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Friday, November 6, 1998 Published at 23:47 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Seoul gay film fest opens

This year's films have been approved by the authorities

A festival of Korean gay film and video opened in Seoul on Friday featuring more than 80 dramas, documentaries and animated films.

Last year's Seoul Queer Film and Video Festival was aborted after organisers went ahead with plans but without seeking censors' approval and subsequently the festival was branded as illegal.

But this year, says festival executive director Seo Tong-jin, the organisers submitted the films to the authorities in advance.

After negotiations, some were given a classification restricting them to a limited audience - that is film professionals such as journalists and critics.

Altogether though, organisers say there is evidence of an easing of official attitudes towards gay issues.

Conservative society

In South Korea's conservative Confucian society, even the holding of such a fringe cultural event as the '98 Seoul Queer Film and Video Festival marks a modest breakthrough for a homosexual community still struggling to be accepted.

But there are those among South Korea's small activist community who say the films are not relevant to gay Koreans' basic needs at such an early stage in the process of trying to assert their rights.

"The main issues they are addressing are not relevant to the daily lives of gay people in Korea," says Ho Sae Kim, spokesman for the Association of Gay Rights Movements.

As well as foreign films, including Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang's film "The River", culminating in a homosexual encounter between a father and son; the festival includes forums on Korean produced gay and lesbian film.

And perhaps important in a society where gays remain largely invisible - a symposium on homosexual identities and the media.

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