As the first celebrity to plan a same-sex union and only the second to come out, Kim hopes to broaden acceptance of LGBT people in the still homophobic East Asian nation.
“We wanted to convey the message that all sexual minorities should be given rights equally in a beautiful way,” the 49-year-old Kim told a news conference in the South Korean capital of Seoul as he sat next to his partner, Kim Seung-hwan.
The two then kissed in an unprecedented display of affection for a same-sex couple in Korea, where traditional Confucian and Christian values remain strong.
Kim came out in 2005, five years after Hong Seok-cheon, a male model and actor who was subsequently fired from his primetime variety show. Work dried up and Hong has since said he regretted coming out. On the other hand, Kim, perhaps benefiting from the safety of being behind the camera, continues to make movies and performs LGBT advocacy work in his spare time.
Kim and his partner plan to marry on September 7, but local activists think their ceremony will do little to change the social climate. “South Koreans’ understanding of gays is very stunted,” said Yu Sang-geun, a gay Seoul student and member of Solidarity for LGBT Human Rights in Korea, the nation’s largest LGBT rights group. “Kim’s decision could be the foundation of more things to come, but there is so much to do regarding gay rights.”
In an all-too-familiar story, a push for South Korea to adopt an official non-discrimination policy that recognizes gay rights has been blocked by conservative Christian legislators.