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This Is What Happened When Christian Groups Tried To Shut Down Korea Pride

A few thousand protesters tried to drown out tens of thousands of participants in a pride parade in the South Korean capital — and failed to kill the party.

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SEOUL — Tens of thousands of people marched through the South Korean capital in an LGBT pride festival on Sunday, despite attempts by Christian groups to shut it down.

The atmosphere was defiantly jubilant at the parade, the culmination of the three-week long Korean Queer Culture Festival.

Christian groups have been running a campaign for weeks to try to block the parade. In May, they camped out for a week in front of the police station where parade organizers had to apply for a permit and filed a competing request to hold an event in the same place. Police initially responded by canceling the parade citing the conflicting permit applications, but a court ruled on June 17 that the parade had to be allowed.

The Seoul police deployed thousands of officers to keep order between the queer festival — which began in a large grassy plaza in front of city hall — and eight counter protests that entirely surrounded the area. Here's what happened.

The largest of the the counter-protests was organized by a coalition including some of Korea's largest Christian church associations, which joined together as the Korean Churches Anti-LGBT Response Committee.

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The group held a worship service across the street from the Queer Festival, blasting hymns, prayers, and sermons so loudly that at times it overwhelmed the festival's sound system. The organizers had predicted that 30,000 people would participate in the service, but the actual number appeared to number around 2,000.

"Our prayers will open the sky and the homosexuals will fall, we will be blessed with victory," said Lee Young-hoon, head of the leading organization in the anti-LGBT coalition.

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Lee, who is pastor of the Yoido Full Gospel megachurch in Seoul, heads the Christian Council of Korea, which claims to represent 60,000 churches with 12 million members.

They handed out visors that said, "Oppose homosexual provocation."

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The sign on their laps from the Korea Presbyterian Assembly says, "We pray for korea not to be diseased/sick with homosexuality."

Many protesters held this sign as an example of the "homosexual provocation" they opposed.

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A participant in last year's pride parade wearing a jock strap mooned the protesters. Now he's featured on a poster addressed to the Seoul mayor that reads, ""Mayor Park Won-soon, please protect our young children. Parents oppose the queerfest at Seoul Plaza!!"

The prayer service also featured this "power worship dance."

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This guy was there dressed as a Native American.

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"Jesus, heaven; no faith, hell" his sign said. It's not clear why he was dressed this way, but he got applause when he walked in front of the stage.

The Korean Association of Holiness Church protested with the arts.

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These drummers are wearing traditional dresses called hanbok and are flanked by people waving the South Korean flag.

"National values were fashioned on purity and justice, which is why this chaos will go against our roots and bring confusion to the people," said Baek Chang-gi, who was dressed in the costumes of the scholar class who helped governed Korea until the late 19th century. "Homosexuality is hurting our manpower; our nation is doomed."

They also performed ballet.

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"These girls symbolize God's angels," Pastor Byun Byeong-tak told BuzzFeed News. "They are here to show what real beauty and purity is."

Many of the protesters wore masks marked with a black X.

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They were wearing masks out of fear of MERS, a respiratory illness that's having an outbreak in Seoul. Protesters gave various explanations for the X — one man said it meant no to same-sex marriage, another said it was meant to signify silent protest to homosexuality.

This woman holds a sign reading, "Same sex marriage is not a human right (EU Human Rights Court)."

Some queer festival participants confronted the protesters, like this guy dressed as Jesus fisting a cut-out.

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The guy next to him holds a sign that says, "Anal sex is a human right. It feels good."

Several Western embassies had booths at the festival, and the U.S. brought Barack and Michelle Obama.

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They were only there in cardboard form, but Ambassador Mark Lippert dropped by.

Parade organizers had worried that the protesters might try to block the parade — last year several laid down in the street in front of the floats. A few tried, but they were immediately removed and the parade went off without any major incidents.

J. Lester Feder is a world correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. His secure PGP fingerprint is 2353 DB68 8AA6 92BD 67B8 94DF 37D8 0A6F D70B 7211

Contact J. Lester Feder at lester.feder@buzzfeed.com.

Jihye Lee is a multimedia journalist based in Seoul, South Korea.

Contact Jihye Lee at jihye4198@gmail.com.

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