Monday, June 15, 2009

Destination: Korea Queer Cultural Festival (10th annual)

A hat tip goes to the Grand Narrative, without which I wouldn't have heard about the event.

A special note to my wonderful viewers: all pictures showing people's faces have been blurred or digitally covered for privacy reasons.

The Korea Queer Culture Festival (KQCF) is Korea's effort to bring the GLBT community together for support and awareness. In a country where being gay is enough to lose your job, be disowned by your family, and consider yourself removed from any social circles, it was rather surprising to see so many people celebrating their sexuality.

While hardly an expert on Korea's GLBT culture, I did notice a distinct difference in terms of style between that of the 'flower boy' (a straight effeminate man) and the crowdgoers. While it's safe to say that one cannot be judged straight or gay by the clothes in their backs, it seemed that the majority would safely blend into most any crowd around Seoul. Once again, not being 'out' does make it fairly dangerous to be seen as supporting this particular cause.

And dangerous it would be, were your picture taken. In order to take pictures, the organizers of the event wisely allowed anyone to take pictures - provided they follow a few rules. You had to give your name and e-mail address, along with a signed statement saying you would not take any pictures of people with a 'no photo' sticker. If you did, you would have to blur their face out or otherwise make it unrecognizable. Again, it's a big risk for some Koreans to be 'out', but I think this approach seemed like a fair balance between censorship and journalism, whether citizen-led or professionally done. That's the main reason for all the washed-out faces - thanks for understanding.

Finding the event took a bit of time - the only direction I had to go by was that it was at 'Berlin Plaza' downstream from Cheonggye Plaza - never did find that place, for the record.

An art project - not pictured (but well visited) were other booths of information, souvenirs and pride symbols. It seemed interesting that there wasn't just one particular organization represented - perhaps several different organizations (with different focuses) were passing out literature.

Get your photo taken as a buff guy?

An excellent group performance - a nine-man ensemble singing 'Like a Virgin' and 'Mamma Mia!' with some excellent harmony. For the same reason the pictures are blurred, no names or group names were ever given to protect their anonymity.

While not the focus of the event, the festival planners and artists did make an effort to promote an agenda of peace.

A couple party goers getting their dance groove on.

The way polls are done in Korea - ask a question, use a sticker to indicate your answer. Of course the answers can be rigged - but I suspect it was meant to be more of a 'you are not alone' sort of mindset to the questions and answers. If anyone can read the Korean and translate, I'd be most grateful :)

One of the best performances of the day - an entire Korean musical group performing traditional Korean music. If you've been to a festival in Korea, you've heard it before - the bagpipe-like horn, the big drum, the hourglass drum, the metal pan, along with an amazing amount of dancing.

Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley - what could be better? They did a little dance number before becoming two of the MC's.

Making an announcement or speech in Korean - even though the event was geared towards Korean speakers, enough volunteers spoke good English and were more than willing to help one find information in your preferred language.

Some more dance numbers - mainly to K-pop songs.

The The same group of guys from earlier is back - just in different costumes.

More dancing to K-pop - certainly an interesting show, although most seemed happy about the ability to express themselves in their own way.

After the last dance number, the crowd began gravitating towards the street, which had been partially closed off. Led by the party car, the pride flag was just behind and followed by a crowd in the hundreds. Some chose to walk the streets, while a number of observers chose to observe from the sidewalk.

More than a few people seemed stunned by the parade passing them by. They're loud, proud, and while not looking for a fight, certainly didn't seem to be cowed by the country's current attitude towards them.

The event as a whole definitely drew attention to the gay community in Seoul (and Korea as a whole); while not everyone present was gay, the acceptance that the gay community has had towards straight people remained true here as well. In the end, observing a different slice of life in Seoul has never been so colorful.


Jo-Anna said...

You know, before coming to Korea, I was told that there were "no gay koreans" which, obviously is not true, but I thought that was the general theme... that everyone just hides it, 1950's stlye. Now that I'm here though, I've met quite a few gay koreans... some more open about it than others, and one of my groups of friends is quite accepting of gay culture here. I wonder if most average koreans still think that there are no gay koreans...?

I'm jealous you got to go... I think I heard about this a while ago, but I totally forgot about it..

Phoenixstorm said...

I thought I saw you there, but I wasn't quite sure. I guess I was right! It was a bit bigger than last year, a tad so, so maybe next year it will keep drawing more people.

Jean said...

In regards to the poll, I can only kinda visibly read the green poster board. It's saying, "How do you feel about gay marriage?"

"Necessary" on left; "Not needed" on right. I would help with the translations but I cannot read the other signs.

don said...

there are no gay people in korea. no, just kidding. probably one of the most difficult places to come out.

don said...
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