By Jane Chung
SEOUL, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Gay South Korean film director Kim Jho Gwang-soo symbolically married his long-term partner on Saturday, with the couple exchanging vows on a bridge, though same-sex marriage remains illegal in the conservative Asian country.
Dressed in white, Kim and his partner of nine years, Kim Seung-hwan, staged an ceremony on a stage overlooking a stream, with a choir and various artists performing a musical tribute.
Both men made clear they were trailblazing in a society where traditional values keep many homosexuals from coming out, let alone pressing for legal approval for same-sex unions.
"Now people cannot but call us as a married couple as we have had a wedding," Kim, 49, told a news conference, holding his partner's hand tightly before the ceremony got under way.
"It is important whether or not we become a legally bound couple. But more importantly, we want to let people know that gays can marry too in our society."
Hundreds attended the two-hour ceremony, dubbed "Kim Jho Gwang-soo and Kim Seung-hwan's Righteous Wedding," which featured the partners reading their vows and singing a song to illustrate their love story.
Proceedings were disrupted briefly when an unidentified man rushed onto the stage and tossed food onto members of the choir.
Yonhap news agency later identified the man as an elder in a Christian church. He was detained by police.
Kim announcement in May that he was holding the event made him the first South Korean show business personality to do so and only the second to ever come out. The other, an actor, now says he regrets his decision.
Although homosexuality is not illegal, the pressure to marry someone of the opposite sex to continue the family blood line is strong and leads many to hide their sexual identity. Gays and lesbians have been subject to hate crimes, with one gay man sprayed with hydrochloric acid in 2008 by an acquaintance.
New Zealand last month became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalise gay marriage, with many Australians now travelling there to tie the knot.
Thailand, one of the most liberal countries in the region, does not recognise same-sex marriages, but a civil partnership law giving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples the same rights as heterosexuals is being prepared.
Kim said he would nonetheless formally apply to get his marriage legally registered after the ceremony. Some South Korean lawmakers have backed an anti-discrimination law that would embrace gay rights, but amendments have foundered due to conservative Christian legislators who oppose recognition.
Christians make up about a third of the population, with parishioners split into a wide variety of denominations.
Kim has directed a handful of films well received by domestic audiences and came out in 2005 during a screening. He co-founded a production company "Rainbow Factory" with his partner that specialises in LGBT-themed movies.
The couple said they would use the traditional wedding money gifts they received to launch a centre for LGBT issues. (Editing by Ron Popeski)
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The Netherlands was the first country to recognize gay marriage in <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4081999.stm" target="_hplink">2001</a>. <em>Pictured: Jan van Breda and Thijs Timmermans.</em>
Belgium legalized same-sex marriages in <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4081999.stm" target="_hplink">2003. </a> <em>Pictured: Marion Huibrecht and Christel Verswyvelen.</em>
Spain legalized gay marriage in <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4081999.stm" target="_hplink">2005</a>.
Canada followed Spain and approved gay marriage in <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10650267" target="_hplink">2005. </a>
South Africa legalized same sex marriage in <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10650267" target="_hplink">2006.</a> <em>Pictured: Vernon Gibbs and Tony Hall. </em>
Norway followed suit in <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10650267" target="_hplink">2009.</a> <em>Norwegian finance minister and chairwoman of the Socialist Left party Kristin Halvorsen (L) stands next to wedding figurines outside the House of Parliament in Oslo on June 11, 2008, where she celebrated the passing of a new law awarding equal rights to same sex partnerships as those enjoyed by heterosexual marriages. (Getty)</em>
Sweden recognized same sex marriage in <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10650267" target="_hplink">2009.</a> <em>Pictured: Johan Lundqvist (L) and Alf Karlsson. </em>
Portugal recognized gay marriage in <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10650267" target="_hplink">2010.</a> <em>Pictured: Teresa Pires and Helena Paixao. </em>
Iceland legalized gay marriage in <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10650267" target="_hplink">2010.</a>
Argentina legalized same sex-marriage in <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4081999.stm" target="_hplink">2010.</a> It was the only Latin American country to do so. <em>Pictured: Giorgio Nocentino (L) and Jaime Zapata.</em>
New Zealand<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/17/maurice-williamson-new-zealand-gay-marriage-_n_3100714.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices" target="_blank"> became the first</a> Asia-Pacific nation (and the 13th in the world) to legalize same-sex marriage. <em>Pictured: Jills Angus Burney (L) and Deborah Hambly.</em>
Denmark became the first country to allow the registration of gay partnerships in 1989. In 2012, Denmark's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/07/denmark-approves-gay-wedd_0_n_1577288.html" target="_blank">Parliament approved </a>a law allowing same-sex couples to get married in formal church weddings instead of the short blessing ceremonies that the state's Lutheran Church offered.
The Uruguay Parliament lawmakers passed the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/10/uruguay-legalizes-gay-marriage_n_3057458.html" target="_blank">"marriage equality project"</a> in Montevideo, Uruguay,Wednesday, April 10, 2013.
Same-sex marriage is legal in 13 U.S. states and Washington DC.
Some <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/26/brazils-top-appeals-court-upholds-gay-marriage_n_1032481.html" target="_blank">parts of Brazil</a> allow same-sex marriage (AL, BA, CE, DF, ES, MS, PR, PI, SE, and SP).
Some areas of Mexico allow gay marriage, such <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/06/mexico-gay-marriage-law-unconstitutional-_n_2249701.html" target="_blank">as Mexico City</a>.
France legalized same sex marriage in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/23/france-gay-marriage-law-_n_3139470.html?utm_hp_ref=world&ir=World&utm_hp_ref=world" target="_hplink">2013</a>. Pictures: an illustration made with plastic figurines of men is seen in front of the Palais Bourbon, the seat of the French National Assembly. (JOEL SAGET/Getty Images)
Britain legalized gay marriage on July 17, 2013 after Queen Elizabeth II gave her royal stamp of approval. Gay marriages are set to begin in England and Wales in the summer of 2014.