United States: South Korea’s famous fashion designer Kim Jae-woong has came out as gay on TV, joining a group of openly gay celebrities hoping that their public acknowledgment will change anti-gay prejudices in their conservative country.
Kim, 23, is a famous South Korean designer with his own fashion brand BienVetu. He gained recognition in 2012 through the popular TV show “Project Runway Korea” and is part of the main cast of “Share House,” a reality TV show that features celebrities living together and discussing personal issues.
“I’m a man just like [castmates] Sang-min and Ho-young,” Kim said on camera, according to iamkoream.com. “Only thing that’s different about me is that I like men…Ever since I was a kid, I always heard people around me ask, ‘What’s wrong with that kid?’ I had to tell them every time that I’m not a monster.”
Born in South Korea, Kim’s family moved to the U.S. after he finished elementary school. He is currently taking a break from his studies at the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York.
Kim, with his public coming out joins a group of select few celebrities trying to further equality in South Korea where despite recent increase in awareness by gay-themed entertainment, many gays, lesbians and transgender men and women choose not to share their identity with others as they tend to face harassment.
In 2000, when prominent actor Hong Seok-chun came out as gay — the first Korean entertainer to do so — he lost all his TV, film and radio contracts.
Male and female same-sex relations is legal in South Korea although it is not specifically mentioned in either the country’s Constitution or Civil Penal Code.
Nonetheless change has been a long time coming for this socially conservative nation that before the late 1980s was ruled by dictatorial regimes and citizens enjoyed few civil liberties, never mind sexual rights.
Last September, two men held South Korea‘s first same-sex wedding on a bridge in Seoul. The ceremony carried no legal weight as same-sex unions are not recognized in South Korea.
However, the couple and their legal advisers are now moving forward with a legal challenge helped by the fact that they are prominent director Kim Jho Gwang-su, 48, and producer Kim Seung-hwan, 29, — two high-profile professionals from South Korea’s glamorous film industry.