A photo from a 2014 pride parade in Daegu, South Korea.

In Seoul, the capital of South Korea, there have been pride parades celebrating queer culture for over two decades now. The first ever public event was in the year 2000 with only 50 attendees that took place in the Daehangno part of the city.

South Korea has been known for being more evolved than the Americas in some ways, but also a little behind in others. Rather than being divided by Democratic or Republican, their government is separated by whether you’re an anti-communist socialist or a communist socialist. However, despite their progressive financial policies, they are known for being very religious and anti-queer identities. According to Foreign Policy, around 40-50% of South Koreans align themselves with a religion; 28% of South Koreans are Christians, 20% are Protestants, and 15% are Buddhists. 

However, while religion doesn’t always determine your political beliefs or your views on the LGBTQ+ community–there are obviously people who practice some sort of faith and are queer or allies–the majority of people who are religious, especially from older generations, tend to lean more on the homophobic side. 

South Korea has had some really successful pride events. However, they are different from American or European ones. Most attendees are closeted and wear face masks and/or sunglasses to remain anonymous. There have been many reports of attendee’s pictures being taken of them participating in a pride event by homophobic people to blackmail and out the people involved.

Legally, there have been a lot of protections put in place to help LGBTQ+ people in South Korea, specifically youth, but in recent years lots of those rights and bills have been stripped away due to conservatives complaining.

Gay marriage is still not exactly a legal thing. You cannot get married legally, but many people still hold same-sex marriage ceremonies and consider themselves married. In 2013, a movie director Kim Jho Kwang-Soo and his partner Kim Seung-hwan became the first South Korean queer couple to publicly wed. However, people were so angry that they threw food at the couple during their wedding ceremony. 

In 2022, Seoul had its first pride parade since the Covid-19 pandemic. There has always been backlash against any pride events, but 2022 was a new low. After reading articles and viewing a few videos on the reality of what happened, it was so hard to even watch. There were big groups of protesters protesting the pride parade, whole groups of families who were gathered around holding homophobic signs, yelling slurs, and all around being hateful. Priests had come out from multiple churches, speaking on how homosexuality is a sin, that you can’t change your gender, and even said things like “there’s nothing more beautiful as hetero love.”

However, human beings are resilient. The backlash didn’t stop the very strong and brave queer residents of Korea. They kept marching through the pouring rain announcing their presence, and kept fighting. They held their own signs, yelled their own phrases, and spoke on their own accounts. 

In 2023, the pride parade didn’t happen. It was canceled due to the government shutting it and down and replacing it with a Christian-centered, anti-gay event. 

After knowing the history of what has happened there, it made me really angry to hear about that.

So I got involved. As I speak a moderate amount of Korean, I emailed a great organization called Seoul Queer Culture Festival Organizing Committee (SQCF) on June 1st. On June 3rd, I heard back from the secretary who told me that they are hosting on-site volunteers for the event and that you can donate to their PayPal. 

I want as much support to be given to this cause. It’s so important that human beings are allowed to be treated as such and exercise their humanity. It’s so sad to see how throughout history, no matter where you are, people have been dehumanized and stripped of their power and sense of self because of parts of their identity that they cannot change. 

So if you live near or are planning a trip to South Korea and feel interested in volunteering, I recommend you sign up here.

And if you have any interest in donating, here is the link to donate.

However, if either of those are out of reach, that’s completely understandable. But if you know anyone who can help, make sure to send them this article. 

I hope that Seoul is able to have the pride parade they deserve, and hopefully without so much hate surrounding it. I hope people learn to have a bit more empathy and be a bit more open-minded.
I hope for countries all over the world to become a safer place for all identities. Remember that even if people in your community, family, or circles are not supportive of you, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be supportive of you. You don’t need validation or approval from anyone else on who to be. Your identity is your own. And if you are not a part of the LGBTQ+ community, make sure to give a little extra support to someone who is.

  • MJ (she/her). Likes writing, reading, learning languages, and studying human behavior. Personality type: INTJ