Gay actor to reappear on TV after 3-year banishment in conservative Korea
October 2, 2003
SEOUL — Three years ago, Hong Suk-chon was banished from television
after he revealed he was gay.
This week, the 32-year-old entertainer will reappear on a
television soap, playing an openly gay designer, in a sign that
South Korea is slowly opening up to homosexuality.
"I don't know about the older generation but there seems to be
less abhorrence against homosexuals compared to the past," Jung
Yol, who runs the Seoul-based Lesbian and Gay Human Rights
Federation, told The Associated Press Wednesday.
In 2000, Hong's coming out caused a sensation in South Korea, a
deeply Confucian society with a strong Catholic church that even
refused to acknowledge the existence of homosexuality, branding it
as a Western malaise.
In the past years, however, South Korea became much more open to
the issue with transsexual entertainer Ha Ri-soo making it to the
top in the industry and appearing in movies, a music video and live
Last year, a South Korean court declared Ha to be a woman and
allowed her to change her name.
South Korea's SBS television channel said Wednesday that Hong
will play a supporting role in a twice-a-week drama called
"Complete Love" starting Saturday for a three-month season.
Hong will share the primetime limelight with three top South
Korean actors in the drama, written by Kim Soo-hyun, one of South
Korea's most famous scriptwriters known for her family dramas.
"Complete Love," is a story about a man who takes care of his
wife dying from an incurable disease. Hong plays the friend of the
Last month, Hong spoke to Chosun Ilbo newspaper about his
jitters during his first time in the studio since the banishment.
"I am so happy and afraid ... I was shaking when I first stood
in front of the camera," said Hong, once a regular late night talk
show guest who also appeared on the country's leading children's
MBC TV banished Hong from the children's program and a radio
station canceled his sitcom contract after he made his sexual
orientation public in 2000 during an interview with a monthly
Hong, one of the most recognizable figures in South Korea
because of his shaved head and hyperactive and flamboyant TV roles,
soon lost all television roles and no producer would touch him. The
first Korean public figure to come out, Hong was bombarded with
The new lease of life given to his career by "Perfect Love" was
hailed by the Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Federation.
"It's only right that he has returned to TV. I hope that this
will set an example to end discrimination against homosexuals at
work places," said Jung, the federation chief.
He said Hong's coming out gave courage to many gay people to
disclose their sexuality.
Members of the federation recently marched through Seoul's
high-fashion avenue with "It's Raining Men" playing loudly. A
remarkable feature of the rally was that its participants - who
until then wore masks at news conferences - showed their faces.
South Korea does not outlaw homosexuality. But the gay rights
movement was nonexistent until the mid-1990s, when a few college
students began coming out at campus and a small group of
homosexuals began networking through Web sites. –Sapa-AP