Netizens are attempting to raise awareness over the hypocritical treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community within the K-Pop industry following the homophobic attack against solo K-Pop artist HOLLAND.
Recently, HOLLAND revealed that he suffered an attack in Itaewon after being called a slur. He was targeted due to his sexuality.
HOLLAND is one of the few openly gay K-Pop artists and is considered the first.
Of course, this is unfortunately not the first time that HOLLAND was attacked over his sexuality. After realizing his sexual preference, he confided in his close friend in middle school. Yet, the “friend” outed him, resulting in HOLLAND getting bullied so badly that he was assaulted. It went so far that HOLLAND was physically dragged around the schoolyard after schoolmates tied a rope around his neck.
Despite facing so much discrimination, HOLLAND uses his platform to advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights. So, his music often reflects such hopeful messages for those in the community.
People look to me to represent the LGBT community in Korea at the moment, they support me and look at me that way so there’s no reason for me to refuse. I will fight for the rights of the LGBT community in Korea. All the actions that I foresee from my music, the message that I send, and what I write, all of that intends to resolve and change the traditionalist views in Korea.
Still, he has also spoken about discrimination within the music industry. While most people keep things to themself, HOLLAND recognizes that some people are uncomfortable around him.
… I feel like if someone had an issue with me because of my sexuality then they wouldn’t even work with me in the first place.
It also sounded like HOLLAND ultimately went independent as an idol because his agency would not represent his message.
Companies will mold them into what they think will be best for them, so what the company and the artist must do is divided equally. It’s very distinct. There are other elements that artists focus on, but the main things they do is practicing singing and dancing. But, for me, my focus is finding a crew who are able to support and help me tell the message that I want to send to fans.
His fans, too, are hoping to make a difference. Following the recent hate crime against HOLLAND, K-Pop fans hope to bring awareness to the homophobia within South Korea.
These efforts have mostly been met with severe pushback by conservative Christians who still carry a large amount of political power and have even crossed over into violence against attendees at events like Seoul and Incheon Pride in past years with the police looking on.
— Liv// #10YearsWithEXO (@octobersoo) May 5, 2022
Unfortunately, this homophobia is still very prevalent. So, while many were shocked to hear about HOLLAND getting attacked, it was not so surprising for some, especially other members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Korea.
Anyways I say all of this to emphasize calling the person who attacked Holland a “hater” and saying things like “I can’t believe people are still homophobic in 2022 in SK” negates and undermines the very real harm that many LGBTQ+ Koreans and people still face globally.
— Liv// #10YearsWithEXO (@octobersoo) May 5, 2022
Also linking this thread from 2020 about how gay Koreans who hung out in Itaewon were being blamed for the spike in COVID cases https://t.co/uNUqhA9zH6
— Liv// #10YearsWithEXO (@octobersoo) May 6, 2022
K-Pop appears progressive to international fans as idols often break gender norms. Yet, the industry itself tends to be quite homophobic. Former JYP Entertainment trainee KilliAN revealed that he was actually kicked out of the agency after his homosexual relationship was discovered.
I’m gay, but Koreans were very conservative about homosexuality at that time, so in the end, they asked me to leave because of it.
Likewise, in episode 41 of Showterview With Jessi, TV personality Hong Seok Cheon talked about his difficult experience upon coming out as gay to the public. He was banned from broadcasts for three years as a result.
I thought, ‘Would people finally be accepting of people like me in the new decade?‘ since the paradigm was changing. So I finally decided to come out in 2000, but it was all the same. I had a really hard time and for about 3 years, I wasn’t able to come on any broadcasts.
— Hong Seok Cheon
So, netizens are pointing out hypocrisy within the Korean entertainment industry.
i keep thinking about how other kpop idols can go around doing their little gay fan service and get praised for it and their fans like it to the point they write fan fics about them but holland, an openly gay idol, gets attacked for just living his life https://t.co/bDRQewQ11t
— michael afton attorney (@OPENMlND) May 5, 2022
ik we all giggle about queerbaiting but these companies really do make money off this shit while openly gay people always have to be constantly be hyper vigilant everywhere they go. and this goes for any country not just sk
— nikki (@reveheon) May 5, 2022
They state that the Korean entertainment industry, especially now, with the popularity of BL/GL (Boy Love and Girl Love) K-Dramas, is profiting off of the LGBTQIA+ community while discriminating against actual members.
Netizens claim that K-Pop especially often markets to fans by queerbaiting.
Queerbaiting is a marketing technique for fiction and entertainment in which creators hint at, but then do not actually depict, same-sex romance or other LGBT representation.
Last year, EJ Music Entertainment‘s girl group QODES was under fire for its “queer-coded” music video due to this very reason.
In the idol industry, the ‘queer code’ has become a source of contents of its own. Even in the times when genders [and sexualities] did not come as clearly defined as they do now, fanfictions about same-sex relationships between idol group members served as one of the main ways fans consumed the ‘idol culture.’
— EJ Music Entertainment
They also say that K-Pop profits from “fan service” as idol groups’ fans may enjoy “shipping” members with one another, although some themselves have expressed their frustrations with it. This has been a common practice for years in K-Pop.
For example, the “Pepero Kiss Game” was especially popular as K-Pop group members would be so close as to “kiss” when exchanging the snack from their mouths.
A lot of performances will also contain provocative choreography that initiates physical contact between members.
Some have found it insensitive to discuss such topics in response to HOLLAND being hate-crimed. Yet, others are explaining that they feel it to all be connected in that South Korea, a conservative country, profits off of the fetishism of homosexual relations. It can actually dehumanize the LGBTQIA+ community and contributes to homophobia.
You missed the point I guess ???? Queerbaiting In kpop is a real issue and it’s purpose is to fetishise wlw or mlm relationship between idols and make international fans forget that Korea is actually a conservative and homophobic country https://t.co/Qnhkklndaj
— ✘nini⁷ (@triviamoonie_) May 6, 2022
Consequently, many K-Pop idols who actually are gay will remain closeted. Yet, those who are truly members of the LGBTQIA+ community will usually support one another non-publicly. Crayon Pop‘s Way and soloist and former BLANC7 leader Shinwoo spoke about it on her YouTube channel. Read more below:
Are There Really A Lot Of Gay Idols? Crayon Pop’s Way & BLANC7’s Shinwoo Reveal Their Experience
Still, some gay idols are brave enough to identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community publicly and hope to make a difference for the better. Both HOLLAND and Superstar K competitor Park Woo Sik are openly gay. Also, former WA$ $ UP member Jiae and Idol School contestant Som Hein (also known as Som Hyein) are openly bisexual.
Lionesses recently debuted and are considered the first out LGBTQ+ K-Pop boy group!
2AM‘s Jo Kwon has not revealed sexual preference but has identified as non-binary. They also include a rainbow emoji in their Instagram bio.
While no member of MAMAMOO has explicitly come out, all of the members have proven to be true LGBTQIA+ allies. Moonbyul especially depicts WLW (Women Love Women) and GL relationships in her music.
While there’s still a long way to go in terms of progress, there is hope. Last year, HYBE received praise for the inclusion of all gender identities in auditions. Likewise, HYBE’s current artists have proven to be outspoken LGBTQIA+ advocates and allies. Jo Kwon once revealed that Bang Si Hyuk (also known as Bang PD and Hitman Bang) even gifted them heels once, showing support.
Producer Bang Si Hyuk gifted them to me when he produced my first solo album, Animal. One day, he sent me a photo. They’re 19.5-centimeter high heels with no heels. He told me he thought it’d be cool if I vogued in them, so I remember performing in them.
— Jo Kown
Read more below:
HYBE’s New Girl Group Audition Is Breaking Korean Gender Norms, Here’s What Fans Think
Idol Struggles & Victories
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