In South Korea, the queer community is still facing opposition when it comes to societal acceptance. Enter Heezy Yang. Yang, who also goes by Hurricane Kimchi, initially began doing drag out of curiosity and had no idea how much empowerment it would bring. “The first few times, I didn’t have any agenda,” says Yang. But he realized it was a way to combine activism and his love of the arts.
The lack of laws supporting queer South Koreans makes it difficult for this marginalized group in legal matters. Sexual orientation is a protected class, but gender identity is not. Gender-affirming care is provided, but not covered by the national health care system. There are also no protections against LGBTQ+ discrimination, and same-sex marriage is not formally recognized.
Yang hosts festivals and political rallies in drag to bring awareness to obstacles the LGBTQ community in South Korea faces. In 2018, Yang’s passion for activism led him to co-create the Seoul Drag Parade where over a thousand people showed their support.
Since the pandemic, the Seoul Drag Parade has continued virtually, but Yang hopes to make an in-person return this year in Itaewon. This neighborhood of Seoul is bustling and hosts a number of LGBTQ+ businesses. After the Itaewon crowd crush last Halloween, many of these businesses have had to close. Yang hopes that the parade will bring back some business to the impacted neighborhood.
Yang hopes to continue doing drag, as well as developing more events to bring the community together. “I like to think I open doors for people and they appreciate it. It makes me happy.”