Discriminatory remarks laced meeting that blocked Seoul Pride from use of usual venue

Posted on : 2023-05-16 16:52 KST Modified on : 2023-05-16 16:52 KST
A transcript of the meeting that decided the SQCF’s fate is adding to controversy over Seoul’s decision to grant use of Seoul Plaza to a Christian concert rather than the Pride event
A massive rainbow flag flies over Seoul Plaza during the Seoul Queer Culture Festival in 2022. (Yonhap)
A massive rainbow flag flies over Seoul Plaza during the Seoul Queer Culture Festival in 2022. (Yonhap)

Amid controversy over the Seoul metropolitan government’s move to bar the Seoul Queer Cultural Festival from using Seoul Plaza as its venue on July 1, the Hankyoreh has confirmed that several discriminatory remarks against sexual and gender minorities were made during the meeting held by the civic committee that made the decision to block the Pride festival from using the space.

According to the transcript of the May 3 meeting posted on the website of the committee entrusted with overseeing the use of public plazas in Seoul by the city’s government on Friday, a member of the committee stated, “[Last year] there were mass protests of this event [SQCF] when it took place at Seoul Plaza. Clashes with such mass protests have a direct impact on the safety of citizens.”

“The committee will need to filter out festivals that are so controversial and problematic,” the committee member said.

Each time Pride rolls around, people raise concerns over possible clashes that may arise due to the disruptive rallies led by various conservative and Christian groups. However, rather than addressing the problematic behavior of conservative and Christian groups, who shout hate speech and threaten the safety of the people at the queer cultural festival, Pride is made out to be a “problematic festival” that needs to be “filtered out.”

“While they [LGBTQ people] have the right to freely express themselves, other citizens also have the right to not want to see that, so other people’s opinions have to be given weight as well,” said another member of the committee. Their argument is that denying the existence of a minority group, a violation of that group’s human rights, constitutes a right in itself.

One committee member said that, were they to permit the festival to use the plaza, “it would be as though Korea is recognizing sexual minorities,” which the member said is “not good on an educational level” when it comes to teenagers’ perceptions of sex.

Members of university student groups hold a press conference on May 12 condemning Seoul for blocking the use of Seoul Plaza by the SQCF as “discrimination and the logic of hate.” (Yoon Woon-sik/The Hankyoreh)
Members of university student groups hold a press conference on May 12 condemning Seoul for blocking the use of Seoul Plaza by the SQCF as “discrimination and the logic of hate.” (Yoon Woon-sik/The Hankyoreh)

The attendees of the meeting are anonymous in the transcript. At the meeting, which was attended by nine of the 12 members of the committee, the council denied the SQCF’s planning committee’s request to use Seoul Plaza but approved the use of the venue by the Christian CTS Cultural Foundation for a concert to be held on the same day.

“In the official letter we received from the Seoul metropolitan government on Thursday, it stated that the ‘restoration concert for youth and young adults’ took priority since events related to children and youth have priority under the Seoul Plaza Ordinance,” said Han Chae-yoon, a member of the SQCF’s planning committee.

“However, when looking at the transcript, that does not seem to be the focus of the committee,” Han added. “In fact, the concerns raised in the meeting seem to reveal prejudice and hatred of sexual and gender minorities.”

Park Han-hee, a public interest and human rights lawyer, also criticized the decision, saying, “Pride is not only for sexual and gender minorities, but also for general citizens and ambassadors of various countries.”

“If it is within someone’s rights to deny the existence of LGBTQ people, that means that no matter how much goodwill was put into an event, if someone says that they don’t want to see it, that event will not be held,” Park added.

Twenty organizations from 10 universities, including Seoul National University’s diversity council and Kyung Hee University’s LGBTQ student group Aqua, held a march in front of Sinchon Station in Seoul on Friday to condemn the decision to deny the SQCF the use of Seoul Plaza.

“Where has the mayor’s obligation to not discriminate when it comes to use of the plaza based on the gender, disability, political ideology, or religion of the applicant gone?” they protested.

Meanwhile, the SQCF’s planning committee said that although they have been denied the use of Seoul Plaza, they will hold the festival on July 1 at another location.

By Oh Se-jin, staff reporter; Shim Wu-sam, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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