Hot to trot

Korean pop star Kwon Do Woon comes out

Kwon Do Woon
Kwon Do Woon (Photo: Midum Entertainment)

A South Korean pop star has come out to mark his tenth anniversary in showbusiness.

Kwon Do Woon came to attention in 2009 when he won three awards at a prestigious trot music festival while a student. Trot is a sub-genre of Korean pop.

He released his debut album the following year under his real name, Kwon Hyuk Min. He has continued to release music since that time, with his latest release coming last June.

Related: South Korea faces major anti-queer backlash after COVID-19 outbreak

The 30-year-old released a statement via his label saying, “I wanted to speak up as a representative voice of sexual minorities and wanted to open up the prospect of coming out more widely in the entertainment industry. I hope to continue representing the LGBTQ community in my role.”

Kwon’s coming out has been widely covered in Korea, where there are few out celebrities. The last high-profile male celebrity to reveal they were gay was a TV personality, Hong Suk Chun, in 2000. However, Hong was subsequently fired from his job – hosting a Sesame Street-style kids shows – and work offers dried up overnight.

In recent years, Hong has established himself as a chef and restauranteur and began to make more appearances again on TV.

Kwon says he had been inspired by Hong’s coming out, despite its initial, negative career ramifications. Kwon told Korean news site Sports Today, he had dreamt of coming out for the past 20 years, and “I want to give courage to [LGBTQ+] people.”

“I was waiting for this opportunity. I didn’t hesitate before I came out, I didn’t have any fears after I did it. I’m relieved and happy,” he said.

His new album is out October 30.

“It’s my eighth album, and the title track is a gay trot remake of Chae Yeon’s ‘Two of Us’,” Kwon said, “It’s a dance trot song about a man seducing a man. It will be something new and fresh.”

In 2018, a then little-known K-pop singer, Holland, came out prior to releasing his first single. He subsequently had to self-release material and crowdfund to produce his first album, but has succeeded in building a large social media following.

Related: Watch the decidedly sexy debut from Holland, K-pop’s first openly gay star

Although same-sex relations are not illegal for civilians, South Korean is a largely Christian, deeply conservative country and traditional attitudes toward sexuality persist. All men face mandatory military service, where gay sex is illegal and can lead to imprisonment.