Buddhists Lend Support as Thousands Celebrate LGBT Rights in Seoul
As thousands of people turned out on the streets of Seoul in support of South Korea’s 18th Korea Queer Culture Festival (KQCF), which began last weekend, they were accompanied for the first time by officials from the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism—the representative order of traditional Korean Buddhism—in a show of support for social equality and acceptance for sexual minorities.
A record 85,000 people were reported to have attended last Saturday’s highlight parade carrying banners and rainbow flags in a demonstration of pride and opposition to homophobia, despite inclement weather. “LGBT is love!” some participants chanted through the rain as they paraded beneath rainbow umbrellas. (Korea JoongAng Daily)
“[The] Buddha has taught us [that] everyone, regardless of his or her sexual orientation, can attain perfect enlightenment. Sexual minorities must not be discriminated against,” said Hyo Rok, a senior nun and professor at Seoul University of Buddhism. (FirstPost)
While homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea, rights for the gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities remain sensitive and politically unpopular in the country’s conservative, tradition-bound society.
“This year our new President Moon Jae-in has commented that he ‘does not like homosexuality,’ which not only hurt and frustrated the queer community, but cemented the idea that queer issues are not urgent and can be ignored,” said festival director Yang Eun-oh. (The Korea Herald)
An estimated 15,000 police personnel were on duty to ensure the proceedings were peaceful and to deter any potential conflict between festival supporters and anti-LGBT protestors, who have been a vocal fixture during the annual event. The festival’s growing popularity has, in particular, upset Korea’s more conservative Protestant church groups, which have millions of followers and wield significant political clout. No violence has been reported by local media.
Gay rights activists say they have seen significant progress in recent years, with surveys of the Korean public showing greater tolerance, particularly among young people, along with growing participation in pride marches, since the first parade in 2000, when only 50 people attended.
“Though the weather isn’t great, we’re happy that we can all get together to celebrate who we are,” said a 25-year-old woman surnamed Lee, who joined the festival with her partner, 24-year-old Jeong. “Though some are holding rallies against us, we are happy to proudly show them who we are.” (Korea JoongAng Daily)
Also participating in the celebrations for the first time this year is the state rights watchdog, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, which sent representatives alongside other human rights groups, embassies, companies, and pro-LGBT university clubs, which set up more than 100 booths at Seoul Plaza, the main venue. At a booth festooned with a banner declaring: “The world without discrimination is the world of Buddha,” Jogye officials welcomed LGBT groups to talk about their hardships.
A progressive Christian group also offered support, emphasizing that the Bible offers multiple teachings against discrimination. “The Bible teaches us to love and show compassion to each other,” a pastor was quoted as saying. “In God, we are one. We should not persecute any particular group because that is against the teaching of God.” (Korea JoongAng Daily)
The KQFC kicked off this year on 14 July and continues until 23 July. Highlights of the planned events include a pride parade and a film festival, all under the slogan, “There is no later. The time for change is now.”
Korea Queer Culture Festival
Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism
Queer film festival addresses pressing issues of Korea’s LGBT community (The Korea Herald)
Seoul Pride parade draws record crowd for equality (Korea JoongAng Daily)
'There is no later. We change it now’ (The Korea Times)
Korea's biggest queer festival continues (The Korea Times)
Thousands celebrate gay rights in Seoul pride parade amid protests by conservative Christians (FirstPost)
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