Hecklers outnumber gay-festival-goers in South Korea

Sep 05, 2019

GETTING TO THE recent “Queer Culture Festival” in Incheon was a challenge. Upon emerging from the subway, participants had to pass through a large crowd of protesters who wept, prayed loudly and told passers-by that they would burn in hell. One man had painted his face and bare feet red and wheeled a large wooden cross up and down the street, wearing a red crown of thorns and a pained expression. Lines of police officers and a barrier separated the protesters from the square where gay-rights organisations, a local left-wing party and a handful of foreign embassies had put up their stalls. Later in the day a colourful parade of several hundred dancing people, vastly outnumbered by hecklers, made its way down the surrounding streets under heavy police protection.

That was an improvement on last year, when protesters prevented the organisers from setting up their stalls in the first place and violently attacked the parade. Gay-rights activists in South Korea often have to contend with insults and threats of violence. The authorities do not seem to care much. The organisers of a queer festival in the southern city of Busan recently cancelled a street party following a dispute with the local government over permits. They said they would hold a protest instead. “We just don’t feel safe,” says Lee Jong-kwan, who helped organise the festival...

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