My Seoul Pride Photo Archive (2011-2014)
It's pride month! With this year's Seoul Pride (officially named Seoul Queer Culture Festival) approaching quickly, I thought I would make a related blog post. Seoul Pride started in 2000 with about 50 people, and the first time I got to know about the event and attended it was 2011. In that year, it took place near Cheonggye Stream in Jongno area, and there were a couple of thousands of attendees. It was an eye opening experience for me and also it was just really fun, so I attended it again the next year.
Then I started performing on stage for them in 2013, and my roles in Seoul Pride and contribution to it gradually got bigger each year - running booths, getting on floats, etc. Anyway, I want this blog post to be more visual and with less texts, so I will start putting out the photos. Disclaimer: note that I didn't take these photos with certain purposes or did it professionally. They are mostly photos of me and my friends, and some random stuff from Seoul Pride that ended up in my phone or camera somehow.
If you know, you know. It's clearly around Cheonggye stream. I believe these photos are from my friend Fiona. She always carried a camera with her and provided us photos later. My first year at Seoul Pride. I was 20. This was before I became active in the LGBTQ scene. I didn't even know what Pride was, and I just tagged along when some of my friends said there's some fun outdoor festival going on, and the weather was nice. I'm seen only with non-Koreans in these photos, and that's because back then I wasn't really out to everyone in my life, and it was just easier for me to make new friends who were more open-minded, liberal, and okay with who I was, instead of coming out to my potentially homophobic, conservative Korean friends and acquaintances. Korean society and people in it were much more conservative and less educated about sexual minorities then.
The young me. Well, this is the last photos from 2011. I know so far it's very underwhelming but trust me, it gets better. Take a look at that Hollys's Coffee behind me in this photos and remember it.
The first photo below shows the view of the festival site, and it was taken from the top floor of the Holly's Coffee I mentioned above. It was a hot and humid day - just like every day in summer in Korea - and my friends and I needed some cold drinks. So yes, in 2012, Seoul Pride took place in the same area as the previous year.
Yeah, sorry, my photo collection for Seoul Pride 2012 is still very underwhelming and poor. It gets better from next year lol. What can I say? I was enjoying the day so much that I didn't bother to take a lot of photos!
In 2013, Seoul Pride moved to Hongdae - where all the young folks, college students, artists, shoppers, and nightlife lovers are! I think the reason for moving the location of the festival was that Seoul Pride lost the permission to use the park near Cheonggye stream, which is where they set up the booths and the stage. So basically we got kicked out of the old location but in the end, we moved to a better, cooler, more lively location.
Photos above show me and my friends - including Vita Mikju who now is a famous drag queen and professional pole dancer. The person who dressed up as a Miss Korea is also a very influential and well-known person in Korea's gay scene. He goes by nickname 'Anchovy' and he is a socialite who runs multiple successful businesses in Jongno, runs a YouTube channel with very queer cooking videos, and performs in drag at various gay events.
Like I mentioned earlier, I started performing on the main stage at Seoul Pride, that year. I performed with Vita Mikju as a team, and we were both such baby performers then. Comparing how our stage looks now are different from our looks in these photos... it's just cute, and honestly a little bit embarrassing 'cause we looked super amateur but you gotta start somewhere somehow right? We had a lot of fun then, and it's part of our history now. FYI, we performed a 'Britney Spears Medley' Yep. Mikju and I both love Brit.
Remember I said a couple of thousands of people participated in the parade in the previous few years? Well, in 2013 in Hongdae, over 10,000 people marched. I think it's largely thanks to the new location. Hongdae not only always has a lot of people in it, but also these people tend to be younger, open-minded, and love festivities.
This is where things start to get...really big but also very complicated and tiring and political. But that's all a necessary step we need to take to go forward and make changes. Pride has always been political and that's the whole point anyway! So Seoul Pride had to move again, from the previous year's location Hongdae to somewhere that can accommodate more people. It moved to Sinchon, and the thing is there is a mega church and a lot of other churches in Sinchon. And because the size of Seoul Pride got so much bigger so quickly and it started to get a lot more media attention, the anti-LGBTQ+ Christians started to come at us more aggressively, violently, and extremely.
They preached and prayed saying Homosexuality is the cause of the spread of AIDS, and the police were separating them from Pride attendees and organisers. It wasn't just a small group of them invading the festival. Thousands of them held their own anti-LGBTQ+ praying festival or something right next to our festival location.
Above are photos of me and my friend rehearsing prior to the main stage show. In the second photo, the yellow sign someone is holding says "Only Jesus. Repent!"
And then I had a little bit of free time after the rehearsals until the show started, so I walked around, saw things and people, and took some photos. And that guy in pants who's escorted out by the police is my friend lol
First two photos (from News 1) show the size of the audience for the main stage show. And the rest are just me and my friends. Our pre-performance selfie, performance photos, and post-performance selfie. We started our performance in church choir uniforms then we stripped down to our sexier (?) outfits.
And then the parade started and my friends and I were on one of the many floats and...these photos captured the fun moments of it...which didn't last very long. Hundreds of Christian protesters lied down on the road in front of our floats, some of them under our floats, and among them were toddlers and babies that were brought by their parents. What the actual fuck?! But unfortunately and sadly you kinda get used to it after a while, because they have been doing that since then and I still see them doing it whenever they protest or try to interrupt us spread the gay agenda.
So the parade was supposed to last for an hour and a half and finish at around 7PM, however, we were stuck on the road and we had to entertain each other and keep each other's spirit lifted for 4 hours, until 11PM. As you can see in one of the photos above, people brought us drinks and food because we were stuck on the float dancing and talking for the marchers. That was super sweet of them. I love this community. (For the most part)
And finally at 11PM, thanks to the organisers that worked so hard and cleverly, we were able to secretly change our parade route and ditch the Christian protesters lying on the road. After 4 hours of being stuck on the road. But we shined more than ever, and we were louder than ever as we marched. No one was tired. (Everyone was tired after the march though, obviously.) One victory at a time I guess. No one who was there that day can forget the feelings they felt and emotions they had as we were going through what we were going through.
Oh, and I changed into my Woody (Toy Story) outfit at some point while being stuck on the float. Woody minus jeans I guess!
I wanted to cover Seoul Pride 2015-2020 as well in this post, but pride month is the busiest time for me and I got a bunch of other stuff to do in the next few days - such as organising, hosting, performing, protesting, meetings and talks, etc. So yeah, I will have to do it another time! But here's a sneak peek!
Seoul Pride takes place at Seoul Plaza in front of Seoul city hall now, and in 2019, over 120,000 people attended the event!
Above is this year(2021)'s Seoul Pride poster. It will consist of small size offline workshops, an online queer film festival, various performances and other programs that will be live streamed on their YouTube channel like last year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. You may find more information in the links below.
For English (limited information available):
For Korean (full information available):
The Main Event "Rainbow Live Everywhere"
- June 27 (Sun) Korea Standard Time
- Seoul Queer Culture Festival YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/sqcforg/)