In recent years, LGBTQ+ Korean-American immigrants have found an unexpected refuge in their conservative homeland. With the rapid globalization, industrialization, and economic success of South Korea, many in the South Korean diaspora are returning home to celebrate South Korea’s Pride Month and are finding a defiant and thriving gay culture.
While South Korean law and mainstream culture is still hostile and oppressive towards the LGBTQ+ community, a series of vibrant, close-knit queer communities have developed in many South Korean cities. While the first Seoul Pride Parade in 2000 only had 50 people attend, 2017's marked a record-breaking attendance of about 85,000, with that record expected to be broken this year. South Korean queer communities have expanded and continue to grow in the subcultures of the Itaewon bar/club sect of "Homo Hill" and in many artistic and creative circles.
It is a comfort to many that the pull of the homeland has rewarded so many queer/trans Korean immigrants, but they should also be aware of how they benefit from and contribute to American imperialism. Bringing in American money to populate American-friendly spaces in South Korea while being LGBTQ+ complicates the socioeconomic dynamic of returning diasporic Koreans. As this year's Pride celebrations continue throughout the month of July, with the Seoul Queer Culture Fest to take place later this month, members of the LGBTQ+ Korean diaspora should be especially aware of their behavior so as to ensure a decolonized queer safe space for all South Koreans.
Seoul Queer Culture Festival (official site)
Itaewon’s Homo Hill: A Show That Never Ends (Korea Exposé)
Gay pride parade in Seoul draws record number (Korea Herald)
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