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South Korean court lifts ban on gay Pride parade in Seoul

Freedom of assembly must not be lightly prohibited, judge rules

A court in South Korea has overturned a police ban on this year’s gay Pride parade in Seoul.

The Namdaemun police department rejected the Korean Queer Culture Festival (KQCF)’s application for a parade permit on June 2, after Christian fundamentalists calling themselves “Love Your Country, Love Your Children” obtained a permit to march on the same day. Police cited traffic concerns and fears of clashes between the rival groups.

“Of course, we feel good indeed,” says KQCF member Candy Yun, referring to the court’s decision to lift the ban. “We now feel comfortable about hosting a peaceful Pride parade.”

Judge Ban Jeong-woo of the 13th Administrative Court in Seoul ruled that since there was no direct threat to public order, the prohibition on the parade was illegal.

South Korean law dictates that parades, protests, and similar public demonstrations may only be prohibited “after all other possibilities of less restrictive conditions for the freedom of assembly have been exhausted,” Ban ruled.

“Love Your Country, Love Your Children” is an ad hoc anti-LGBT organization with no visible representatives. But the Christian Coalition of Korea (CCK), a conservative Christian umbrella group that claims to represent 12 million Korean Christians and 55,000 churches, reiterated its opposition to the parade after the court’s decision.

“We are always against the gay parade,” a CCK team leader tells Daily Xtra, on strict condition of anonymity. “Our opinion is always against the gay parade and homosexuality in general.”

The month-long Korean Queer Culture Festival, which includes a film festival and other special events, kicked off June 9 at Seoul Plaza. But it was overshadowed both by fears of MERS, a contagious virus spreading in South Korea, and by Christian protesters who outnumbered KQCF volunteers nearly 10 to one.

Protesters banged drums, sang, and yelled through megaphones. They carried signs in both Korean and English accusing gays of spreading AIDS, demanding that LGBT people leave Korea and that Seoul mayor Park Won-soon (whom they say is pro-gay) resign.

They also circulated English leaflets praising anti-gay laws in Uganda and demanding that ambassadors who support LGBT rights “leave Korea right now.”

The CCK say they were not at the June 9 rally because of MERS fears, and they don’t know if they will be present for the parade June 28. However, if they feel the threat of MERS has receded, then the CCK team leader says they will probably be there.

“The hate group will surely come to the Pride parade and try to [stop] us,” Yun predicts. “We are trying our best to have the parade safely and peacefully.”