The LGBTQ+ Movement: South Korea’s push for more inclusivity

The LGBTQ+ Movement

Over the past few weeks, streaming content companies in South Korea have announced different LGBTQ+ related shows. This was a feat that many in South Korea had thought impossible but it seems that things are slowly looking up. 

SK Telecom and three of  South Korea’s biggest TV broadcasters, KBS, MBC and SBS came together to release the first queer romance reality show “Merry Queer.” The show features the stories of queer couples on their “coming out” journeys, whether it be revealing their “unconventional” relationships to families, friends, or the world.  In the first episode, one of the hosts, Hong Seok-cheon, is emotional as he explains what the show will mean to the South Korean queer community.

He was one of the first South Korean celebrities to come out in 2000 and was immediately fired from his network television programs and advertisements amidst public uproar. His decision to come out cost him his career and in his memoir, My Heart Still Throbs for Forgotten Love, he talks of the crippling stigma, abuse and discrimination he faced at the time.

It is no surprise why he was so moved to be in this show 22 years later, acknowledging that he never thought such a moment or a show would ever be possible. For the first time in South Korea’s television history, viewers are able to see LGBTQ+ couples living their authentic life while speaking up on issues that affect their daily lives . 

Another South Korean streaming service Wavve also announced the release another variety show featuring a gay cast called “His Man”. This will be South Korea’s very first gay dating reality series where a group of eight hot, sexy, free and single gay men share a house where they are to live, interact and open up to each other in their quest for “true love”. 

The journey to this moment has been long and difficult but many things have helped paved the way . South Korea, like the rest of the world, has been making progress when it comes to their attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community. The progress is painfully slow but it is still progress and most certainly welcomed.

Most young people in South Korea have a positive attitude towards the community and are informed on matters such as sexuality and gender.

There have also been positive feedback on BL series such as Semantic Error, which viewers find refreshing and unique compared to the endless available series based on heterosexual couples. There has been a rise in demand for LGBTQ+ content proving that audiences are open for more.

Online streaming has made it easier to access these shows and terrestrial broadcasters have no choice but to give in to demand and expand their content creation to produce more diverse contents.

Recently, we’ve even seen mainstream dramas start to include these themes too, with Mine featuring a hidden same-sex relationship and Itaewon Class highlighting the struggles of being transgender, to name a few.

As many celebrate and welcome a new era in South Korean television, some are against these shows being aired and are protesting for them to be cancelled. Recently an online group of moms took to the internet to condemn Semantic Error. According to the moms, watching the show may lead to their children turning gay. They claimed that such shows are unnecessary and that they should join forces and speak before it is too late . 

Wavve however stood their ground and released a statement, reading:

“While we do empathize with your concerns, Wavve-original programs aim to showcase programs with unique topics which differentiate them from other platforms, and this program in question is just one of many different types of programs that our platform hopes to offer viewers. This program is a reality program which reflects the lives of these people. There may be differing views and opinions on ‘bisexual’ individuals; however, through the format of a reality program, this series provides a look into the lives of certain people while addressing the need to respect and understand differences, so we ask for your understanding.”

Many others took to the internet to support the show too, citing that no one is obligated to watch the show if they don’t want to. These series  are important because they make it possible to talk about the social issues the LGBTQ+ community faces in South Korea and educate people on the reality of what it is like being queer.

They help change perceptions and people are able to be more understanding. They are conversation starters and can help initiate the change needed to bring equality. As long as these characters are well written, a more diverse array of talent on-screen can only be a good thing.

What are your thoughts on South Korea and its recent push for inclusivity? Do you think this is a good thing? Do let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!

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