South Korea’s Jeju Pride has kicked off for its second year.
The Jeju Queer Cultural Festival is taking place in Jeju Island, a popular tourist destination off the southern coast of Korea.
The event had been billed as the ‘ultimate expression of pride on Jeju’, according to The Kimchi News.
Michelle Jones, a volunteer helping with the event, said the day was becoming noticeably brighter – both figuratively and literally.
‘The atmosphere is warming up now that the rain had subsided,’ Jones told GSN.
‘Representing all LGBTQI and A’
The festival is hosting a variety of programs in celebration of inclusivity and LGBTI culture.
‘There are 35 organizations hosting booths, each shares artwork, and information,’ Jones said.
‘There are organizations representing all LGBTQI and A, as well as youth groups, health advocacy organizations and human rights groups.
‘About 1000 attendees got to enjoy live performances by Drag Queen Hurricane Kimchi and Ali, and musician TaeHieon.
‘Compared to other festivals in Korea, I would say that Jeju Queer Culture Festival is slightly more youthful in leadership and attendance,’ Jones added.
‘Many locals may be in college or working on mainland Korea.’
The the lead-up to the festival had been marred by the threat of anti-LGBTI protests.
On Friday (28 September) organizers warned that conservative Christian groups would organize protests in an attempt to disrupt the day’s events.
The came barely a few weeks after more than 1,000 protesters verbally and physically attacked at an LGBTI event in the South Korean city of Incheon.
However, while preparing for the march, Jones noted that there were relatively few counter-protestors.
‘A bunch more anti-LGBT protesters just showed up. They are attempting to block our passage by sitting in the path. Police are mobilizing to sort it out,’ Jones told GSN.
‘They are only 150 total though, so it will be dispersed easily and non-violently, I think. They are pledging to each other to sit in until 10 pm. But there are at least twice as many police here,’ she added.
Lack of anti-discrimination policies
While there are no laws against homosexuality in South Korea, Christian and conservative groups can carry a great amount of influence.
South Korea also lacks legal provisions to protect LGBTI people from systemic discrimination.
This year also saw over 210,000 people signed a petition which called on the government to cancel a pride event in the country’s capital city, Seoul.