Hong shares painful experience as first openly gay celebrity
Posted : 2013-02-05 18:58
Updated : 2013-02-05 18:58
By Kim Tong-hyung
When Hong Seok-cheon came out of the closet 13 years ago, a beleaguered nation was ready to shove him right back in.
The actor who had been in heavy-demand for his versatility and comedic timing was no longer landing roles in televisions and films, while advertisements evaporated faster than a snow flake in the Sahara.
While this happened before the time of social media and the online stoning of public personalities, Hong still managed to experience a level of abuse and discrimination that nobody deserves to be subjected to. This had Hong ducking the spotlight, rarely stepping out of his social circle except when greeting guests at his restaurant in Itaewon, Seoul.
Fast forward to 2013, and Korea has become a country that is beginning to embrace a more diverse set of values. In other words, the average heterosexual Korean can watch a gay celebrity on television without lapsing into a hissy fit.
Nonetheless, Hong's pivot back toward mainstream entertainment has been reluctant. Since 2009, he was seen in a few movies, emceed a few shows on cable television and recently appeared in the Korean version of Saturday Night Live.
But aside of bit parts on sitcoms and mini-series, Hong had been very rarely seen on national television. So his appearance in the SBS talk show, "Healing Camp,'' Monday night was a pleasant surprise. In sharing his painful personal experience, Hong stressed that prejudice on sexual minorities in the entertainment business obviously remains harsh. After all, he is the country's first openly gay celebrity but also the last.
"I think I lost more than 10 of my friends (since I revealed that I was gay). To them, the issue of sexuality remains a serious problem,'' Hong told the show's three emcees Kim Je-dong, Lee Kyung-gyu and Han Hye-jin.
"I regretted that I came out of the closet. It seemed that even God had deserted me.''
Hong also revealed that he is the legal guardian of two of his nephews, who were adopted by his sister after her divorce.
"The children were embarrassed to have an uncle like me at first. But now they accept me for what I am and we have a great relationship,'' he said.
Hong's eyes watered when his parents delivered a video message during the show, saying that they dearly loved their son but admitted they could not come around accepting for him what he is.
"Seok-cheon was a good son who respected his parents. He gave us joy. But after he came out of the closet, it seemed that the skies crashed down on us. It was so painful and sad that our son will never be able to marry,'' said his father in the video.
"I am still holding hope that our son will return as an ordinary person.''