Well, it happened.
‘Through many dangers, toils, and snares’ (read some of my previous entries if you don’t know what I’m talking about), KQCF Pride has come and gone. What do I remember from it?
I remember the festive atmosphere which was present throughout Seoul City Plaza, right in front of City Hall. As we greeted each other at our church booth, there was this invincible feeling that it was going to be a good day – no, a great day.
I remember the ‘noise, noise, noise, noise, noise!’ from the protestors outside. At times it seemed far away. At other times, it was as if they had set up camp right behind our booth! I couldn’t help but wonder, did they think they were Joshua and his armies, fittin’ de battle o’ Jericho? Didn’t work!
It wasn’t lost on me how they readily wrapped themselves up in Korean culture: hanbok, traditional fan dances, drumming – good God, the drumming! I didn’t miss the irony. Centuries earlier, Koreans were condemning Christianity as a Western import. Now, they’re condemning LGBT+-ity as a ‘Western import’. Hmmm…
I remember my wife’s boundless energy! As my ministry colleague said, ‘She must be a born activist’. She constantly handed out fliers, talked to people about our congregation, and encouraged people to enter our raffle – for sex toys, no less! Not bad at all for someone who self-identifies as ‘non-believing’.
I remember two of the guests we had at our booth, and my thinking, ‘I’ve seen them before…’ Then, there was my wife’s squeal of glee when she realized that they were from the touring company of Chicago, which we had seen the weekend before…and yes, pictures were taken!
I remember the people – oh, the throngs of diverse people! With all due respect to the head counters, I’m convinced there were more people attending the festival than the protests. There is also no doubt in my mind that for many people there, Korean and expatriate, this was the one day of the year where they did not have to be ‘invisible’ or ‘closeted’.
I remember those Christians, Korean Christians, who were part of the human chain against discrimination. They were unafraid to be counted as holding a different view from the protestors across or down the street. They were unafraid to stand up and be counted as being different and thinking differently, as being motivated through love and service, not through fear and hatred.
I remember the unexpectedness of the Parade. Yes, the ban on the Parade was overturned, but I had no idea of where the route would take us. With every intersection we passed, and with every corner we turned, the realization came that this was going to be a full parade – down Eulji-ro (street), through the shopping district of Myeong-dong, back up to City Hall and the Festival site. This was no quick walk-through, but a full parade!
I remember the police. They were out in full force, not to restrict anyone, but to ensure that the Festival could take place safely. The head of Namdaemun-gu Police Station may have been very comfortable with banning the Parade, and with claiming the blind administration of justice, but someone must have had a stern talking with someone else, because on the day, they were professional, impartial, and fair. They were unhesitating in their willingness to escort out, politely but firmly, any conservative Christian who attempted to disrupt the parade. There were some reports of scuffles between Parade walkers and protestors at the end, but for the most part, the police ensured the day unfolded peacefully – kudos to them.
I remember parents and children. There were parents with their children at the Festival – again, both Korean and expat – teaching them that there is nothing to fear with greater justice for the LGBT+ community in the Republic of Korea. I saw someone who posted a picture on Facebook of a Korean family who wanted to pose with her pro-gay poster. I saw parents walking with their children in the parade. I saw parents holding their children in the windows of a local coffee shop, waving to us as we walked by.
These are but a few of my memories from this, my first Pride Parade. I can tell you, now that this precedent has been set, there will be no going back for the LGBT+ community. Nobody will be able to backtrack and say, ‘This can’t happen in the future’. This is by no means the end of the ongoing struggle for LGBT rights (stay tuned for more). The tragedies and heartbreak will not end just because of this parade, or this Festival, but it is a step, a significant step. No matter – it’s my hope that this community, and their allies, will take the momentum gained from this event and move forward – for greater recognition of rights; greater safety; and greater representation in the political, social, and cultural lives of this country.
 Kirk, D (2015, June 28). Gay Pride In Korea Faces Christian Rage As Seen At Rally In Seoul. In Forbes [online]. Accessed 30 June 2015 at http://www.forbes.com/sites/donaldkirk/2015/06/28/gay-pride-faces-christian-rage-in-korea-as-seen-at-gay-rally-and-march-in-seoul/.