K-pop artists have gone from national treasures to international icons. As the genre continues to swell, one singer is making room for queer representation to be included in K-pop’s rise.
Holland is Korea’s first openly gay K-pop artist, and in a new video for his debut single “Neverland,” he puts that identity front and center.
The video is an ode to the romantic love shared between Holland and his beau. Its dreamy cinematography matches the track’s fictional name, capturing the love and intimacy of their relationship as Holland sings about wanting to be able to love openly and freely without discrimination.
The internet took quickly to this K-pop newcomer. His “Neverland” video debuted Jan. 21, and as of Monday night had already amassed over 1.8 million views on YouTube. Holland released a short behind-the scenes-video to thank his fans for the support.
Same-sex relationships are still considered taboo (though not illegal) in Korean culture, and gay marriage or partnerships are not legally recognized by the country. As Billboard points out, the video was given a 19+ rating because it includes a same-sex kiss.
Holland isn’t the only openly gay celebrity in Korea. Alt-R&B artist MRSHLL came out last year and became the first Korean singer to openly address his sexuality.
Unlike many Korean pop stars, Holland is not backed by a large agency and was not well-known until the release of his debut single. But fans quickly gravitated to Holland’s message and supported the artist using the worldwide hashtag #HollandDebutDay.
I admire Holland for his bravery and courage. It takes a lot of guts to be an open gay in a country which is closed minded when it concerns the LGBT+ community. I hope the people of Korea open up their mind to this #HollandDebutDay pic.twitter.com/AXTrTGoybN— ً (@ultchanyeolpark) January 21, 2018
Not BTS related. But Holland debuted today. I’m so proud and happy.— BTS Europe ARMY⁷ (@BTSEuropeARMY) January 21, 2018
He’s the first gay K-pop idol. I’m gonna drown him in support and love, because he’s gonna need that❤️❤️
If you don’t accept the LBGTQ+ community, please don’t say anything.#HollandDebutDay
“I don’t know if many of you understand how important this debut is,” one viewer shared on YouTube, according to NewNowNext. “This is not just about him, it’s about the entire culture. Korea is extremely closed-minded when it comes to things like that, so the company promoting him as a gay idol is a good thing. Not many agencies in Korea would put money on people like him. It shows how willing he is to make it less of a taboo discussion.”
Hopefully, Holland’s instant popularity marks a shift in cultural norms and will lead to even more LGBTQ acceptance and normalization in Korea and beyond.