It might be surprising when looking from a western perspective, but countries like South Korea are severely lacking when it comes to openly LGBT+ celebrities.
This is mainly because of different societal laws as well as some laws and attitudes towards being openly queer.
This is not to say that countries have less LGBT+ celebrities, it is just the fact that many of these celebrities are not able to be open about their sexuality for fear of mass rejection from their home country.
Looking at South Korea itself, the country has a complicated relationship with gay rights. The issue has become more and more accepted in very recent years with many public figures becoming advocates for the cause, however it is still a massive debate with generally a few more people against than for.
There are moves being made, there is now even a show called ‘Marry Queer’ which will feature queer couples and discuss their relationships with some openly gay hosts and the relationships being looked at with a sympathetic lens on a major network.
However, this makes the few instances of the publicly gay celebrities in South Korea even braver for being openly themselves and facing the issues which come with being openly gay in this country.
The visibility these celebrities give towards being gay is what makes them so appreciated by LGBT+ citizens in Korea as well as international fans of Korean culture.
This list will list 9 of the most prominent openly gay celebrities in South Korea since there are unfortunately very few examples of celebrities who have been open about this element of their life.
However, to make up for this we have also included 6 celebrities in South Korea who have openly shown their support for the LGBT+ community and are strong allies because of this.
We have had more choice with this with more and more Korean celebrities voicing their support every year in spite of the backlash even doing this can cause.
Korean society is incredibly critical of its celebrities with it being very easy for the public to make their concerns with celebrities public.
With this being known, these are the most prominent gay Korean celebrities and those who openly support them!
Openly LGBT+ Korean Celebrities
These are the incredibly brave celebrities who are celebrities in Korean, or Korean in origin who openly identify as LGBT+.
Hong Seok- Cheon
When talking about gay figures in Korean entertainment, it is hard to overlook Hong Seok Cheon who is an incredibly famous TV personality in Korea who is very open about his sexuality in the public sphere.
He came out 22 years ago at the age of 30 in 2000 when the attitude towards LGBT+ individuals was even worse than it is now.
He has openly spoken about how bad the initial response to his sexuality was with him getting fired from most of his work incredibly quickly as well as receiving death threats and even thinking about suicide.
It took him 3 years after coming out to even be able to consider coming into the public sphere again, but since then he has been able to regain his popularity and has been able to hold down many jobs on TV for his lovable personality.
He is one of the MCs of the aforementioned Marry Queer reality show mentioned alongside K-pop star Hani from EXID and is shown talking to this idol about his experiences and being able to openly discuss and educate on TV in Korea which would have been unthinkable in the past.
A very different example from the previous Holland made a solo debut in 2018 but not before having to go independent since his label refused to debut a gay idol even this recently.
He was open about this struggle and helped him gain an audience and has been able to maintain a strong fanbase in Korea as well as worldwide which would not have been possible if he remained repressed at his label.
He has been able to portray his sexuality in his music videos and has spoken about how this has been able to empower him, while also understanding how this restricts his career in Korea.
MRSHLL (Marshall Bang)
Marshall Bang is a Korean American singer who came out in an interview with Time Out in 2015 where he then became one of K-pop’s first openly gay artists.
MRSHLL has been able to maintain a career in both Korea and America and his skills as a singer and producer have been able to speak for themselves and lead him to success.
He has been open about the lack of acceptance he got from his parents, but has also shared that his brothers as well as chosen family were supportive of him.
KilliAN (Lin Jia Le)
KilliAN is a former trainee of one of the biggest Kpop companies being JYP entertainment and joined the company at the young age of just 14.
During his time at the company JYP was preparing to debut the now incredibly popular groups 2PM as well as 2AM, and it is widely accepted that he was planned to be one of the members of these boy groups.
However, he was not able to do so and flourish as he was kicked out of the label after he was discovered to be in a gay relationship with another male trainee at the company.
KilliAN has continued in his path to success but the story of him being kicked out of JYP is particularly tragic knowing the success of the 2 groups he could have been in.
Aquinas (Kang Min Soo)
This contestant on competition show High School Rapper competed in 2019 and ended up coming in an impressive 2nd place and was already known for his appearance on Show Me The Money in 2016 as well.
The rapper came out on Instagram in 2021 as bisexual and this got a mostly positive response. He shared after coming out that he came out to inspire courage in his queer fans.
Former Wassup Member Jiae
Wassup unfortunately disbanded recently but since this happened one of the former member Jiae has come out as bisexual on a vlog as well as posting pictures with her girlfriend. She got quite a mixed response from her fanbase, unfortunately.
Do-woon is a famous Korean trot singer and was able to come out on his own terms and came out in 2020 as gay and was happy to be able to come out as he wanted to since knowing his sexuality since as young as 7.
A few months after he announced a relationship, but sadly this ended soon after due to excessive attention from the public.
Harisu is a trans singer who debuted in the early 2000s and gained attention for this in the Korean public. She has not released any music since 2007 publicly, but they are well known for the platform they gave trans representation in Korea.
She debuted in 2007 and came out a short while after but her company tried to spin this as a prank, but she ended up getting kicked out of her company.
She managed to find another company but has unfortunately been inactive since 2015.
Korean Celebrities Who Openly Support LGBT+ Rights
These celebrities do not openly identify as LGBT+ however, they have all repeatedly given examples of their support for LGBT+ causes.
Luckily there were more choices for these celebrities, and we were able to choose some of the best of the best, however, there are many more examples to choose from which is nice to see!
Jo Kwon From 2AM
Jo Kwon debuted in 2AM but has been more of a soloist in recent years and has prided himself on his androgynous presentation as well as his choice to star in queer musicals like Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.
CL From 2NE1
CL has always openly supported the queer community and her fans who are gay. She is also a close friend of Jeremy Scott a gay fashion designer who is the creative director of Moschino.
Tiffany Young From Girls’ Generation
After making her official debut in America in 2018 after her decade exclusively promoting in Korea and Japan, Tiffany wrote a letter for Billboard expressing her love for her queer fans.
Jonghyun Fron Shinee
Before his unfortunate passing in 2017 Jonghyun was known for his frequent support of the LGBT+ community using platforms like Twitter to show his support.
Yeri From Red Velvet
Member of Red Velvet Yeri has shown repeated support for the gay community repeatedly dancing with pride flags in concerts and a close friend of Holland supporting him after a hate crime attack.
Huh Yunjin From Le Sserafim
One of the most recent debuts in this list. Yunjin debuted officially just earlier in 2022 but has already been open about her support for pride posting on her mega-successful rookie group’s twitter openly celebrating pride.
For a rookie debut to be able to show this level of support and not have a career implode is definitely inspiring looking back on how dire the situation used to be in Korea.
Hopefully there will be more celebrities to add to this list soon, and it does seem hopeful that queer celebrities will be more accepted in the future in Korea, but even now it is a shame that these celebrities are faced with such controversy.
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