Seoul: Foreign diplomatic missions have for the first time participated in the annual Korea Queer Cultural Festival to demonstrate support that their countries have for the LGBT community in South Korea.
“Our presence (at the Korea Queer Cultural Festival) is one way we can encourage progress on LGBT issues,” Markus Hatzelmann, first secretary at the German Embassy told koreaherald.com.
Asked why the embassy participated this time around, Hatzelmann said, “We realized that visibility matters.”
“Human rights violations on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity are a key concern of Germany’s foreign policy on human rights,” he said.
The US, French and German embassies took part this year to demonstrate their support for the rights of the LGBT community in South Korea, respective embassy spokespersons told koreaherald.com.
The German and French embassies coordinated their participation, which was also a first for the European missions.
This year’s festival — which opened June 3 and ran through June 15 aimed to promote solidarity between the LGBT groups in Asia and broaden public understanding of gay rights.
The festival has been organized annually since 2000, and it has become one of the largest LGBT events in Asia.
This year’s festival and parade saw a record 7,000 people according to the Seoul Metropolitan Police. However, figures reported by various local media outlets estimated the number from 10,000 to 30,000.
The event was nearly canceled with permission rescinded and then reinstated just days before the event.
The country’s conservative Christian lobby has been the most vocal opponent of LGBT rights, disrupting the event with protests and chanting slogans such as “(Gays) do not belong in this country” and “(Gays) cause AIDS in Korea” with loudspeakers.
“We do respect the right of people to protest and express their feelings,” said Vanessa Zenji, deputy spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy, when asked about the protest.
Organized by People’s Solidarity for Healthy Society at Gwanghwamun Square, a group of about 20 people also stood across the street from the embassy chanting slogans
People’s Solidarity for Healthy Society accused the United States embassy of exporting same-sex relations to South Korea on the banner that protestors held up.
“I do not think that is an accurate characterization. We are just supporting a festival here organized in Korea by Koreans, and we are just supporting people at that festival and supporting LGBT rights,” Zenji said.
In addition to the three embassies, 60 other booths by companies, including Google Korea, and by community groups were set up along the street between Sinchon Subway Station and the district’s main intersection where the main gay pride parade took place.
Diplomats who staffed booths at the event said their embassies would likely participate again next year.