South Korea’s first openly gay K-Pop star Holland reveals what it’s like to be out in his country

While being gay is still a huge taboo in much of South Korea and soldiers suspected of homosexuality are arrested, it was a bold move for K-Pop star Holland to come out.

Now, not only is the singer completely open about being gay, he wants to bring LGBTQ into the mainstream Korea.

K-Pop star Holland is South Korea’s first openly gay pop star (Instagram / Holland)

His debut single Neverland took the Korean music scene a huge step forward when it featured him in bed with and kissing a man, although it did result in a 19+ rating being slapped on it.

Not that the ban on young fans watching was effective, with the single racking up eight million plays.

Speaking of how it feels to grow up gay in the country, he told Dazed: “I had a very hard time in my school life…I confessed my love to a boy I loved when I was a secondary school student, and the response was not good, so that made my school life very hard.”

However his struggles are what drove him to be someone that LGBTQ people can look up to.

He added: “Although at that time there wasn’t a single role model to look up to in Korea, I was very consoled by foreign celebrities. So I thought, ‘I want to be a famous person like them’… I’m working harder because I want to be a special person to my fans too.”

And while Holland is paving the way for others like him, soldiers who are homosexual are still living in fear.

The singer wants to bring LGBTQ into the mainstream in a country where you can still be arrested for being gay (Instagram / Holland)

It is illegal to be gay in the army, but South Korea has conscription which means it is compulsory for all men to join at some point.

In June this last year, it emerged that 32 South Korean soldiers had been charged in what was described as a “witch hunt” against gay men and those thought to be gay.

One soldier anonymously told the BBC: “Our country still looks at homosexuality in a negative way, so I’ve kept my sexuality hidden from my family.

“I heard from other gay people that their parents were shocked when they told them. Once the trial is done I’ll tell my parents.

“I’m always trembling with fear. If I’m convicted I’ll have to give up my dream and leave the army. I feel betrayed by the military and by my country.”

Men in the Korean army can be imprisoned for being gay (BBC)

The sentence for those convicted is a dishonourable discharge from the army and up to two years in prison.

One soldier was given a suspended prison sentence after being found guilty for having sex with another male soldier.

There have been reports that the country may reconsider or at least clarify the situation for gay soldiers.

Same-sex marriage is not recognised in South Korea and in 2014 it was estimated that 70 per cent of gay men in the country had not come out to their parents