Tensions escalated as the organisers of the annual Daegu Queer Culture Festival in South Korea faced opposition from police and government workers over allegations of illegal road occupation.
On Saturday morning, approximately 500 government officials gathered in Dongseongno, the city’s shopping district, to prevent the festival organisers from setting up the stage and booths. The standoff lasted about 30 minutes until the police physically removed the officials, allowing the organisers’ trucks to enter the festival venue and begin preparations.
Around 20 minutes later, Mayor Hong Joon-Pyo held an emergency press conference at the scene, accusing the festival organisers of illegally occupying the roads and declaring that he would hold the chief of the Daegu police force accountable for the situation.
Prior to the festival, the mayor expressed his contempt for the event on social media, even expressing support for the Daegu Christian General Association’s court petition to ban the Pride festival. However, the court rejected the injunction request, emphasising the importance of freedom of expression.
In the same Facebook post, Mayor Joon-pyo argued that the festival would promote a “wrong sexual culture” among young people while acknowledging the importance of the rights of sexual minorities while equally highlighting the rights of the majority.
Chairman Cho Young-sun of Lawyers for a Democratic Society issued a statement, demanding that the mayor immediately cease his “anti-minority politics” and ensure the freedom of assembly guaranteed by the constitution. Young-sun criticised Joon-pyo for stigmatising the Queer Culture Festival as an “illegal road-occupying assembly” and denounced the city’s actions as an illegal administration that violates proper legal procedures.
The statement further called on Daegu City to halt its attempts to impede and regulate the freedom of assembly under the guise of road occupation permits. It strongly warned Mayor Hong Joon-Pyo to cease his anti-minority politics immediately and refrain from disrupting the Daegu Queer Culture Festival assembly.
Despite the tensions, organisers of the Daegu Queer Culture Festival intend to proceed peacefully, with the assembly and march proceeding as planned.