Why I Founded Seoul Drag Parade (and about 2021 Seoul Drag Parade)
There is an annual parade event called Seoul Drag Parade in Seoul, South Korea. The concept of it is similar to Pride parades’ but this takes place in Seoul, and it just focuses more on the art of ‘drag’, while it is an event that welcomes all LGBTQ+ people and allies. When I say that I founded the annual event slash LGBTQ+ rights organisation, one might ask “oh, are you the most famous, the most influential, or aesthetically the most beautiful drag artist in Seoul?” and my response would be “um, no”, and they might ask “then who the fuck are you, and why the fuck do you think you are qualified to start something like that?”, so I am going to try and answer that question now.
I started out in Seoul’s LGBTQ+ scene as an artist, in my early 20s. I drew, I took photos, I wrote, and I performed on stages and in the streets – doing a lot of things is my thing, while doing all those things well isn’t necessarily my thing. (But hey, you should try it too. I never regret that I tried something. If I ever regret, it is about something I wish I tried but didn’t.) That was in the early 2010s, and it was pretty tough for an art-enthusiast gayby (gay baby) who is new to the scene, as pretty much everything LGBTQ+ was underground and there was hardly any public information about the scene, events, etc. Fast forward many years full of both fun experiences and terrible experiences, I found places I belong to, made places for myself, and built a nice and big network in the scene. I have been an artist and a community event organiser during those years, and before I even realised, I was surrounded by so many hard-working and inspirational LGBTQ+ artists and activists. With their positive influences, I have learned to use my art to advocate our community, and participated in a lot of LGBTQ+ rights protests and actions. Even though the society I was in still sucked, but I was better prepared to fight - I had experience, connections, and resources. And I was enjoying doing drag. So I combined them all, didn’t think too much, said to myself “okay, I’m doing this”, and I founded Seoul Drag Parade in 2018.
There were a few goals I set for Seoul Drag Parade. First thing was to bring drag into daylight. Because I struggled with finding information and where I belong in the scene, due to the fact that everything LGBTQ+ was done underground when I started out, I wanted to pull the art and culture of drag out of the nightclubs and display it in the streets, during the day. So the annual Seoul Drag Parade has been taking place in the streets and on the roads in Itaewon area of Seoul in the afternoon. Second goal was to give minors access to drag. Because Seoul Drag Parade takes place outside of the nightclubs during the day, a lot of minors have been attending the event. Seoul Drag Parade has also organised and hosted a charity drag show where people of any age could come, and donated the profits from the show to Korea’s first and only LGBTQ+ youth crisis support centre DDingDong. Another goal was to include and display all types of drag, instead of focusing only on skinny and pretty drag queens who are cis-gender male Korean nationals. Seoul Drag Parade has always been doing its best to include and empower people of any gender, any body type, any race, and any nationality. Especially because I know that transphobia is a huge problem even in the queer communities, and racism in Korea is a serious problem and it needs to be dealt with. Starting with these goals, the first Seoul Drag Parade in 2018 had a total of 1,000 attendees throughout the event day, and Seoul Drag Parade has been doing its absolute best to fulfil the goals with every event it organises and/or hosts.
Since its foundation, Seoul Drag Parade has been busy constantly working on various drag and LGBTQ+ projects as well as holding its own annual parade event, and it’s been receiving tremendous love and support, from not only people in Seoul but also from so many people from around the globe. It has become a long-running, regular thing which I didn’t expect it to be when I first started it, and all of this was only possible thanks to the co-founder and my buddy Ali Zahoor, and the organisers – Saffron Reign (drag king, collaborative project manager), Raphaël Rashid (journalist, publicist), Jinho Hong (musician, stage manager). Like I always say about any project I work on in my life, I can dream about anything but when it comes to making it come true, most of the credits must go to the team, collaborators, friends, and supporters. I can only be so great and do so much, alone.
I hope what I wrote above can be somewhat of an answer to the question “who the fuck are you, and why the fuck do you think you are qualified to start something like that?” and also give some information about Seoul Drag Parade. Now, I am aware that there are some people who do drag in Seoul that have the “Whatever. I look better in drag and I have more social media followers, so you are not qualified to start and run such a thing, and I am too good for an event/organisation made by someone like you” attitude. It is okay that they feel and think that way – they are entitled to their thoughts and feelings. That’s fine with me. And also it is not my problem. I don’t sit around and wait for their approvals in order to be qualified for using my own resources and experience to do my part to contribute to drag and LGBTQ+ communities. An wise woman – who is my idol Kelly Clarkson lol – once said at the Billboard's Women in Music Awards that she is tired of women being pitted against one another instead of coming together, there is room for everyone, and women should start really respecting each other, not with the beef and all that crap. I am now in my 30s, I don’t have the energy that I used to have in my 20s, and I am so tired. I can’t agree more with what Kelly had to say. Whether you do drag or not, I want people in the LGBTQ+ communities to realise that they can share room with each other, or even make room for one another, and get stronger together, instead of tearing each other down, when it is already hard for us to just exist when there is so much hate and discrimination towards us in this society we live in. This is actually something I’ve always wanted to say on my blog when the right opportunity comes and I guess this post was that opportunity. To get sidetracked a little bit, my new original song is a Kelly Clarkson inspired pop-rock number and it will be released as a single under my drag name Hurricane Kimchi, this pride season, so stay tuned! Also, if you are interested in getting to know my drag and other art more, feel free to roam around this website as it functions as my portfolio as well.
In 2021, Seoul Drag Parade will be hosting an online show in June, which could be viewed and enjoyed by anyone from anywhere, instead of the offline parade event, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It is sad that most offline LGBTQ+ (and other) events are being cancelled because of the current virus situation, but by having an online event this year, I believe Seoul Drag Parade can connect and interact with drag fans, LGBTQ+ people, and allies from all around the world. The online show will be hosted both in Korean and English, by the two co-founders of Seoul Drag Parade – Hurricane Kimchi (which is me in drag), and Ali Zahoor. Okay, this is a random piece of information, but Ali used to be a child actor and he was in the legendary British TV show ‘Eastenders’, and he was a K-pop idol trainee in Seoul. So he understands the entertainment industry and that makes him even more suitable for this hosting job! Anyway, the show will be featuring not only some of the finest local Korean drag artists, but also international drag artists from other parts of the world – both kings and queens! I can’t share much at this point, but we have already confirmed the participation of some really cool artists. There will be K-pop, cultural representations, live music, cool videography, as well as some amazing lipsync performances, and you are going to love it!
In order for us to pay the performers a decent wage and support their artistry during this difficult time, Seoul Drag Parade is currently fundraising via GoFundMe, and is also receiving donations with their Korean bank account which you can find below. As a full-time artist, even though I am personally not a money-oriented person, I understand how hard things can be when your work and all the effort that you put into it are not appreciated and people think you don’t deserve to be paid. These drag artists are going to represent their cultures and queerness through their performances, and bring us together and remind us we are not alone even during the toughest time. I (and Seoul Drag Parade) would like to be able to reward them with at least some financial reimbursement, so I would like to ask you to help fund 2021 Seoul Drag Parade, if you can. All the donors’ names or nicknames will be credited during the online show, unless they want to remain anonymous. If you aren’t able to make a donation, sharing the information and spreading the word would be very helpful too!
Korean bank account information:
Shinhan Bank (신한 은행)
Recipient Name: 양희승
I’m really excited for the online show, and to see what the future holds for Seoul Drag Parade. If you want to find out more about Seoul Drag Parade, find its accounts on social media at @seouldragparade, or visit its website at www.seouldragparade.com.