Some 300 members of the Korea Parent Federation and other conservative Christian groups showed up for the annual Korea Queer Festival that held its main activities on June 7 in Sinchon, northwestern Seoul, according to koreatimes.co.kr.
“Repent…homosexuality is a sin,” read one banner. “Our children must be raised within a moral culture,” said another, as the group blocked a parade running through the university enclave.
The situation came to a head around when many of the festival’s 5,000 participants began a scheduled, two-kilometer march from Sinchon Station to Yonsei University.
Witnesses said that protesters jumped in front of floats being used in the parade, forcing the march to stop after some 30 minutes.
“A huge crowd of middle aged Christian men came out shouting on top of their lungs while holding big crosses,” said a 26-year-old American who asked not to be named. “They performed baptism rites and pushed the float backward.”
Camille Paul Felizat, a 25-year-old student from France, added: “It was chaotic with protesters praying, crying, singing, and laying on the floor. They occupied the street for a good part of the night.”
Felizat said many participants managed to have a good time despite taking the protests with the grain of salt. “They weren’t affected at all,” he said.
The LGBT group says that the say the Korea Queer Festival is a rare chance to express solidarity in a country where harsh stigmatization makes “coming out” exceedingly difficult.
The country’s conservative Christian lobby has been the most vocal opponent of LGBT rights, blocking legislation that would protect gays and other groups.
This year’s festival — which opened June 3 and runs through June 15 — aims to promote solidarity between the sexual minority groups in Asia and broaden public understanding of gay rights.
The American, French and German embassies are all supporting the event.
Steve Miller who was present at the festival with his wife and spoke to The Korea Times over the phone said he witnessed many of the protesters launch verbal attacks on participants.
“It’s a sad thing that people still have to still fight for equality, for being simply who they are,” he said. “Despite their ‘love’ chant, what the church groups were preaching was hate.”
Male and female same-sex relations is legal in South Korea although it is not specifically mentioned in either the South Korean Constitution or in the Civil Penal Code.
Nonetheless, general awareness of same-sex relations has remained low among the Korean public and Korean gays and lesbians still face difficulties, and many prefer not to reveal their gay identity to their family, friends or co-workers.