Posts misleadingly claim photo shows 'small turnout' at 2022 Seoul Pride festival

·4 min read

Two photos appearing to show sparse crowds in a square and a crowded street were shared repeatedly in Korean-language social media posts that claim only "200 people joined the Pride parade in Seoul, while 150,000 were at a nearby anti-parade rally" on July 16. However, the claim is misleading. Both events were attended by tens of thousands of people, according to police estimates. The journalist who took the photo of the smaller crowd at the festival told AFP that it was taken prior to the start of the event.

The claim was shared here on Facebook on July 18, 2022, alongside a photo collage that shows two shots of crowds of varying sizes.

Korean-language text superimposed below a photo of a packed street reads: "150,000 people say let's beat the homosexuals to death."

Text superimposed above a second photo, which shows a much smaller gathering, reads: "200 people gathered to enjoy homosexuality."

Screenshot of the misleading claim shared on Facebook, captured July 22, 2022.

The claim circulated after the Seoul Pride parade, formally known as the Seoul Queer Culture Festival, took place in front of Seoul City Hall on July 16, 2022 following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Same-sex marriage remains illegal in South Korea, and the country's largest Pride event also drew an opposing rally, AFP reported.

Identical claims were shared on Facebook here, here, here and here.

However, the claim is misleading; the photo of the Pride event was taken before performances were scheduled to begin.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency estimated that around 13,000 people attended the Pride event and 15,000 people took part in the opposition rally, a police spokesperson told AFP on July 22.

Meanwhile, organisers of the Pride event and the opposing rally claimed 135,000 and 100,000 attendees, respectively, local media reported.

Opposition rally photo

A Google reverse image search found both photos shared in the misleading posts were published in a report from the South Korean media outlet Christian Daily on July 16, 2022.

The Korean-language caption of the first photo showing the opposition protest, taken by Christian Daily, reads: "The people's rally in opposition to the homosexual Queer Festival is being held. According to organisers, around 100,000 people attended the rally."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the first photo from the misleading posts (left) and the original photo published by Christian Daily (right):

Screenshot comparison of the first photo shared alongside the misleading claim on Facebook (left) and the original photo published by Christian Daily (right).

Pride festival photo

Christian Daily credits the second photo to South Korean news agency Newsis.

A separate search found the original posted here, credited to Newsis journalist Ko Seung-min.

The Korean-language caption translates to English as: "The Queer Culture Festival is opening at Seoul Plaza on the 16th. 2022.07.16."

Below is a screenshot of the second photo in the misleading posts (left) and the original Newsis photo (right):


Screenshot of the second photo shared alongside the misleading claim on Facebook (left) and the original photograph published by Newsis (right)

Ko told AFP on July 20 that he took the photo from a high-rise building facing Seoul City Hall around noon on July 16, two hours before performances were scheduled to start at the festival's main stage.

"The event was only starting when I shot the photo, which explains why it seems to show relatively fewer people," Ko said.

"Far more people were there at around 2:00 p.m. when the event actually began."

Ko provided AFP with a screenshot of the photo's metadata, which confirmed that it was taken on July 16 at 11:53 a.m.

Below is a screenshot of the photo's metadata which shows when the photo was taken. The photo's timestamp is highlighted in red by AFP.

Screenshot of the Newsis photo's metadata, provided by the photographer on July 20.

The schedule for the Pride festival posted on its official website shows performances at the main stage were slated to start at 2:00 p.m.

Aerial photos and videos of the event captured by other local media organisations such as here, here and here, show a larger crowd gathered around the main stage.

Below is a screenshot of a report by South Korean national broadcaster KBS, which shows an aerial view of crowds at both the Pride festival and the nearby protest:

Screenshot of a report by South Korean national broadcaster KBS which shows an aerial view of crowds at both the Pride festival and the nearby protest

AFP photos of Seoul Pride can be seen here.

Participants gather at Seoul City Hall Plaza during a Pride event in support of LGBTQ rights during the Seoul Queer Culture Festival in Seoul on July 16, 2022. Pride returned to the streets of Seoul on July 16 after a two-year, pandemic-related hiatus, with revellers gathering at City Hall to chant, dance and wave rainbow flags, and conservative groups turning out in force to protest the event. ( AFP / Anthony WALLACE)

AFP journalist Anthony Wallace, who was covering the Pride event, said: "there were a lot more than 200 people at the festival, likely more than thousands."

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