Credit: Paran Koo

South Korea’s biggest LGBTQ+ Pride festival has been blocked in favour of a Christian youth concert.

Since 2000, local LGBTQ+ residents have celebrated Pride season at the annual Seoul Queer Culture Festival (SQCF).

During the festival, which takes place over two weeks, attendees are treated to various events and parties, including the Korea Queer Film Festival and a huge Pride parade.

While SQCF has been a staple in Seoul for over 20 years, the event was recently hit with a significant roadblock ahead of its 2023 festival.

On 3 May, the Seoul Metropolitan Government denied the SQCF’s request to use the Seoul Plaza between 30 June and 1 July.

The LGBTQ+ event has used the aforementioned venue since 2015, aside from 2020 and 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to denying the permit, the governing body granted the spot to the CTS Culture Foundation, who requested to hold their Christian youth concert there on 1 July.

The religiously affiliated organisation has previously voiced opposition to the LGBTQ+ community and the SQCF’s Pride events, per Reuters.

Shortly after the decision was announced, LGBTQ+ activists and organisations slammed city officials for discriminating against the queer-inclusive festival.

“We are angry at the Seoul Metropolitan Government that is trying to push out sexual minorities and fill the plaza with discrimination and hatred,” the Rainbow Action Against Sexual-Minority Discrimination of Korea said in a statement, per CNN.

SQFC leader Yang Sun-woo echoed similar sentiments in a statement to The Washington Post, describing the decision as “discriminatory” and “untransparent.”

“The festival will not be stopped and [will] go ahead on July 1. We were unfairly denied access to the public space where South Korea’s LGBTQ community has celebrated pride every summer for years,” she said.

In a separate statement to The Washington Post, Seoul Metropolitan Government’s administrative director Jeong Sang-hun said their decision was “based on municipal ordinances” before stating that events “for children and teens get priority.”

The recent incident isn’t the first time Seoul Queer Culture Festival has faced anti-LGBTQ+ pushback from conservative and religious individuals.

Back in 2018, 210,000 people signed a petition in defiance of the Pride event which they hatefully described as “abominable.”

During SQFC’s 2022 celebration, thousands of protestors attended the event to spew anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric with archaic banners and hateful chants.

While homosexuality isn’t illegal in South Korea, the country remains conservative with a large Christian following, and both same-sex marriage laws and anti-discrimination laws have struggled to pass through the government.