Holland: Paving the way for LGBTQ+ idols in South Korea?
UnitedKpop has released their Summer e-magazine. The magazine features two articles by BritROK, including this piece on LGBT Kpop artist Holland.
June marks the official Pride Month for LGBTQ+ communities around the world. Pride Month not only celebrates the community and its achievements but also commemorates the Stonewall Riots in which the New York LGBT community fought against political and social oppression (June 1969).
Sadly, in South Korea oppression still exists for queer-identifying individuals, many choosing to keep their sexual identity secret from even their families. This seems unsurprising when you consider a 2016 survey saw 16.1% of the out LGBT individuals who participated had been encouraged to seek conversion therapy, of these, 94% experienced psychological trauma due to this.
Although there is an increasingly visible LGBT community in Korea, broader support for LGBT rights is less obvious, same-sex marriages and civil unions are not legally recognised in the country and the anti-discrimination laws do not specifically prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Though some local governments have chosen to enact laws that protect the LGBTQ community (including Seoul).
South Korea does not boast many LGBTQ+ role models for these, and more, reasons. Actor Hong Seok Cheon remains the most prominent openly gay celebrity since he came out in 2000, Harisu is Korea’s first transgender entertainer, Kim Chi (Shin Sang Young) though residing in America is considered ‘The First Korean Drag Queen’ due to her prominence on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’, film director Kim Jho Gwangsoo is the most known of Korea’s LGBTQ rights activists.
Other idols do lend their voices to fighting discrimination, however, Super Junior’s Heechul, 2AM’s Jo Kwon, JYJ’s Jaejoong, and actor and singer Lee Jihoon to name but a few.
Earlier this year, Holland debuted as the first openly gay (native) Kpop idol. His first release, ‘Neverland’, saw him release a love song. The lyrics of ‘Neverland’ explicitly express a queer love, with the music video serving to remove any doubt regarding the topic of a same-sex relationship.
Holland hopes to be able to become a role model for his community and fans, and one can’t help but wonder whether he will be able to pave the way for other idols to be more open about their sexuality. It is, after all, those in the spotlight who are most able to preach acceptance and make an impact. Though it is doubtful a presence like Holland’s will make much, or any, impact on an older generation of idols who may have hidden or repressed their sexual identity, he may well be able to pave the way for younger idols – but only if South Korea can accept him.
Holland has topped this year’s Dazed 100 list through his international reach, but at home in Korea, his openness about his sexuality means he has been unable to find a record label willing to sign him, so he is working independently. If a company is willing to risk the initial backlash that singing a queer-identifying artist will bring, along with Holland they could become the catalyst for change that South Korea needs.
Opposition to homosexuality is slowly decreasing, especially amongst those under thirty. If today’s leaders cannot be pushed towards tolerance it is more likely tomorrow’s leaders will have grown up with more tolerance than their predecessors. Artists like Holland, if given the right platform, can only help that.
You can read the whole UKP Magazine below: