Thousands of people have gathered in Seoul as part of the Korea Queer Culture Festival over the weekend—with organisers reporting that the event drew a record-breaking crowd.
It’s estimated that 85,000 people marched through the rain in the South Korean capital to celebrate the LGBT+ community and protest for equal rights—35,000 more than last year.
Attendees marched along the four-kilometre route, waving rainbow flags and carrying brightly coloured umbrellas to shelter from the rain.
“I am happy that I can finally express who I really am. I am surprised that so many people came here because I usually don’t see openly gay people around me,” a 22-year-old lesbian university student told the Korean Herald.
“I haven’t told my parents or friends about my sexuality,” she said. “I would have no friends if I came out of the closet. I would feel excluded. People would see me differently.”
While same-sex sexual activity is legal in South Korea, the LGBT+ community not protected by anti-discrimination laws and faces opposition from anti-gay groups. President Moon Jae-In, a former human rights lawyer, said he “opposed homosexuality” during his election campaign this year.
According to the Korea Herald, parade participants were met with protesters from conservative and Protestant groups near Seoul Plaza, who were waving banners that read: “No!! Same-sex marriage” and “Homosexuality is a sin” while singing church hymns.
However, Kang Myeong-jin - one of the Korea Queer Culture Festival organisers - says he is hopeful that Koreans are becoming more accepting of the LGBT+ community.
“I feel that Korean society is changing to embrace differences, given that so many people came here today despite the heavy rain.
“I cannot say I am not mad at anti-gay protesters, but it is not their fault. They just cannot accept drastic changes,” he said, adding that the Korean government needed to step up in creating legislation that would protect the LGBT+ community from discrimination.