Festival has everything you’d want in a pride festival — music, food, dancing, lots of rainbows, drinking, dancing, general merriment… did I happen to mention dancing?
If you can’t make it to Seoul for the festival and you are looking for a queer community, no worries — they exist right here in your own backyard! Busan has its own gayborhoods (apologies to Toronto for borrowing a piece of their nomenclature); there are gay bars in Seomyeon and Beomil-Dong and active LGBTQ social groups that are open to natives and expats alike. For more information on Seoul Pride, visit www.kqcf.org, and to find out more about Korea’s LGBTQ communities, neighborhoods, organizations, and safe spaces, visit Utopia Asia’s website. Now, wrap yourself in rainbows, and Happy Pride!