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South Korea’s pride parade marks 20 years in blaze of color — and 70,000 attendees

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Parade organisers say some 70,000 people took part in the event AFP

Tens of thousands of LGBT South Koreans and their supporters paraded through central Seoul Saturday for the capital’s 20th gay rights march, with ruling Democratic Party members taking part for the first time.

The parade, some 70,000 strong according to organisers, made its way through the South Korean capital with participants dancing on open truck beds and waving rainbow flags.

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“People who used to be invisible are here to show that they exist,” said Jeong Min-hee, a 26-year-old participant.

“It’s so much fun, I’m very excited and it feels so good to be in solidarity with others.”

South Korea is Asia’s fourth biggest economy and a capitalist democracy, but lived through decades of military rule when evangelical Christianity was widespread and framed the communist North as evil.

Christian churches still have enduring political influence in the South, and they are now targeting sexual minorities, activists say.

“The conservative Christians consider both — communists and sexual minorities — as deserving to be demonised in South Korean society,” said Lim Bo-rah, a senior pastor at an LGBT-friendly church in Seoul.

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But changes in society are afoot. Members of the ruling, left-leaning Democratic Party (DPK) participated in the event for the first time this year and CASS, one of the South’s largest beer brands, on Friday became the country’s first major company to openly support gay rights.

The South Korean President Moon Jae-in — a former human rights lawyer — has spoken only vaguely on gay rights. His political rivals and LGBT activists say he is trying not to alienate supporters.

As the front-runner in the presidential race in 2017, Moon said in a television debate that he “opposed” homosexuality in the military.

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-‘We were invisible’-

“We decided to participate because we wanted to show that LGBT people and their allies exist even within the ruling party,” said Kim Min-seok, one of some 30 DPK members who showed up at the parade, waving the party flag.

“I often felt we were invisible within the DPK — many members wouldn’t even think about the possibility of our existence”, Kim said.

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The participation of the ruling party’s members was announced prior to the event and sparked intense controversy, triggering the spokesperson for the main opposition, conservative party Min Kyung-wook to say the Democrats should “come out” as a “queer” party.

Homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea but there is currently no legislation outlawing discrimination.

It is also the world’s only advanced economy to make consensual gay sex between soldiers a crime under military rules.

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It is a marked contrast to Taiwan — which also has Confucian cultural components, a history of dictatorship, and has enjoyed an economic boom in recent decades.

But earlier this month Asia’s first gay marriages took place on the island after it legalised the change.

Activists say the difference is religion: South Korea has proven fertile ground for religious groups that offered comfort and salvation that appealed during times of deep uncertainty following the Korean War.

Now more than 20 percent of South Korea’s population are Protestant Christians, surveys show, compared to about five percent of Taiwanese.

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Thousands of Christian protesters turned out to protest the event on Saturday, holding up signs that read “Repent and come back to Jesus. He loves you.”

A cross-section of society were present, including buddhists, Korean-American adoptees, asexuals and parents of sexual minorities.

In previous parades, “young LGBT people would come to us and cry in arms whenever we gave them free hugs,” said Lee Sun-young, who works for Parents and Families of LGBTAIQ people of Korea.

“We always remember them. I hope they know that the world is changing, although slowly.”

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Moon may be richer in water than thought — and it could help propel humans farther from earth

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There may be far more water on the Moon than previously thought, according to two studies published Monday raising the tantalising prospect that astronauts on future space missions could find refreshment -- and maybe even fuel -- on the lunar surface.

The Moon was believed to be bone dry until around a decade ago when a series of findings suggested that our nearest celestial neighbour has traces of water trapped in the surface.

Two new studies published in Nature Astronomy on Monday suggest there could be much more water than previously thought, including ice stored in permanently shadowed "cold traps" at lunar polar regions.

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Asymptomatic coronaagvirus sufferers lose antibodies sooner: study

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Asymptomatic coronavirus sufferers appear to lose detectable antibodies sooner than people who have exhibited Covid-19 symptoms, according to one of the biggest studies of its kind in Britain published on Tuesday.

The findings by Imperial College London and market research firm Ipsos Mori also suggest the loss of antibodies was slower in 18–24 year-olds compared to those aged 75 and over.

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The research, commissioned by the British government and published Tuesday by Imperial, indicates people's immune response to Covid-19 reduces over time following infection.

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2020 Election

Early voting to be hit by heavy rain and flooding as Hurricane Zeta barrels towards the Gulf Coast

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Hurricane Zeta is expected to make landfall near Louisiana's border with Mississippi on Wednesday evening as campaigns work to get supporters to the polls and convince any undecided voters to back their candidate.

"Hurricane conditions and life-threatening storm surge are possible along portions of the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday, and Storm Surge and Hurricane Watches are in effect," the National Hurricane Center warned.

"Between Tuesday night and Thursday, heavy rainfall is expected from portions of the central Gulf Coast into the southern Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic states near and in advance of Zeta. This rainfall will lead to flash, urban, small stream, and minor river flooding," the center explained.

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