On January 9th, Hong Seok Cheon made an appearance on MBC’s ‘Radiostar’ and talked how he was very happy about getting a role in a historical drama. He said “I think this year I’m going to have some luck in the drama division. In January, I’m doing a historical drama where I help the king and the heroine as a party planner of the time. Kim Tae Hee is settled to be the heroine.” As Kim Tae Hee is the heroine of the historical drama ‘Jang Ok Jeong’, it could be deduced that was what Hong was hinting at. A few days later, the production company released a statement that said “[Casting or approaching Hong Seok Cheon] is completely false.” The article I linked goes on to say about how it that is unlikely but I will skip over that. That is not what I want to talk about.
A few people might know Hong Seok Cheon. He is one of the very few(if not only) gay people who are open about their sexuality in Korean media. As an actor, I don’t really care for Hong Seok Cheon. I find his style rather flamboyant and stereotypical for my taste. But that is beside the problem. The issue here is how he is being discriminated for his sexuality. When he first came out, there was a great uproar and he was practically banished from any form of media up till a few years ago. Even now, he has a hard time getting any roles in dramas or movies. The only dramas he was casted in were 2009 ‘Swallow the Sun(태양을 삼켜라)’ and 2010 ‘The Jewel Family(보석비빔밥). It is now 2013. If it were any other actor, this incident might not have been much of a big deal. Roles come and go. But to Hong, they hardly ever come at all. Hong is, first of all, an actor. To have even been given the slightest hint or smallest approach about a role that required real acting must have been like a dream come true to him. His role may have been just dropped during scenario development or due to public pressure(such as The Christian Council of Korea. I don’t think they would have been silent on this) on the production company. No matter what the reason, Hong was dropped because it was judged that Hong’s appearance would deter viewers(i.e. profit). If it was that his acting is horrible, then this discussion would be moot. However, before Hong came out on the media, he was a very popular and sought-after actor and entertainer. Though always in supporting roles, all the TV programs he appeared in were popular and therefore profitable. Nothing about him changed from then and now except the fact that he opened up about his sexuality. The fact that Korea’s media is conservative to the point of being oppressive on sexual minorities remains.
Last November, Hong tweeted “To think it would be this hard to live as a gay man, a social minority. It was a difficult day today. When I look at myself living with misunderstandings and monitored to the point of ridicule, I think what a sad life. Because I came out, I can’t even love normally like other people.”
He added, “In this country, if you are gay then you have to shut up and deal with being marginalized. I will show them that logic doesn’t work with me. It is unfair that people treat me like a criminal when I have commited no crime. For the sake of people like me, I’m going to keep my voice heard. Even if I get hurt on the way. Tonight’s a sleepless night full of pain in my heart.”
No matter what I think of his acting, the man’s got style and courage. And I truly hope we learn to listen to his voice.