South Korean capital celebrates 1st Pride parade in 3 years

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SEOUL, South Korea — Hundreds of homosexual rights supporters marched beneath a heavy police guard within the South Korean capital on Saturday as they celebrated town’s first Satisfaction parade in three years after a COVID-19 hiatus.

Police have been on alert as church-backed counterprotesters rallied in close by streets, highlighting the tensions surrounding the rights of sexual minorities within the deeply conservative nation. There have been no important scuffles or disruptions as of Saturday afternoon.

Revelers carrying or waving rainbow banners cheered throughout speeches and swayed to music from a stage in entrance of metropolis corridor on the Seoul Queer Parade, which promotes equality for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender folks. They later shaped a queue of umbrellas as they marched towards a downtown enterprise district amid drizzling rain, calling for legal guidelines banning discrimination based mostly on sexual orientation.

Police established perimeters to separate them from conservative Christian protesters, additionally numbering within the 1000’s, who marched in close by streets. They held up banners and chanted slogans opposing homosexuality as their chief shouted prayers right into a microphone pleading that God “save the Republic of Korea from anti-discrimination laws.”

A few of the protesters denounced conservative Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon over town’s unwillingness to dam the “lewd” Satisfaction parade. Homosexual rights activists are additionally sad with Oh, who in an interview with a Christian newspaper final week mentioned town might prohibit the Satisfaction occasion from utilizing town corridor plaza beginning subsequent yr if this yr’s individuals “exhibit indecent supplies or overexpose their our bodies.”

“Who is aware of if Seoul Metropolis Corridor workers proper now are carrying round rulers, attempting to find out whether or not our skirts are too brief,” Bae Jin-gyo, a homosexual rights activist, mentioned from the stage. “What the Seoul metropolis authorities ought to watch will not be the size of our skirts or what we’re carrying, however the atmosphere of discrimination that surrounds us.”

Following a normal they’ve maintained for years, the Satisfaction parade’s organizers required photojournalists to take footage of individuals from the “farthest potential” distance and procure the consent of each particular person whose faces are identifiable in photographs — a measure to guard individuals from backlash as their pictures might flow into on the web.

Hundreds of law enforcement officials from almost 60 items have been deployed to observe the demonstrators from either side, mentioned Kim Man-seok, an official on the Seoul Metropolitan Police Company. Police didn’t instantly present a crowd estimate however had beforehand forecasted a turnout of round 40,000 for the dueling occasions.

Whereas main South Korean politicians averted the Satisfaction parade, the occasion drew quite a lot of overseas diplomats, together with newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Philip Goldberg, whose endorsement of homosexual rights has raised the ire of conservatives and Christian teams. Some protested in entrance of the U.S. Embassy in current weeks, denouncing Goldberg’s appointment as a part of the Biden administration’s “gay cultural imperialism.”

Goldberg tweeted in the course of the Satisfaction parade that “nobody ought to be discriminated in opposition to due to their identification,” and that he stands with President Joe Biden in applauding “all these working to advance the human rights” of sexual minorities in South Korea.

British Ambassador Colin Crooks drew cheers as he delivered a speech in Korean, saying “discrimination based mostly on sexual orientation or gender identification has no place within the twenty first century.”

“The expertise of Britain exhibits that the easiest way to ensure rights (for sexual minorities) is thru establishing a system of authorized safety,” he mentioned.

Whereas views on sexual minorities in South Korea have regularly improved in recent times, they’re nonetheless harshly stigmatized and ceaselessly uncovered to hate speech and crimes. Requires equality have up to now been stymied by a strong Christian foyer that has blocked politicians from passing legal guidelines banning discrimination. Illustration is a matter as there are not any outstanding brazenly homosexual politicians or enterprise leaders, though some celebrities have carved out roles in present enterprise.

The Seoul Queer Parade wasn’t held in 2020 and 2021 due to stringent social-distancing measures to struggle COVID-19. The nation’s anti-virus marketing campaign has additionally uncovered issues with homophobia. A string of infections linked to Seoul nightspots well-liked with homosexual males in 2020 sparked an enormous public backlash that critics say probably intimidated many sexual minorities from coming ahead for testing.

Related Press photojournalist Lee Jin-man contributed to this report.

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