Demonstrators continued to disrupt South Korea’s annual gay pride in Seoul on Wednesday, a day after the Korea Queer Festival began in front of City Hall. Conservative Christian groups have been vocal about opposing the festival, which brings together gay and transgender Koreans for a series of events and parades in June, recognized internationally as gay pride month. Nearly 1,000 riot police were dispatched ahead of the event that began Tuesday as a precaution, as the festival has drawn sometimes heated protests in the past, according to the Korea Times.
Gay and transgender Koreans are often stigmatized, as the country remains largely conservative on matters of sexuality. Many South Koreans regard same-sex attraction as a foreign anomaly, according to the Agence France-Presse.
â€” KoreaFunNews (@KoreaFunNews) June 9, 2015
The Korea Queer Festival, which was first held 15 years ago, has often been mired in controversy. The event’s attendance has been growing – organizers expected around 20,000 participants this year – but the increased visibility has also meant that the number of protesters who turn out to rally against it has been rising, too.
For the first time in the festival’s history, the police last week banned the parade scheduled to take place June 28, at the end of the Korea Queer Festival, citing concerns over public safety in light of the backlash from conservative groups. The event’s organizers, however, vowed to continue with the parade. "The police should protect the rights of free expression, rather than siding with those trying to suppress it," the festival’s executive director Woo Ji-Young told the AFP. "The parade will go on whether the police ban it or not.”
Korea’s gay pride event wasn’t the only event under attack from protesters. Demonstrators attacked a gay pride parade in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev over the weekend, pelting attendees with stones and smoke bombs. Several people were arrested.