Showing posts with label South Korea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Korea. Show all posts

January 11, 2020

South Korean Heart Throb Seugri Will Be Indicted on 7 Charges


Seugri, real name Lee Seung Hyun


The prosecution has filed another request for a pretrial detention warrant for Seungri.

It was revealed on January 10 that the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office filed a request for a pretrial detention warrant for Seungri on seven charges.

These charges include habitual gambling, violation of the Foreign Exchange Transactions Act, purchasing prostitution services, mediating prostitution services, violation of the Food Sanitation Act, embezzlement, and violation of the 

Act on Special Cases Concerning the Punishment, etc. of Sexual Crimes.
The prosecution previously requested a detention warrant in May on five of the charges, but the request was dismissed by the court. The new request includes the addition of habitual gambling and violation of the Foreign Exchange Transactions 

Act along with the previous five charges.
Court questioning to determine the validity of the pretrial detention warrant will be held on January 13

November 14, 2019

LGBTQ Community in South Korea Fights For Marriage Equality

SEOUL, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- South Korean lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights activists filed a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea on Wednesday calling for greater same-sex rights.
A network of organizations called Gagoonet, or the Korean Network for Partnership and Marriage Rights of LGBT, submitted the mass complaint, which cites violations of numerous economic and social rights in Korea due to the lack of legal same-sex partnerships. 
The petition carried the signatures of over 1,000 LGBT individuals, same-sex couples and family members.
At a small rally outside the commission's headquarters on Wednesday morning before submitting the petition, activists held up signs reading "Happiness" and "Caring" and chanted slogans such as "Not legalizing same-sex marriage is LGBT discrimination." 
Yi Ho-rim, an organizer with Gagoonet, said the group is pushing for the Human Rights Commission, a national advocacy institution, to make a recommendation to the government to introduce legislation for same-sex marriage and partnership rights.
"What we are asking for is the protection of rights for the LGBT community," Yi said.
She added that the LGBT community is looking to raise its profile in a country that remains deeply conservative on a number of social issues. 
"In South Korea, there's still not an active conversation on same-sex marriage or LGBT policies and laws," Yi said. "One purpose of this mass petition is to facilitate a public conversation about same-sex marriage."
Same-sex marriage and other forms of legal partnership are not available in South Korea, and in the military, consensual sex between men is punishable by up to two years in prison, a policy that Amnesty International condemned earlier this year.
In June, Gagoonet conducted a survey of 380 people living with same-sex partners in Korea and found that they faced a host of difficulties, such as exclusion from low-cost housing loans targeting newlyweds and legal rights when a spouse or partner is sick or dies. 
But while legal recognition remains limited, public attitudes have been evolving over the past few years, Yi said.
"Things are changing rapidly because the LGBT community is becoming more visible and many people are coming out to their families, in public, and at the workplace," she said.
At a meeting with religious leaders last month, President Moon Jae-in spoke out against LGBT discrimination in his most pointed remarks on the subject since taking office in 2017.
"A national consensus should be the priority for same-sex marriage," Moon told Christian and Buddhist, leaders. "However, regarding the human rights of sexual minorities, they should not be socially persecuted or discriminated against."
While campaigning for president, Moon drew criticism from rights groups by saying he opposed homosexuality during a televised debate.
At the rally on Wednesday, activists shared stories from their own lives as they called for the Human Rights Commission to formally recommend marriage equality.
Kim Yong-min described his husband's care for him during a long illness.
"My husband has been by my side for a long time as a treasured person who cares for me when I am sick," Kim said. "If this kind of relationship is not a family, what kind of relationship is it?"
Kang Sun-hwa said she was "shocked and saddened" when her son, now 24, came out as gay three years ago.
"I thought my son would get old without anyone to be with him and would be lonely," she said.
She quickly grew to accept her son's sexual orientation but felt she needed to do more to help secure his future.
"I decided not just to stop at the emotional acceptance stage," said Kang, who joined the organization PFLAG Korea, which stands for Parents and Friends of LGBTQ People. "I needed to work for my son to get the rights he deserves. I realized that we need political action to protect same-sex couples."
Same-sex marriage is now allowed in 30 countries and territories around the world.
South Korean activists have looked to progress being made in Asian countries such as Japan, where more than two dozen municipalities have recognized same-sex partnerships, and particularly Taiwan, which legalized same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling in May.
So Sung-uk, a 28-year-old NGO worker who joined the rally on Wednesday, said that coming out in South Korea is still difficult for many, but he found inspiration in scenes from Taiwan.
"When I saw the first married couples in Taiwan crying tears of happiness, I was moved," he said. "I desperately want that here."

October 14, 2019

K-Pop Star Sulli Found Dead at 25

Sulli pictured in February 2019 
The K-pop star Sulli has died aged 25.

Police told the BBC the singer's manager found her dead at her home near Seoul, South Korea. 
They say they are investigating the cause of her death and are working on the ‎assumption that she may have taken her own life.‎
The star, who had more than five million followers on Instagram, was a former member of the band f(x) until she left in 2015 to focus on her acting career. 
Sulli on the red carpet ‎Sulli appeared on a number of TV programmes to describe the online abuse she faced as a celebrity.‎
Some believe the artist, whose real name is Choi Jin-ri, suspended her K-pop work after struggling with the abuse she got online.
She was a "free spirit" according to music journalist Taylor Glasby. 
"She was one of the idols who decided to live her life in the way she wanted to and that didn't always sit well with the general public," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.
In South Korea, pop stars are called idols.
"For idols, everything is about appearance, everything is quite monitored and she just didn't [monitor her content]. She was herself".
"She clapped back and she wouldn't take people's narrow-mindedness". 
Taylor says Sulli's former band f(x) changed K-pop.
"They were one of the girl groups that didn't fit in, they did their own thing. Their music was more hard-hitting. It was innovative and complex, and it helped cement an entire sub-genre within K-pop - girl crush.
"When she left, her legacy became being outspoken. It became taking control of her own image. I admired her spirit to do so despite the constant negativity that was directed at her by some less open-minded citizens."‎
Sulli's former f(x) bandmate, Amber Liu, has posted her shock at what's happened.
Sulli was known for being controversial. She unashamedly told her fans that they had a choice about ‎how to display their bodies. ‎
She was involved in the so-called "no bra" scandal where she showed her nipples on a number of ‎occasions. 
The first pictures appeared on her Instagram account in May 2016 and she faced a huge ‎amount of abuse on social media. 
Last month her breasts were shown by accident during a live ‎Instagram stream - which again caused controversy in conservative South Korea. 
Sulli was good friends with K-pop star Jonghyun, who took his own life aged 27. 
The artist paid tribute at his funeral in 2017.

September 23, 2019

Gay Son in South Korea Told By Mom "I Don't Need A Son Like You"

In South Korea, being LGBTQ is often seen as a disability or a mental illness, or by powerful conservative churches as a sin. There are no anti-discrimination laws in the country and, as the BBC's Laura Bicker reports from Seoul, campaigners believe the abuse is costing young lives.
It was a company dinner that changed Kim Wook-suk's life as he knew it.

                           Anti-LGBT protesters at a rally in Seoul
A co-worker got drunk, slammed the table to get everyone's attention and outed 20-year-old Kim.
"It felt like the sky was falling down," Kim told me. "I was so scared and shocked. No-one expected it."
Kim (not his real name) was fired immediately, and the restaurant owner, a Christian protestant, ordered him to leave.

"He said homosexuality is a sin and it was the cause of Aids. He told me that he didn't want me to spread homosexuality to the other workers," says Kim.
But worse was to come. The restaurant owner's son visited Kim's mother to give her the news her son was gay.
"At that moment, she told me to leave the house and said I don't need a son like you. So I was kicked out."  

'Alienated and isolated'

Like so many other LGBTQ teenagers in South Korea, Kim Wook-suk had spent years carefully and quietly trying to hide his sexuality.

He was raised by a devout Protestant mother and taught that being gay meant burning in hell. He listened fearfully in the church as the pastor preached that homosexuality was a sin and encouraging it would bring disease. That's not an unusual sermon in a country where around 20% of the population belong to conservative churches.
But despite being fired and made homeless because of his sexuality, he holds out hope South Korea can change.

Anti-LGBT protesters at a rally in SeoulImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image caption

Christian anti-LGBT protesters are making their presence felt at gay events like here in Seoul
He proudly showed me his T-shirt with a special rainbow logo on it, one that calls for an anti-discrimination law. He believes this law will one day enable the LGBTQ community to come out into the open safely.

It may also save young lives.

A survey of under-18's in the LGBTQ community discovered that almost half - around 45% - have tried to commit suicide. More than half (53%) have attempted to self-harm. These figures have prompted the LGBT rights organization Chingusai - Between Friends - to run a helpline.
"They usually talk about feeling alienated, isolated, feeling like they are a burden to someone," says Dr. Park Jae-wan, who works in a hospital by day and volunteers to run the Connecting Hearts service at night.

"They feel distant as their teachers, friends, or family do not understand or are ignorant about what it means to be LGBTQ."

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He believes a more permanent solution must be found to tackle the danger these young people face - and that involves fighting for a new law.

"We need to seriously think about how to embrace sexual minorities and think about what they need," he said.
Homosexuality may not be illegal in South Korea - since 2003 it is no longer classified as "harmful and obscene" - but discrimination remains widespread. Just under half of South Koreans don't want a gay friend, neighbor or colleague, according to one nationwide survey by The Korea Social Integration Survey. 

Media caption why holidays can be tough for S Korea's LGBT community

The proportion of gay and lesbian teenagers who have been exposed to violence is also high. A poll by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea found that 92% of LGBTQ people were worried about becoming the target of hate crimes.

Kim Wook-suk knows this all too well. His mother, he says, kept trying to "save him", but her actions meant he feared his own family at times.

"Using her church people, she tried to kidnap me multiple times to go through conversion therapy. I was forced to go through some of these therapies, however, there were times I manage to avoid them and escaped."

Kim was always looking over his shoulder. He was in alone in a park late at night when he was approached by a man who told him homosexuality was an unforgivable sin and he should return home to his parents, before beating him with a bamboo stick.

He believes his own mother may have ordered the assault as a form of "shock therapy".
"Establishing an anti-discrimination law will send a message to society that people should not be treated differently based on their sexual orientations," says Cho Hyein, an LGBTQ lawyer at Hope and Law, when I tell her Kim's story.

"When a society sets principles, for instance, schools will be able to set responsive measures when kids are bullied. Right now in South Korea, we don't have institutionalized measures to respond to discriminatory situations."

'We should stop them going to hell'

The LGBTQ community has been pushing for change since 2007, and their voices are becoming bolder.

But the same can be said for the opposite side. The Protestant Christian Community is so concerned that homosexuality will be accepted in South Korea that it has decided to hold its first "real love" event in Busan - just a month after the Queer Festival organizers were forced to cancel their own event in the city.

In a statement to the BBC, they said LGBTQ people were "unethical and abnormal" so their discrimination was "the right kind of discrimination".

Woman shouts through a megaphone at Incheon Queer Festival
A woman shouts through a megaphone at Incheon Queer Festival
Menorah said she felt a responsibility to stop LGBTQ people "from going to hell"
In September, this influential church group turned up at the Queer Festival in Incheon, South Korea's second-biggest city, in their thousands.

They waved paper fans which said NO to homosexuality and YES to "real love". A huge screen was placed near the Queer Festival square blasting a warning video claiming that encouraging homosexuality would spread Aids and cost taxpayers millions.

Getting to the Queer Festival square involved squeezing through lines of protestors offering a barrage of verbal abuse.
"Homosexuality is a country-ruining disease," one man told me. "If you commit a homosexual act, the country will perish."

Among the protestant Christians was Menorah. All-day, until dark, she yelled through her megaphone from different positions around Incheon.

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I asked her why she was shouting at these festival-goers.

"Because we are Christians. We are not here to blame other people, because we really love our neighbors. Just watching them going to hell is not true love. If we truly loved them, we should say the good news and stop them from going to hell."

I put it to her that perhaps she should listen to them rather than shout at them. But she was adamant.
"If we just proclaim our love of Jesus Christ softly, that is not going to work.

"True love is to stop them from going to hell. We should shout because we don't have time. It is an emergency problem."

Two Western men kiss at the Incheon Queer festival

Two Western Men kiss at the Incheon Queer festival

But as the protesters yelled, two foreigners opted to show their solidarity by kissing in public outside the Festival square. 
Two foreigners opted to show their solidarity in Incheon by kissing in front of protesters
Last year, however, the event took a more violent turn. A number of protestors attacked the parade and prevented the festival-goers from marching through the streets.

This year, the police recruited around 3,000 officers to protect just a few hundred people from the LGBTQ community who felt brave enough to join in the event. The presence of embassy staff from the world meant that the police had to ensure the safety of the event.
'The hate is overboard'

South Korea appears to be far less tolerance of the LGBTQ community than its East Asian neighbors.
Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage last year - the first country in Asia to do so. Meanwhile, Japan has elected its first openly gay lawmaker, and despite the current political opposition, a survey found that 78% of people aged 20 to 60 favored legalizing same-sex marriage.

In July, Ibaraki Prefecture became the first of Japan's 47 prefectures to issue partnership certificates for LGBT individuals, raising hope that other prefectures would follow.
The difference in South Korea is a large number of influential protestant groups - although they are not all fighting against expanding rights for the country's LGBQ community.

Pastor Lim BoraImage copyrightPARK KIM HYUNG-JOON

Pastor Lim Bora
Pastor Lim Bora says conservative churches are using anti-LGBT sentiment to rally their supporters

Pastor Lim Bora, of the Hyanglin Seomdol congregation in Seoul, is from one of the few South Korean protestant sects which accept LGBTQ rights. She believes the vocal opposition to an anti-discrimination law is a way of rallying congregations just as the number of church-goers starts to decline.

"The church has used this to unite the congregation. In history, you can see how if you put forth a strong enemy, people will rally and unite behind it. So I think this is why the hate towards homosexuality is overboard."

She has been branded a heretic for her views.
"Regardless of religion, I think an anti-discrimination law should be a basic law for basic human rights. I just hope it becomes a reality soon." 

Media caption Gar South Korean soldier: "I'm constantly afraid"
It may be Kim Wook-suk's best hope at a normal life. In his 20s now, Kim has a partner, and together they dream that one-day South Korean society will accept them as a couple.

He is back on speaking terms with his mother, but they have to limit their conversations.
"She still can't accept me for who I am," he says. "She still thinks a man loving another man is wrong. But I no longer try to argue about this with my mom."

July 12, 2019

In South Korea Gays Can Serve in The Military But Chances Are They Will be Eventually be Prosecuted

                           Related image

SEOUL, South Korea — The army lieutenant knew his career was irrevocably damaged when military investigators visited him in 2017, demanding that he admit having had sex with another male soldier — a crime in South Korea’s military.

When the investigators put him on a video call with his ex-lover, who admitted to the relationship, he felt he had to confess. Then they seized the lieutenant’s smartphone, pressing him to identify gay soldiers in his contact lists. And they humiliated him with questions like “What sex positions did you use?” and “Where did you ejaculate?”

The lieutenant — who in an interview asked to be identified only by his surname, Kim — could have gone to prison, but his indictment was suspended because of his “contrition.” He chose to leave the army, though, believing that he no longer had a future there.

South Korea’s military says it does not discriminate against sexual minorities. But Mr. Kim is one of an increasing number of gay or transgender soldiers who have been persecuted under Article 92-6 of the Army Criminal Act, which has been used to out them and punishes them for consensual sex, Amnesty International said in a report released on Thursday.

Under Article 92-6, “anal sex and other indecent acts” between military personnel can be punished by up to two years in prison, even if they take place off base, while the soldiers are off duty and by mutual consent. Repeated attempts by advocates for L.G.B.T. and intersex people to abolish the law have been unsuccessful.

“South Korea’s military must stop treating L.G.B.T.I. people as the enemy” said Roseann Rife, East Asia research director at Amnesty International. The group’s report, “Serving in Silence,” also details sexual and other abuses inflicted on gay soldiers, or soldiers perceived as gay, by their superiors and their fellow soldiers.

“It is long overdue for the military to acknowledge that a person’s sexual orientation is totally irrelevant to their ability to serve,” Ms. Rife said.

The South Korean government says Article 92-6 is not meant to punish sexual orientation. Rather, it says, it is needed to deter sexual abuse in the army, which is almost entirely male. The country’s Constitutional Court has repeatedly ruled that the article is justified by the military’s need to preserve discipline and “combat power.”

South Korea, which technically has been in a state of war with North Korea for decades, has a conscript army of about 600,000 soldiers. All able-bodied South Korean men are required to serve for about two years. 

The military says it does not bar gay and transgender people from serving, and the Defense Ministry has expanded training on protecting the rights of sexual minorities. What is forbidden, the army says, is not sexual identity, but what the law calls “indecent” sexual activity.

Enforcement of Article 92-6 has been on the rise. The number of soldiers charged under it went from two per year in 2009 and 2010 to 14 in 2012, then 28 in 2017. Ten soldiers were charged in the first half of 2018, the most recent period for which data was available.

Military veterans have long reported discrimination against homosexuals in the army, as well as more widespread abuses like beatings, hazing, and bullying. Most gay soldiers have hidden their sexual orientation for fear of being outed and harassed.

In 2017, the year Mr. Kim was interrogated, the army launched a particularly aggressive crackdown based on Article 92-6, confiscating soldiers’ cellphones without warrants and forcing them to identify other soldiers with whom they’d had sex, according to the Military Human Rights Center, a civic group based in Seoul, the capital.

Nine active-duty soldiers were indicted, of whom eight were convicted, including a captain who received a suspended prison term. Several of the cases are being appealed, and none of the soldiers have been sent to prison, according to Lim Tae-hoon, director of the Military Human Rights Center of Korea, which provides legal assistance for the soldiers.

Fourteen other soldiers were investigated but not indicted — some of whom, including Mr. Kim, has petitioned the Constitutional Court to rule Article 92-6 unconstitutional, Mr. Lim said.

In South Korea, which has been slow to embrace the rights of sexual minorities, that 2017 crackdown triggered an unusual degree of outrage. 

In recent years, gay people have become more visible in the country. But conservative Christian groups have also escalated demonstrations against homosexuality in major cities, often calling gay soldiers a threat to military readiness.

Those groups helped to scuttle attempts in Parliament to pass an anti-discrimination law, urged on South Korea by the United Nations, that would give sexual minorities the same protections that other minority groups have.

Amnesty International’s report describes in vivid detail how antigay attitudes have translated into physical and sexual abuse within the military.

One former soldier told the rights group he had been forced to have oral and anal sex with another gay soldier, as a superior taunted, “Don’t you want to have sex with a woman like man?” Others have been sexually abused for “not being masculine enough,” walking in an “effeminate” way or having a high-pitched voice, according to the report.

Amnesty said it interviewed 21 former, current and future soldiers for the report, most of whom used pseudonyms, including Mr. Kim. One of them, Jeram Yunghun Kang, agreed to the use of his full name in an interview with The New York Times.

Mr. Kang, who joined the army in 2008, said other soldiers in his unit harassed him by groping him, kissing his neck and pulling down his underwear. After he confided to an officer that he was gay and asked for help, his battalion commander outed him in front of his entire unit, asking him, “Who did you seduce last night?”

From that day on, Mr. Kang said, he had to wear a “smiley face” pin on his chest, marking him as a “soldier of special interest.” 

“I had to take showers alone,” Mr. Kang said by telephone from London. “I was considered dirty, someone neither male nor female who should not be naked in the presence of other men.”

Mr. Kang was eventually sent to a military psychiatric ward, where he was forced to take antidepressants twice a day. Staffers there advised him to pretend to be insane so he could be ruled unfit for service and expelled from the military.

Mr. Kang refused. Instead, he said, he attempted suicide twice. He was put in solitary confinement, his limbs tied to a bed.

“While I was tied there in a room where there was no sound or light allowed in, I felt that there was nowhere for me to run in South Korea,” he said. After 116 days in a hospital, he was expelled from the military in 2009 for psychiatric reasons.

Mr. Kang’s mother, who raised him alone, sold her house so he could go to London, to live and study in a more accepting environment. Since moving there in 2016, he has drawn on his experience in the military to create installation art and a self-published book.

Now, his student visa about to expire, Mr. Kang is afraid to come home.

“I left South Korea as if I were fleeing,” he said. “I dread going back there. I feel like I am a refugee.”
A version of this article appears in print on July 11, 2019, Section A, Page 9 of the New York edition with the headline: Gay Soldiers Can Serve. But They May Face Prison

August 3, 2018

LGBTQ Dare to Rally in South Korea for Their Rights, 'Cojones' is Never Been on Empty For This Community

Heezy Yang, 28, is on a mission to advocate LGBTQ issues and rights through artistic activism. A quaint conceit? Hardly. In South Korea, being gay can still get you thrown in prison.
“I’ve seen a lot of people saying there are no gays in Korea,” says Yang, who felt obliged to conceal his homosexuality most of his life. While homosexuality is not illegal, it’s taboo in a conservative country where Christianity remains the dominant faith. So, in some extreme cases, young men who serve their compulsory military services are imprisoned or undergo investigation when they’re allegedly caught having same-sex intercourse.
While conservative Christian detractors in South Korea see homosexuality as a threat, Yang sees it as an opportunity to express himself through art and raise awareness about a community that is so often ostracized and voiceless. After dropping out of university in 2013, Yang dedicated himself to art projects, illustrations, photography and performances — all focusing on LGBTQ issues and sexual minorities. He’s also the founder of the LGBTQIA+ And Allies in Korea group and Seoul Drag Parade. 
“Some people are not as lucky as I am,” says Yang, who came out to his supportive family five years ago. “Which is why I carry out fundraisers and charity events for organizations that help other LGBT people and vulnerable people.” Specifically? Kids who’ve been expelled from their homes for being gay.
Which is not surprising if you consider that more than 200,000 people signed an online petition demanding that the “lewd” Seoul Queer Parade be canceled.   
But Yang seems unfazed. In fact, he sees positive change. “200,000 is actually small compared to the number of people in this country.” And while coming out was impossible in his teens, Yang sees the visibility of the LGBTQ community on the rise. “The Pride Parade has grown over the years, while protester numbers have decreased.”
And Heezy Yang just might be right. This year’s event, which was notably not canceled, saw a record number of attendees — 120,000, according to organizers — making it the biggest pro-LGBTQ event in South Korean history. 

June 15, 2018

MRSHLL, South Koreas' First Openly Gay Artist

We're really starting to run out of "First Openly Gay" people. (That's a good thing). But just as American poet Cassie Ventura once declared, we've still got a Long Way 2 Go — especially as we shift our attention outside of the Western Hemisphere.

Over in the East, the push for LGBTQ equality is steady, but slow-moving. Within South Korea specifically, the concept of coming out is still regarded as mostly taboo — but attitudes are evolving, especially within the past decade. While there are no outright laws made against homosexuality, and one's gender can be legally changed, there's also no official recognition of same-sex unions of any kind. As of a 2017 poll, 41% of the general public approved of same-sex marriage. (By comparison, 61% of the U.S. population showed support in a poll from 2016).

Having out-and-proud pioneers in our communities is key in breaking down misconceptions and unfounded phobias in every part of the globe, especially in terms of pop stars. To date, however, the number of openly LGBTQ Korean artists can be counted on one hand.

When MRSHLL made headlines for being the "First Openly Gay" Korean musician a few years back, friends warned that the rainbow-colored cross to bear would be "social suicide."

But the world kept spinning. And over a year later — following the debut of Holland, an out-and-proud performer on the idol scene — MRSHLL is ready to exhale with Breathe, a collection of sexy, slinky electro-R&B infused songs about the various forms of love he's feeling in his life.

It's a set of songs that proves that while his very existence is vital in advancing the cause in a territory in dire need of visibility, MRSHLL's got plenty more to offer than just that title.

I'm heading up to Boston Pride right now. Korea's Pride is in July, I believe? Are you going to go to Pride this year?
Yeah, we're a month behind. They haven't released the details of who's going to be there, or the exact dates just yet, but I'm definitely going to go to the parade and all the different events that they have. Who knows? They may even hit me up for a performance. [Laughs]

Is Pride important to you? What does it mean to have Pride in Korea?
Pride is still very important to me. I think there are many parts of the world that are not so open to people of different genders and sexual orientations, and there are still a lot of countries where you can't live freely as yourself. There's still a lot of work to be done, although there's been great strides. Pride is still a very important event for people who may not know that we exist. Even in Korea, there are still people from my parents' generation who still believe that the LGBTQ community is more of a Western thing, and not really a global thing.

That's really interesting. And kind of horrifying.
Yeah. They think it's something that came about in the past 30 or 40 years.

Here in the West, we're lucky to have acts like Sam Smith, Troye Sivan, Hayley Kiyoko and MNEK making moves. Apart from yourself, do you see any other openly queer pop artists breaking in the East?
Not necessarily those who are completely out and open. There are some indie artists, but none that I'm aware of who are actually out and open, other than Holland and me. They either play with the concept or it's more of an artistic thing, or there's a music video concept where they toy with the idea, but nobody's really gone full force. They dress up in drag and wear makeup and heels, but nobody actually takes the extra step forward and says "Hey, I am... blank." Nobody actually makes a definitive statement. So, not that I know of!

You made headlines as the first openly gay Korean artist to debut, and then Holland came around as the first openly gay idol in early 2018. Can you talk about the "idol" concept for those unclear of what the distinction is?
In terms of the idol concept, I am still kind of figuring out what that exactly means. To my understanding, an idol is usually either in a boy group or a girl group, and they're kind of…what's the right way to say this? I don't want to say "manufactured," but it's kind of like the pop boy band factories of the 2000s, like NSYNC or Backstreet Boys, where they have songwriters and producers and stylists and makeup artists and people who create a concept and characters for each member and whatnot. In a way, the artists themselves don't really have a say in what their concept is. It's kind of given to them, which is in and of itself its own genre. People love it. I love it — it's fun! That's what I think the idol concept is, in my understanding.

Did you see his debut? If so, what did you think?
I think it's incredible that there's another artist who's catering to a different group of fans out there. I think the more the merrier! There needs to be visibility. With just two artists out there, it's not enough. There should be a Korean openly gay opera singer. There should be a Korean openly gay... country singer. Who knows? I'm all about it.

Public support from allies also seems to be getting louder in the East, with acts like Jolin Tsai showing support in Taiwan, Ayumi Hamasaki performing for Rainbow Pride in Japan. BoA was already performing at Pride stateside years ago. Are you seeing this represented in the K-Pop industry today? Do you think it's helping to shift public attitude?
I believe so, especially in the past few years. There's been a lot more support publicly from different artists in the K-Pop genre. For example, there's an artist Lee Hyori — she's one of the original K-Pop idol stars. She's been bringing awareness to the community. She had a song "Miss Korea" that she put out a few years back, and she used a lot of local drag queens in her music video. I believe when she was asked about it, she was very open about, like, "These are some of my friends, they're super loving and open and honest about who they are." There's also Uhm Jung-hwa. She's like the Korean Madonna. She uses a lot of dancers from the waacking community, which is a form of dance that's based in the gay community. She's super cool. And then there's Yoon Mi-rae. She's an artist on my label, and someone who is kind of legendary in the hip-hop scene out here. She's been very supportive of me — AKA, signing me to her label along with her husband Tiger JK, who's kind of like the Jay-Z of Korea. Just the fact that they're even behind me and supporting me in me being open about my sexuality in and of itself is a statement. I think more and more it's opening up, and hopefully in a few years, more people will be vocal about it, and not be afraid to be who they are be supportive of each other.
You told Billboard a year ago that your friends considered coming out "social suicide." How do you feel about it a year later? Has there been any significant backlash?
I mostly hang around with musicians and other artists, and they're more on the open side from the get-go. I haven't had any backlash personally within my social circle, but there are comments made about me. If anyone searches, you'll immediately see "MRSHLL, openly gay!" It's not hard to find that. But at least in Korea, the media hasn't really talked about me being the "first openly gay" — or anything gay-related — quite yet. They've only focused on the music, which is good I guess, because that's what I want to be known for. It's a part of my identity, but it's not all of who I am. I haven't gotten anything crazy so far, but who knows? As I get more known in Korea, I'm sure the question will pop up. Who knows what'll happen? I'm kind of gearing up for it, or preparing my heart and body for whatever's to come. But so far so good!

The more known you are, the more backlash you'll get regardless, so brace for it anyway.
So besides gay stuff, let's talk about the things you'd like to be known for beyond just that.
We love gay stuff, but onto the next! [Laughs]

We love gay stuff! I'd love to talk about the EP. How long did you work on it, and what does it sound like, in your own words?
I began working on it earlier last year. There was a different album that was supposed to come out that summer, but ended up being pushed back. I went through a bunch of different things and ended up creating more songs. I titled the EP Breathe because I was kind of trying to figure out when to release it, and ended up kind of just letting it go, like breathing. I had some really incredible conversations with my mom and some really close friends of mine. The songs on the EP encompass love in general, and the different types of love I've gone through in my experience, whether it be in relationships, or acceptance, or self-love. It's a little sampling of what I offer as an artist. It's just the tip of the iceberg for me, musically.

There are a bunch of collaborations! How did some of them come about, and why did you choose those artists?
Lydia Paek, pH-1, Sumin and Ja Mezz are all featured, and I also worked with different songwriters and producers — one of them being Lee Hi. All of these people that I worked with are people that I'm actually friends with and who I admire as artists in their own right. It was very organic... I didn't actually seek anyone out. There's a song called "Hold Me" that I wrote earlier last year with my friend Amy [Kuney] and my friend David. Amy and I attended Biola University, which is like a private Christian university. We both went through our own experiences with coming out. She's now writing for Kelly Clarkson, Akon, Tori Kelly — all these incredible artists, and she's had her own musical journey. It was just natural that we came together from experiencing similar things with our families and our faiths. Lee Hi and I have known each other for the past couple years. Lydia, I've known since like junior high. There's longevity to everybody. It was just so natural. I'm happy about how everything turned out.

You've hung out with lots of awesome acts, as evidenced on your Instagram. Any dream collaborations still on your bucket list?
Oh my God. I mean, you mentioned MNEK earlier. I love MNEK. I've been following his career since he was writing for Madonna and whoever else. He's just really incredible. I'm all about what he stands for, and I think his voice is just pure magic. I'd love to do something with him. I love the music that he loves as well, because it's the music I grew up on back in the day. I love Kehlani, I think she's incredible and her voice is wonderful. In terms of K-Pop, Dean and Crush are friends of mine and singer-songwriters and producers I admire. SOPHIE from the UK, who is one of the few openly trans female artists and produced for Charli XCX, Madonna and Vince Staples, and whose beats are just out-of-this-world. I'd love to work on a record with the legend, Miss Janet Jackson-if-ya-nasty. I'd love to get into the studio with Julia Michaels who, along with Justin Tranter, are literally the best in pop music songwriting right now. H.E.R. Her R&B vocals. The songs from her album earlier this year were, and still are, on rotation on my playlists. And since I grew up on pop music, I think Britney would be an incredible person to work with. One of my favorite albums from her is the Britney album from 2001. That album is when she was like, "I'm done with the 'Oops!...I Did It Again' and now here's my 'Slave 4 U' with Pharrell." And that, like, ruined me in the best way ever. She's a dream collaboration. There's so many — I'm open for business. Girl, I'm ready.

Glad that you referenced Britney. True stans know that's one of her cooler records.
We can talk about Britney forever. Her whole Blackout album — a dope-ass album. "Gimme More," all those songs.
Of course. Will you be heading out on the road to promote your music?
Summer's kind of the season where everyone performs at different universities in Korea, but I'd love to do a tour in the States or in Europe, that's definitely a possibility. My goal for 2018, for the most part, is to continually release music and get out all the actual meat of what makes up a tour. I want to get as much music out there to the people as I can, and then really focus on touring and performing next year. I still have different shows, parties and events that I'll be performing at for this year. I'm super excited to be out on the road, on the stage and getting my life for the people.

For the K-Pop fans who might have stumbled on you from their love of K-Pop in general, are you into any idol groups or singers? And for people who might not be familiar with other Korean acts, are there any Korean artists they should also know about that you recommend?
I really love this band called Hyokoh. They border more on the indie-rock side of things, but the lead singer's voice — his voice is just, it's like... husky, scratchy and reminds me of bluegrass, but with a rock edge to it. The songs that he writes and the music that he puts out with his band, it really hits a part of my soul that I'm like — oof. Guttural. He has a song called "Wanli," which actually is in Chinese, and the music video is in Mongolia and there's all these crazy horses — super epic stuff. In terms of the more mainstream stuff... I like BLACKPINK, sorry not sorry! I think they're beautiful, their songs are hella catchy and they can dance their asses off. They're fierce as fuck. I think they're fabulous. I love Lee Hi as well, obviously, but she's a friend of mine. Her voice is unmatched.

Bearing the "Gay Pop Star" title is difficult — I don't blame you for not wanting to be the representative of an entire community. How would you like to be known?
First and foremost, I want to be known for my music and my performance skills more than anything. Everything else is just an extension of who I am. The music is the most important. Otherwise, I'm just a gay person. [Laughs] I'm a musician, I'm an artist, I'm a performer – everything else is part of who I am. It's the many different factors that make up a person. I think I'm blessed enough to be in a position that I can make a positive impact on the world. Granted, I'm human. I'm going to make mistakes and say things I don't necessarily mean, but I'm allowed to make mistakes. I'm blown away by the different experiences I've had so far, and the talented people I've met. I can't wait for the next step and the next part of my journey. I can't wait to release new music, do crazier collaborations — Britney, MNEK, call me boo. I hope people are excited what I have to offer in the future, and I'm excited to show them what I can do.
Photography: Hannah Gweun

By Bradley Stern

December 19, 2017

Trolled by Ultra Conservaties Gay Korean K-Pop Super Star Jonghyum of SHINee Commits Suicide

Police told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency that Jonghyun was found unconscious at an apartment in Seoul on Monday night. He was pronounced dead after being transported to a nearby hospital. Authorities believe Jonghyun’s death may have been a suicide as he sent a “last goodbye” text message to his sister earlier in the day. 

Jonghyun of SHINee attends the ‘SHINee World IV’ press conference in Seoul, 
South Korea, on May 17, 2015. Han Myung-Gu/WireImage 

After the news broke, Jonghyun’s fellow K-pop singers took to social media. “I can’t believe it… The first time I went to Korea, the weather was very cold then. The first time I went to a broadcast station, I heard the song ‘Hot Times’ for the first time. It left such a beautiful memory,” former EXO member Tao wrote on Instagram. “Because of that stage, that song, I wanted to quickly go onto the stage myself and wanted to start practicing. Thank you for being my strength. … Right now my feelings are just… impossible to describe.”
There are reports he had been a subject of bullying by the extreme right 
Korean singer-songwriter Kim Jonghyun of the popular K-pop boy band SHINee died on Monday night (Dec. 18) in Seoul, confirms his label SM Entertainment. The star was 27. 
The Korea Herald reports that Kim, known by his given name professionally, was rushed to the hospital Monday evening when he was found unconscious. He was discovered after his sister contacted Seoul police following texts from the singer that pertained to a “last goodbye." A medical team arrived on the scene and performed CPR, but the artist was pronounced dead upon arriving at a Seoul hospital. 
Police are investigating the death as a suicide due to charcoal being found in the rented guestroom the singer was staying at the time of his passing, reports Korean news show JTBC Newsroom.

Since beginning his career as the lead singer of SHINee in 2008, Jonghyun’s distinctly breathy vocal colors have defined some of the K-pop group’s biggest hits, including “View” and their most recent Korean single, last year’s “Tell Me What To Do.” As early as 2009, the star was credited with co-writing much of SHINee's music, and by 2013 he began to expand his songwriting. Over the past few years, he's written for acts under the SM label, including fellow SHINee member Taemin and the popular boy band EXO, and also worked with some of Korea's most popular female vocalists, including IU, Son Dambi, Uhm Jung Hwa and Lee Hi.   
Along with lending his voice to several television show soundtracks and collaborating with other Korean singers, Jonghyun released his first EP in 2015, Base. That same year, he released his first compilation album Story Op. 1, which was followed by Story Op.2 this past April. The artist also released one LP, She Is, in 2016. Through these albums, he explored a blend of dance music, pop rock, alt R&B, and retro-tinged jazz, and crafted a distinct identity for himself as a soloist separate from SHINee’s experimental take on K-pop. 
Jonghyun made frequent appearances on Billboard’s World Albums chart after Base debuted at No. 1 upon its release, while all of his following albums appeared within the top 10 spots. He also ranked twice on the Heatseekers Albums chart, which is less frequently populated by Korean artists: both Base and She Is peaked at No. 20. His final album with SHINee, the Japanese-language Five, debuted at No. 3 on Japan’s Oricon chart in March. 
The Korean singer's most recently released a solo single, "Lonely," featuring Girls' Generation's Taeyeon, came out in April. Following his passing, the song reappeared on Korean music charts as fans commemorated his loss and life. Fans also took to social media to mourn, with over 5.2 million mentions of Jonghyun appearing on Twitter within 12 hours of his death. 
Over the near-decade of his career as one of South Korea’s most prominent pop stars, Jonghyun became known for his frank approach to the K-pop industry and used his platform as a public persona to speak up about LGBTQ+ inequality and political discontent in South Korea. His unique artistic color is a loss to the entire greater K-pop music community. 
Jonghyun’s final public appearance took place at his solo concert Inspired,held in Seoul from Dec. 9-10, and he recently recorded for the popular Korean television show Night Goblin. Yonhap reports that he was working on new music ahead of his passing. 

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