Recently I had the opportunity to go to Korea’s annual pride festival, held in Seoul in mid July. Coming from Canada, pride festivals are abundant, fun, and safe. The most of anyone’s worries are generally what they are going to wear for the festival. In South Korea however, the same cannot be said. While the younger population is generally accepting of differing orientations and identities, the older population generally remains rooted in tradition, sometimes even holding the belief that homosexuality is a disease brought to Korea by foreigners. This is only amplified by various religious leaders in high positions of power who vehemently object to all things gay.
This begs the question – is it safe to go to gay pride in Seoul?
The answer is absolutely. There will be tons of protesters, but you don’t need to pay them any mind. The only violence I encountered was an old Korean lady grabbing my arm asking me if I read the bible.
Here’s what to expect from the Seoul pride festival:
- This year it was held in the large park in front of city hall
- It will be surrounded by barriers on all side, with police guarding the main entrance
- Police will not allow protesters inside (or even near the entrance in most cases) but you will be allowed to pass without a problem
- Inside will be a friendly atmosphere with tons of people, food, drinks, and performances
- There will be a counter-pride festival set up not too far in the distance by the aforementioned religious ministries
- The counter-festival will sing amazing grace as loud as they possibly can
- They may also scream, cry, and bang on large drums
- There will be a parade after
- The time or route of the parade will not be announced until last minute to stop the protesters from blocking the road (which has happened almost every year)
Overall it was a wonderful event with friendly people, good food, and great entertainment. While I had to leave early to meet friends at Ultra Korea, I found myself wanting to stay later and later. If you find yourself in Seoul in the early summer, I suggest you check out their ever-growing LGBTQ+ pride festival formally known as the Korea Queer Culture Festival.