Seoul Queer Culture Festival allowed to resume after 3 years

SEOUL-- The LGBTQ community in South Korea has been conditionally allowed to resume an annual festival in the heart of Seoul next month after a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the city government said Wednesday.

Organizers of the Seoul Queer Culture Festival have been permitted to hold the annual festivity at Seoul Plaza for one day on July 16 on the condition that participants refrain from excessive body exposure as well as selling or exhibiting harmful pornography banned under the Juvenile Protection Act, the government said.

The conditional approval by a private-public joint committee on the use of public plazas in Seoul came about two months after the organizers requested the festival be held for six days from July 12-17 at the plaza in the center of the capital.

Though the festival is limited to one day, organizers will be allowed to use the plaza from the afternoon of July 15 to set up the stage and make other preparations, the government added.

The Seoul festival for the LGBTQ community and its supporters had been held every year since 2000 in various neighborhoods around the city before moving to Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall in 2015. The festival at Seoul Plaza then continued until 2019 before switching to online events due to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. The last offline festival in 2019 drew a record crowd of about 150,000 participants.

Since 2016, the metropolitan government has asked the private-public committee, which consists of 10 members, including civic activists, professors, lawyers, politicians and civil servants, to deliberate on the applications for the Seoul Queer Culture Festival.

"The private-public committee decided to shorten the period of this year's festival for fear of a possible clash between participants and other people," said an official.

"The organizers will be notified that the use of Seoul Plaza will be restricted for the next festival if the proposed conditions are violated," the official said.

Meanwhile, the festival organizers held a news conference in front of City Hall on Wednesday, complaining that the private-public committee's deliberation itself on their applications is a discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

"Seoul Plaza can be used by anyone who reports to authorities. But the city government has applied a permit system only to LGBTQ people wanting to use the plaza. It's clearly a discriminatory administration," said a festival organizer.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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