Sports Seoul met with composer Hwang Sang Hoon (24) for an interview published on January 8th. He’s famous for the memorial song released last year for the second battle of Yeonpyeong.
t/n: As you know, I’m trying my best and I apologize for any mistake. Just a warning, I’m never too sure how “sexual minorities” vs “sexual minority” vs. “people from sexual minorities” should be used on a grammar point of view, so I’ll use mainly “LGBT people”, but it’s not the word they use in the original article, they only use “sexual minorities”.
◆”2013 was the year I receieved a lot of love [from the public], I want to be honest now.”
– Coming out doesn’t seem to be such an easy decision to make….
It wasn’t an easy decision, but I received a lot of love from the public last year after I made the memorial song for the second battle of Yeonpyeong. I found myself in a situation where my cell phone number was revealed on social networks or on forums and I received dozens of phone calls and texts of support a day [t/n: judging from his Twitter profile, I would assume he revealed it on his own]. I can’t tell you how thankful I am. Seeing this, I wondered which behavior I should keep. I could have repaid people through good music and activities, but more than anything, I felt it was important for me to be sincere. I found the courage to tell the truth I was keeping to myself. I’m bisexual.
– Is it true that no one in your family or your friends knew about this?
4 of my high school friends I’m really close with it knew it because they gave me unconditional support. They are friends who were by my side when I was figuring out my orientation. After finding out, they’re the ones who gave me constantly the biggest support. I don’t know about my family. My little sister knows, my parents don’t know yet, but they believe in me.
– Since when have you felt a change in your sexual identity?
I felt contradictory feelings when I was in high school.The feelings I had when I saw girls, I felt them toward men too. The first time I felt it was with one of my 4 close friends. I was a teenager back then, so I thought “I’m mistaking friendship for love”. He was a friend who was mentally and physically strong. This was the first time I was so overwhelmed by someone, it was subtle. I realized that my feelings for a guy more mature than me were exactly the same than what I felt when I saw a girl.
– You must have gone through some hard internal conflict on your own.
I wondered if this was me wandering because I was young. I was a smart kid who was thinking about going to Seoul University, Yonsei University or Goryo University (t/n: they’re top 3 universities). At this important time I needed to think, I had to deal with all these feelings as well as the suicide of someone from my family. To make things worse, I found out I had a brain disease. The doctor said that since I would carry this disease all my life, the most important for me was to not get any mental or physical stress. I couldn’t go to the college I wanted, from that moment I was really shaken up. I felt I was in hell at an age when I had a brilliant future ahead.
– When did the doubts turn into certainty?
Instead of figuring out my sexual orientation because of some particular occasion, I figured it out through a natural process. “I’m a bit different from other people”, “this isn’t some fleeting wandering” are the kind of thoughts I had. I came to understand it through thousands and thousands internal conflicts. My own judgement was important, but I read public material about bisexuality and I realized it was exactly my story. If you can say I was still between this and that when I was in high scool, you can say I was sure at 22 after I finished my military service.
◆”The army changed my life.”
– So you had worries from between the moment you graduated from high school when you were 20 and the moment you finished your military service when you were 22. Wasn’t the army life difficult for you?
I turned 20 and I spent about seven months doing some awful wandering before going to the army. I told myself “let’s see how far you can get messed up”, so I even worked for a host bar. I just did any shameful thing that could be morally criticized without even realizing it. It wasn’t about expressing my anger about the world and other people, all of this was directed toward me.
Suddenly, I looked in the mirror, I realized how wicked I had become because even my gaze was mean. I thought I wouldn’t be able to put an end to this lifestyle on my own, so I decided to go to the army. Since I have a brain disease, I could have served under active duty or be exempted, but I wanted to serve as an active-duty soldier, so I applied to be a conscripted policeman. You asked if the army life was hard? It radically changed my life.
– You’re saying it changed your life?
Each weekend, I was ordered to do volunteer work at nursery homes, centers for the disabled, lonely senior citizens’ homes. At first, I hated it because it smelled and it was dirty. Just a few months before, my job at a host bar let me have money that no 20-year-old person could even touch and I was living a good life the way I wanted to. Because I had been corrupted by society, it was hard. A month passed, then two, then a year and I realized I had changed. The real happiness isn’t about basking in pleasure, I realized that it was offering my life to others with small sacrifices on my part.
While I was serving as a conscripted policeman, I arrested more than 200 criminals such as thieves, con artists, rapists. These were the cases we had the most. Before I got discharged as a sergeant, I personnally made the emergency arrest of a suspect in a group murder case in Daegu and I received commendation from the Daegu police station for this. The serious crime squad detective(s) also struggled when they received it (?). (laugh) I washed away my previous life, I worked hard while I was serving and I got discharged. My life had made a 180° turn in the end.
– To the point where you were able to be sure of your sexual orientation?
As I was healing myself, I also came to terms with all this internal conflict. “It’s nothing to be ashamed about”, “let’s do it right now”, “let’s acknowledge myself”, that’s what I decided to do. After my discharge from the army, I was sure. It’s not about loving “men” or “women”, my orientation is loving “a person”.
– When you live a one-dimensional life, compared to homosexuals, isn’t it easier to hide that you’re bisexual?
You’re right if you’re asking if my intention was rather to experience hardships on purpose. However, what I’m saying is that I love “someone” [for the person he/she is]. It’s not the binary logic of “man” and “woman”. I think it’s nothing to be ashamed of or shy about because it’s [still] a person who loves another person. There are still a lot of bisexual people who hide, I hope that they will get strength after my coming out. Gay, bi, lesbian, transgender and all people from sexual minorities are human beings. It’s just a matter of different preferences.
◆”Hong Suk Chun is someone I respect, I want to meet him.”
– Last year, Kim Jho Kwang Soo and Kim Seung Hwan held the first gay wedding. What did you think about that?
This marked a new era within the LGBT community. They named their wedding “One Fine Day, the righteous wedding”. It was a natural and beautiful wedding, I gave them my blessing and congratulations. However, I was really hurt by the trash incident. Of course, the wedding could be seen as disgusting and sickening, but no critic/attack should have been made. I think that people must acknowledge us, even if they don’t understand us.
t/n: you can go through my LGBT tag if you want to read about the wedding.
– When there’s a discussion about sexual minorities, one cannot leave Hong Suk Chun out.
Hong Suk Chun-hyungnim is someone I respect a lot. It’s not easy to come out in our era, but it was amazing of him to come out in the early 2000’s. Although he was boycotted from broadcast stations for a long time, he didn’t give up on his profession and in the end, he overcame everything. Today, he’s the most popular. The perception of the majority is important, but I think the behaviour of sexual minorities is important too. Instead of demanding unconditional understanding, I hope they’d humbly accept every opinion and reaction.
This is something Hong Suk Chun-hyungnim did with no rejection as he made a happy caricature of his own preference. I saw him in one episode of “Healing Camp” and I cried a lot. If I could be granted one wish, it would be to become friends with Hong Suk Chun-hyungnim. If there’s an opportunity, I’d like to make music with him. And just on a human level, I want to be friends with him. He’s such an awesome person.
– We’re under the impression that there are a lot of sexual minorities in the entertainment and arts fields.
I don’t know if it’s because they are people full of talent… I guess it seems there are more of them compared to other fields, but I wouldn’t say that. I don’t know how you’d establish detailed stats based just on what people say while you have also those who hide. However, outing someone is sheer murder. Exaggerating the few rumors you heard by accident is criminal. You should come out on your own terms and when the people around you gave you enough strength to do it. There are many people who commit suicide because they are outed. It’s an important issue.
◆”After the memorial song for the second battle of Yeonpyeong, I’m now working on various lectures and musical projects”
– I heard you give lectures.
After my discharge, I chose to give lectures as a way to share my happiness. I gave lectures in police stations, in correctional institutions, army prisons, youth detention centers. I talked about the suffering I went through in the past. I gave lectures in those places neglected by society, now that I’ve made my coming out, I want to give lectures for LGBT people.
– Under the name “Beautiful Boy” you made the second battle of Yeonpyeong’s memorial song last year.
I wanted to extend my lectures and do activities a bit more constantly. And I remembered about music. I’m from Daegu and I attended the Silyong Music Academy. This was where I met Haze who was in Superstar K 3’s Top 11. We became friends and we made the “Beautiful Boy” project together. The narration is by UFC world champion Jung Chang Sung. Because it was a patriotic project, he helped us out a lot. Last year, we only revealed a Youtube version. We’re planning to release the official single for the 12th anniversary on June 29th. I think all benefits from concerts, copyrights and sales will be donated to the bereaved families or organizations related to them.
– Do you plan to work on other projects?
I have so many. Lately, I’ve been working on a project song dedicated to patriot Jeon Tae Il who met his death because of practical/realistic problems. Scars were left behind, but it became a medicine. When there’s a mountain you have to climb, you must have the goal to overcome it. Also, I’m working on a project to give strength and hope for the 11th anniversary of Daegu subway’s tragedy. Some people ask if I only write songs about social issues and tragedies. Of course, I’ll write love songs or other types of songs, but first, I want to start with songs giving hope.
– There might be people to give you the side eye and see your coming out as a way to make the headlines for your project.
Some people can see it that way. However, making my “Beautiful Boy” project known through my coming out would have been very reckless and also a big risk. I received a lot of love last year for my memorial song. This year, I needed a reset for a new start, so I revealed it with an “I won’t lie” mindset. This is something I could have revealed at any time, it just happens that it is now.
– What reactions are you hoping for?
This coming out means for me to lay down my sincere feelings, so I’ll endure everything at 100%, be it support, courage, critics, harsh comments. I’ll accept with gratitude any kind of perception or reaction. The “Beautiful Boy” project will be full with problems within our society that must be adressed, so I hope all citizens will cherish courage and hope.
– Is there a message you want tell to LGBT people?
Instead of forcing understanding upon the majority, I hope you will show patience while accepting with humility their negative reactions and critics. This could make them open their hearts. Carrying a modest, humble, thankful, good-natured heart is necessary for LGBT people. I want to give love, support and hugs to all of you.
Well, here comes 2014. We finished 2013 with Kim Jho Kwang Soo ready to fight the law for his marriage to be legalized. We start off this year with a coming out… And it’s not even your “regular” coming out. I think it’s a first for the Korean industry to hear about a bisexual? So from our Western POV, and because there are a couple of athletes who came out in the past few months, I did wonder if he was saying bisexual as in to be more accepted by saying “I love women too”… I don’t know, but from the little Korean knowledge I have, I don’t see how lying about it would have helped him, so he is probably bisexual indeed.
I also I think it’s interesting because he got love from the public through a patriotic song and the Korean LGBT community is currently fighting for Korean law to prevent discrimination against sexual minorities within the army.