Conflict deepening between Seoul Gov't, LGBT festival organizers

Conflict deepening between Seoul Gov't, LGBT festival organizers

People march in central Seoul during the annual parade of the Seoul Queer Culture Festival, June 27. Yonhap

By Lee Hyo-jin

A conflict is deepening between the Seoul Metropolitan Government and organizers of the annual Seoul Queer Culture Festival (SQCF), following the city government’s recent decision to reject the latter’s application to be registered as a non-profit organization.

The Seoul Queer Culture Festival (SQCF) Organizing Committee, consisting of members of the LGBTQ community and their allies, has been holding the annual festival in central Seoul since 2000. The festival calls for human rights for sexual minorities and the eradication of discrimination.

The committee filed an application to the city government in October 2019 to be registered as a non-profit organization.

After nearly two years of review, the city sent a letter to the committee, turning down its application, on Aug. 25.

The city government explained that its decision was based on a history of reports of indecent exposure by the participants of its cultural events, such as at its parades and film festivals.

It also cited booths at cultural events selling products depicting genitalia, saying that such activities potentially violate certain laws.

According to Korea’s criminal law, those who distribute, sell or openly display “obscene” documents, pictures, films or other objects can be subject to imprisonment of up to one year or fines of up to 5 million won.

In addition, it said that the annual event requires the local government to mobilize “excessive” administrative resources in order to prevent physical conflicts with anti-gay protesters.

Thousands of police officers are dispatched to SQCF events to separate festival participants and anti-LGBTQ activists, consisting mostly of right-wing and Christian groups, who hold counter rallies in adjacent spaces and attempt to blockade the annual pride parade.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government’s decision to reject the application immediately prompted backlash from the festival organizers, who view the rejection as “inappropriate and discriminatory.”

The committee also believes that the city government had intentionally delayed its decision for the past couple of years, in order to obstruct the establishment of the non-profit organization, while acknowledging that the committee had made no errors in its application.

They stated that the reasons listed by the city government are “merely repeating the arguments made by the anti-LGBTQ protesters who oppose the festivals, without doing any actual fact-checking” of whether those arguments are indeed reasonable or true.

“The Seoul Metropolitan Government should not shift the responsibility of mobilizing administrative resources ― which are needed because of the disturbances caused by anti-queer protesters ― onto the organizers of the festival. Doing that is an abandonment of its responsibility to resolve social conflicts,” read the statement released by the committee.

The statement noted that the committee plans to take every possible legal action, such as filing an administrative lawsuit, in response.

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