by KARIN CHAN
A drum line of anti-gay activists loudly played traditional Korean drums near Seoul Plaza on Sunday in an attempt to drown out the 16thKorea Queer Culture Festival (KQCF).
As thousands of LGBTQ supporters marched toward the reconstructed Gyeongbokgung Palace, non-affirming Christian groups protested Seoul’s annual gay pride parade, holding placards and shouting slogans like “Homosexuals rights are not human rights” behind rows of policemen. Other anti-gay protesters held cultural demonstrations, such as ballet and body worship performances.
“Our prayers will open the sky and the homosexuals will fall, we will be blessed with victory,” said Lee Young-hoon, head of the anti-LGBTQ organization Christian Council of Korea, Buzzfeed reported.
— Martin Rottler (@martinrottler) June 28, 2015
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Despite boisterous protests from anti-gay demonstrators, festival attendees were having a blast inside the grassy Seoul Plaza. LGBT advocates sang and danced as local bands and dance teams performed on stage. Cardboard cutouts of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed visitors of the U.S. embassy booth for a photo opportunity. Several booths also sold LGBTQ souvenirs, including gay literature as well as rainbow-colored flags, pins and soft drinks.
— 서울퀴어문화축제 Seoul Queer Culture Festival (@sqcforg) June 28, 2015
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According to the KQCF organizers, about 20,000 people attended the last day of the three-week-long festival—although, Seoul police estimates the number to be closer to 6,000.
Seoul’s annual LGBTQ festival had much to celebrate this year, as the Supreme Court of the United States legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in a historic 5-4 ruling last Friday. Festival attendees cheered as floats decorated with dancers and banners reading “marriage equality” and “solidarity under the rainbow” drove around city hall.
“What happened in the U.S. was incredible … I hope that I [sic] and my girlfriend will be able to celebrate the same here one day,” Suzy Lee, one of the festival participants, told Agence France-Presse. “But we know it will take many, many years here in the South.”
The European Union Representative Department and embassies from 16 countries—the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium, Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Israel—attended the KQCF opening ceremony on June 9, despite the MERS scare in South Korea.
“We see this as part of our policy on global human rights,” U.S. diplomat Anthony Tranchini told Voice of America. “The fact that we are here supporting a Korean festival which has been around for 16 years, with about a dozen other embassies—I think we all really just want to show that we are supportive of LGBT human rights here in Korea.”
Foreign embassies stand on stage at the KQCF festival (Photo via KQCF)
Ahead of this year’s KQCF, Seoul police stations banned the pride parade, citing conflicting permit applications. A Seoul court overturned the ban about two weeks before the parade’s scheduled date. Judge Ban Jeong-woo’s decision ruled in favor of the LGBTQ festival because the right to freedom of assembly must be upheld.
Still, some anti-gay protesters tried to disrupt this year’s pride parade by laying on the ground, a popular method Christian groups used at last year’s KQCF. However, no major violent clashes were reported by Korean media.
Featured image courtesy of AP Photo/Lee Jin-man