Are LGBT K-dramas just queerbaiting? Shows like Netflix's Vincenzo and Mine are featuring more gay characters but South Korea's showbiz still has a way to go

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

being homosexual might not be illegal, the Philippines, Korean BL series, compared to Thailand’s, 2021’s mega-hit Squid Game, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

In South Korea, being homosexual might not be illegal, but acceptance is still a long way away in the conservative country – and this is largely reflected in the entertainment industry.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

When we talk about LGBTQ+ representation in Korean pop culture, films have fared way better than the small screen. For example, two of 2016’s queer films, In Between Seasons and The Handmaiden, earned rave reviews from critics and audiences alike for their authentic storytelling, but K-dramas surprisingly lag behind. In general, the TV shows still perpetuate tired gender stereotypes and under-represent LGBTQ+ lives in their plots; if there are any queer characters, they are most likely to be token, inauthentic portrayals.

being homosexual might not be illegal, the Philippines, Korean BL series, compared to Thailand’s, 2021’s mega-hit Squid Game, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Global Tech News Daily

A still from Where Your Eyes Linger. Photo: @energediccompany/Instagram

As Korean entertainment has risen to dominate global culture, catering to a wide, diverse range of global audiences, can beloved K-dramas truly promote better visibility for their LGBTQ+ characters, or will they merely capitalise on marginal communities by featuring them, just to be seen as “woke” and internationally appealing?

Global Tech News Daily

Here’s a quick look at the history, struggle and changes of LGBTQ+ representation in K-dramas.

Media censorship and public backlash

being homosexual might not be illegal, the Philippines, Korean BL series, compared to Thailand’s, 2021’s mega-hit Squid Game, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Life is Beautiful. Photo: SBS

At the recent New Year’s Eve bell ringing ceremony in South Korea, dance group Lachica performed a watered-down version of Lady Gaga’s queer anthem Born This Way, which was met with an uproar from the community that embraced it. This version omitted the crucial lyrics, “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgender life”, drawing accusations of LGBTQ+ erasure.

Media censorship is not uncommon in South Korea, especially when it comes to LGBTQ+ characters. In 2010, a romantic vow between two male characters in Life is Beautiful – regarded as Korea’s first drama to feature a gay couple – was censored after the church where the scene was filmed filed a complaint with SBS. The show’s progressive take on gay relationships also angered the public. A national mothers’ group ran a discriminatory newspaper advertisement that said, “When my son becomes gay and is inflicted with Aids watching Life is Beautiful, SBS should take the blame,” according to Korea JoongAng Daily.

being homosexual might not be illegal, the Philippines, Korean BL series, compared to Thailand’s, 2021’s mega-hit Squid Game, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

A kissing scene from Schoolgirl Detectives drew flak from Korean he authorities. Photo: JTBC

Another example came in 2014 when JTBC received a warning from the Korea Communications Standards Commission after it showed two female high school students kissing in the drama Schoolgirl Detectives, saying the scene “broke moral standards”.

However, the censorship received some backlash as well. Life is Beautiful’s showrunner and veteran writer, Kim Soo-hyun, voiced her anger in Korea JoongAng Daily over the censorship on her show. “A cathedral is a place where even a murderer can find sanctuary – but I guess gays can’t. Actually, I was more angry at the television network, because it should be the one doing all it can to alleviate discrimination, not chickening out.”

Bromance or queerbaiting? Capitalising on discrimination

being homosexual might not be illegal, the Philippines, Korean BL series, compared to Thailand’s, 2021’s mega-hit Squid Game, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

The Boy Next Door tells the story of two flatmates mistaken for a gay couple. Photo: Naver TV Cast

While some show writers like Kim have helped promote queer visibility on screen, over the decades we have also seen an increasing number of “queerbaiting” subplots in the form of bromance comedy in Korean shows. Queerbaiting generally refers to strongly hinting at a gay relationship between characters in order to appeal to LGBTQ+ viewers and capitalise on their interest, but without actually following through on the initial depiction – or sometimes even turning it into a joke.

The 2017 drama The Boy Next Door tells the story of two attractive singles (played by Choi Woo-shik and Jang Ki Yong) who are flatmates mistaken for a gay couple. The show featured many comical, suggestive and homoerotic scenes that encouraged the audience to imagine the two characters having a same-sex relationship, but the show never writes them as an actual gay couple. (Although it did feature a supporting role who came out as gay and proud in one episode.)

being homosexual might not be illegal, the Philippines, Korean BL series, compared to Thailand’s, 2021’s mega-hit Squid Game, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Vincenzo’s eighth episode featured a queerbaiting moment when the protagonist, played by Song Joong-ki, pretends to be gay during a mission. Photo: Netflix

Elsewhere, Song Joong-ki’s hit Netflix drama Vincenzo also falls prey to this by featuring a queerbait bromance and negatively portraying its single gay character. The eighth episode shows Song’s character, the titular Vincenzo, pretending to be gay to succeed in a mission, resulting in mixed reactions from viewers. One Twitter user wrote, “Having mixed feelings about the episode’s plot cuz for one, I’m all for gay rep in major K-dramas. But the fact that the gay character is an abuser feels very homophobic to me.”

The “boys’ love” era: Korea vs the rest of East and Southeast Asia

being homosexual might not be illegal, the Philippines, Korean BL series, compared to Thailand’s, 2021’s mega-hit Squid Game, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Where Your Eyes Linger. Photo: JTBC

Korean entertainment has also been relatively slow to embrace the phenomenon of “BL” dramas, short for “boys’ love”. Originating from Japanese manga and anime that depicts romances between men, the BL subgenre has amassed a huge fan base around the world. Taiwan and Thailand are the predominant players in East and Southeast Asia today, followed by the Philippines and then Korea.

The 2020 Korean web series Where Your Eyes Linger was dubbed the first “real” BL by fans, with its plot centring on the relationship between a young chaebol (conglomerate) heir and his bodyguard. There are also other titles like To My Star, Wish You and Nobleman Ryu that will satisfy fans who prefer more idyllic gay romances set in fictional worlds where being gay is not frowned upon.

being homosexual might not be illegal, the Philippines, Korean BL series, compared to Thailand’s, 2021’s mega-hit Squid Game, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

BL drama To My Star features a more idyllic gay relationship. Photo: Netflix

Without a doubt, BL brings a breath of fresh air to Korean TV, although not all members of the LGBTQ+ community are in favour of it. The reason? Many BL series are supposedly written and consumed by straight women who enjoy stories about gay male relationships. Some readers and viewers argue that the BL genre results in flat, one-dimensional depictions, while others believe that if straight women create and consume content about gay male characters, the practice is automatically fetishistic. (However, since coming out as LGBTQ+ presents difficulties in many Asian nations, we can’t dismiss the possibility that some of these creators may be closeted members of the community themselves.)

Korean BL series also still have room to grow when compared to Thailand’s, where showrunners make more of an effort to portray genuine LGBTQ+ characters. “I think we need to be true and honest with the audience. BL is just the same as romantic comedy,” said Thai queer BL director Aam Anusorn who is known for 2moons2 and Present Perfect.

Visible representation and anti-discrimination law

being homosexual might not be illegal, the Philippines, Korean BL series, compared to Thailand’s, 2021’s mega-hit Squid Game, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Ma Hyun-yi from Itaewon Class. Photo: JTBC

After Life is Beautiful (2010), there was an increase in supporting LGBTQ+ characters written in K-dramas, from Secret Garden (2010) and Reply 1997 (2012) to Love With Flaws (2019) and Itaewon Class (2020). Last year’s betrayal-thriller Mine saw Kim Seo-hyung playing a wealthy housewife who finally embraces her sexuality while her career and social respect remain intact. However, that doesn’t mean negative portrayals have vanished altogether; for instance, in 2021’s mega-hit Squid Game, we saw a gay predator suddenly featured for no apparent reason.

being homosexual might not be illegal, the Philippines, Korean BL series, compared to Thailand’s, 2021’s mega-hit Squid Game, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Kim Seo-hyung in Mine. Photo: TVN

While representation in pop culture promotes LGBTQ+ visibility in society, and helps queer people feel less invisible and alone for being a minority, protective laws are also direly needed in South Korea.

A 2021 Time article reports that, “according to a survey by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, seven out of 10 South Koreans believe that it is wrong to discriminate against sexual minorities and nine out of 10 support the enactment of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law.”

being homosexual might not be illegal, the Philippines, Korean BL series, compared to Thailand’s, 2021’s mega-hit Squid Game, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Members of South Korea’s LGBTQ+ community take part in a Gay Pride parade in Seoul, in 2014. Photo: AFP

However, anti-discrimination legislation in South Korea was recently postponed to May 2024 by the country’s National Assembly, even after an online petition in favour of it received over 100,000 signatures last year, and various other bills have been tabled since 2007.

“I don’t think the problems have been solved, but I feel there is less of a comical depiction of sexual minorities. However, this might be caused by society being more cautious about stereotyping genders, rather than the underlying hate for sexual minorities diminishing,” said one gay rights activist to Korea Herald.

Want more stories like this? Sign up here. Follow STYLE on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Momoland to appear on Mexican TV show

A photo of South Korean girl group Momoland, provided by MLD Entertainment. (MLD Entertainment)South Korean girl group Momoland will embark on a promotional tour of Mexico next week for its ... Read more »

Kolejne wojaże Michniewicza. Spotkał się z Linettym i Bereszyńskim

© Łączy Nas Piłka Od lewej: Bartosz Bereszyński i Czesław Michniewicz Czesław Michniewicz nie zwalnia tempa i wciąż podróżuje po Europie, spotykając się z piłkarzami reprezentacji Polski przed zbliżającym się ... Read more »

ITV Ant and Dec issue update on Saturday Night Takeaway's return

© PA Ant and Dec confirmed Saturday Night Takeaway will return this month Ant and Dec thrilled fans as they issued an update on Saturday Night Takeaway’s return. The popular ... Read more »

Want to start a podcast? Joby's Wavo Pod could be the microphone for you

You might not be very familiar with the name Joby, but chances are you’ve seen some of their products before. Specifically, you’ve probably come across the company’s funky-looking GorillaPods before: ... Read more »

'The Tinder Swindler' Simon Leviev pushes back against Netflix documentary accusations: 'They should have arrested me'

© Getty Images/AFP/TORE KRISTIANSEN Picture taken on July 1, 2019 shows the so-called “Tinder swindler” (L) as he is expelled from the city of Athens, Greece. Getty Images/AFP/TORE KRISTIANSEN Netflix’s ... Read more »

Hong Kong lived-in homes see valuations drop as fifth Covid-19 wave takes hold

The valuations of Hong Kong’s lived-in homes are expected to head south as a fifth Covid-19 wave linked to the Omicron variant takes hold and deals plunge because of fewer ... Read more »

Early Facebook investor Peter Thiel to step down from Meta board

Facebook-parent Meta Platforms Inc said on Monday that billionaire investor Peter Thiel, an early investor who has been on the company’s board since 2005, has decided to retire. Thiel aims ... Read more »

BBC Breakfast fans slam Naga Munchetty after 'unprofessional' clash with guest

BBC Breakfast fans have slammed Naga Munchetty for an “unprofessional” interview with one of the show’s guests. Naga, 46, was speaking to head teacher Catherine Davies about the use of ... Read more »

Treasure to play first Seoul concerts in April

By Dong Sun-hwa K-pop act Treasure / Courtesy of YG Entertainment K-pop boy group Treasure is slated to hold their first-ever concerts on April 9 and 10 at the Olympic ... Read more »

Danniella Westbrook makes fresh accusations against BBC over EastEnders recasting

Danniella Westbrook has hit out at the BBC for failing to forewarn her that her iconic EastEnders character had been recast. The 48-year-old actress first played Sam Mitchell – the ... Read more »

Criptoempresas lanzan una coalición para evitar fraudes y promover la integridad del mercado

Un grupo de criptoempresas como Circle, Anchorage Digital y Huobi Global formó una coalición para tomar medidas contra la manipulación del mercado. Con esto, buscan generar confianza en el creciente ... Read more »

ITV Emmerdale's Ellis Chapman exit storyline confirmed but fans spot problem

© ITV Emmerdale’s Ellis Chapman has been offered a job in Australia Emmerdale was under fire tonight as Ellis Chapman’s exit storyline was confirmed. The long-running soap continued to explore ... Read more »

Instagram account edits celebrities to look like influencers, and the internet has mixed feelings

© Getty Images Jennifer Aniston – Getty Images Social media is a playground for filtered photos, and today’s influencer culture makes it hard to decipher between what’s real and what’s ... Read more »

Los detalles de la colaboración del video de Selena Gomez con Coldplay

La colaboración musical entre Selena Gomez y Coldplay del tema Let Somebody Go ya tiene su video musical, que fue estrenado este lunes por la banda británica en su canal ... Read more »

Canada truckers - live: Ottawa police decry ‘nationwide insurrection' as Trudeau asked to double size of force

LIVE – Updated at 22:44 The mayor of Ottawa has declared a state of emergency as protesters in trucks opposed to Covid-19 restrictions continue to paralyse the centre of the ... Read more »

Dwa gole w pierwszych pięciu minutach i zwycięstwo Basków z Espanyolem

© Juan Manuel Serrano Arce / Stringer / Getty Images Oihan Sancet Jedyne poniedziałkowe spotkanie 23. kolejki La Ligi rozpoczęło się w najlepszy możliwy sposób. Jeżeli ktoś spóźnił się na ... Read more »

Christian Eriksen reveals why he joined Brentford

Christian Eriksen has spoken publicly for the first time since making his sensational return to football with Brentford, and opened up on why he accepted the Bees’ offer over others. ... Read more »

Sheridan Smith fans spot epic filming blunder in new ITV drama No Return

ITV viewers were keen to tune into new drama No Return on Monday evening, but it wasn’t long before they spotted a blunder. The four-part series follows Kathy Powell (played ... Read more »

These Are the Best Bow Ties To Make Any Suit Better

If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, SPY.com may receive an affiliate commission. When attending a black-tie event, such as a wedding, ... Read more »

Hong Kong's SFC faces staff shortages, increases budget to compete with financial firms

Hong Kong regulator Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) is finding it difficult to recruit new hires because of the city’s tough quarantine rules, even as it loses talent to emigration. ... Read more »

Uwaga na ankiety na Facebooku. Oszuści próbują wyłudzić dane. "Kolejne oszustwo inwestycyjne"

Oszustwa na Facebooku (zdjęcie ilustracyjne) Haker (zdjęcie ilustracyjne) Facebook (zdjęcie ilustracyjne) Oszuści stosują na Facebooku nową metodę wyłudzania danych i wykradania pieniędzy. Wykorzystując ankiety, pozyskują numery telefonów i dzwonią do ... Read more »

Peter Thiel leaving Meta board, will reportedly focus on pro-Trump advocacy

Peter Thiel’s support for Donald Trump ruffled the feathers of some Facebook staffers. Bloomberg via Getty Images Conservative tech mogul Peter Thiel is leaving the board of Facebook and Instagram ... Read more »

Barcelona reach €280m sponsorship agreement with Spotify

© Provided by 90min It’s a big financial boost | Visionhaus/GettyImages Barcelona are said to have reached a sponsorship agreement with Spotify which will kick-in at the start of next ... Read more »

Coronation Street's Alexandra Mardell quits soap but leaves door open for return

Alexandra Mardell, who plays Emma Brooker, has quit Coronation Street. The 28-year-old actress has starred in the soap as the barmaid for four years and says the time has gone ... Read more »

57.5% de los mexicanos no celebrará el Día del amor y de la amistad este año

Se acerca el Día del amor y la amistad, una fecha en que las personas intercambian regalos y celebran con comidas especiales. Sin embargo, este año no será tan celebrado; ... Read more »

Polak zaczyna zmagania na mistrzostwach świata

© siege.gg Saves na mistrzostwach świata 2020 Już we wtorek 8 lutego zacznie się najważniejsza impreza roku w Rainbow Six Siege, czyli Six Invitational 2022. Turniej miał pierwotnie odbyć się ... Read more »

Gary Lineker says he could become TV chef if Nigella Lawson coaches him

Gary Lineker says he might kick off a career as a TV chef, if Nigella Lawson was willing to be his coach. The BBC football presenter and keen cook, 61, ... Read more »

Facebook, other tech giants censor inconvenient facts about climate change

Facebook acknowledged recently in a lawsuit that fact-check tags are “opinion,” not factual assertions. Getty Images The online world has become a free-speech battleground. Tech platforms have sided with illiberal ... Read more »

Kyler Murray curiously scrubs Cardinals from his social media

Is there trouble in paradise between Kyler Murray and the Cardinals? That’s the multi-million dollar question stumping social media on Monday after the 24-year-old quarterback unfollowed the team on both ... Read more »

Emmerdale fans in hysterics at Moira's 'mic drop moment' with savage dig at Al

Emmerdale fans were in stitches on Monday evening after Moira Barton made a savage dig at Al Chapman. Moira’s husband Cain Dingle is currently at loggerheads with Al, and she’s ... Read more »

Canada truckers - live: Ottawa asks Trudeau to double size of police force as ‘hateful occupation' continues

LIVE – Updated at 20:14 The mayor of Ottawa has declared a state of emergency as protesters in trucks opposed to Covid-19 restrictions continue to paralyse the centre of the ... Read more »

Kanye West deletes every Instagram posts about Kim Kardashian after nasty row

Kanye West is slowly moving on from his ex Kim Kardashian – and has removed all pictures of her from his Instagram. The rapper, 44, appears to have deleted anything ... Read more »

Ian Wright loves what Everton ace has posted on Instagram

Donny van de Beek’s latest post to Instagram has left Premier League legend Ian Wright buzzing following the Dutchman’s recent move to Everton.  The Toffees returned to action at the ... Read more »

Moda y tecnología: así es como esta empresa quiere enfrentar al fast fashion en México con inteligencia artificial

Urbanic es una empresa de moda y tecnología con sede en Londres. Su negocio es la venta de ropa pero como una alternativa para combatir el fast fashion; es decir, ... Read more »

Can Nike and Hermès stop unauthorised NFTs? Lawsuits brought against StockX shopping platform and artist's ‘MetaBirkins'

As digital objects in the form of NFTs have exploded in popularity and value over the past year, so too have the legal headaches and complications. Nike became the latest ... Read more »

Kolejne problemy w LCK. Drużyna będzie grać w osłabieniu

© Riot Games Nongshim RedForce Wygląda na to, że w LCK w najbliższym czasie możemy spodziewać się ogłoszeń o zmianach w składach. Jednak nie ze względu na dyspozycję graczy, ale ... Read more »

Costa Rica headed towards likely April presidential runoff

© Provided by Al Jazeera Costa Rica’s runoff presidential election is scheduled for April 3 [File: Carlos Gonzalez/AP Photo] Costa Rica is headed towards a presidential run-off, as preliminary results ... Read more »

Storm-damaged pier repairs under way

© Guernsey Coastguard The repairs are part of a programme to maintain coastal features in Guernsey Repairs to the piers at Portelet have been completed and a “significant amount of ... Read more »

Facebook, Instagram could shut down in Europe without data deal, Meta warns

SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett Meta could shut down Facebook and Instagram throughout Europe if regulators are unable to hammer out a permanent data transfer deal, the company warned in a ... Read more »

Kim Kardashian blasts Kanye West's 'obsession with controlling and manipulating' divorce

Kim Kardashian has hit out at ex Kanye West after he claimed their daughter was on TikTok “against his will”. The 41-year-old has largely remained quiet in response to her ... Read more »