In South Korea or in East Asia in general, most people’s views are often conservative. For South Korea, most of said conservative views stem off the fact that the country is primarily Christian with over 25 percent of the country either Protestant or Catholic. As a result, South Koreans generally have a debilitating view towards concepts of the LGBTQIA community.
However, Hallyu — or the Korean Wave — have been more open and accepting of the LGBTQIA community as of late. As a matter of fact, many K-pop stars have opened up showing their support for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer, intersexual, and agender. Some of them include JYJ, Jo Kwon of 2AM, BoA, Hoya of Infinite, Heechul of Super Junior, CL formerly of 2NE1, Jonghyun of Shinee, Amber of f(x), Rap Monster of BTS, and Taeyeon of Girls’ Generation. And even if Hallyu stars did not show any support for the LGBTQIA community, they did share their condolences and prayers for the victims of the 2016 Orlando Nightclub Shooting though some had to delete their social media posts.
With the aforementioned in mind, Hallyu being open and accepting of LGBTQIA means they are able to bring up situations said community faces through K-pop and K-dramas. Recently, tvN K-drama Introverted Boss touched on an LGBTQIA issue, specifically gender fluidity.
The issue of gender fluidity was touched on in the third episode of Introverted Boss — also known as Sensitive Boss and My Shy Boss — titled “I’m Not an Easygoing Person.” [WARNING: Spoilers Ahead! Skip To Second-To-Last Paragraph To Avoid!] The situation in the first two episodes in which Eun Hwan Ki (Yeon Woo Jin) was found out to be the son of an assemblyman caused him to step down from being CEO of a well-know public relations firm to its new sub-unit firm called Silent Monster. He, along with his team which includes Chae Ro Woon (Park Hye Soo), take on their first client, South Korea’s most popular and highly decorated actor, Hwang.
Hwang seeks out Eun Hwan Ki’s public relations firm because he needs to “protect his image” after paparazzi captures pictures of him with a young woman. However, he keeps saying he is not having an affair.
Of course entertainment media is having a field day as they spurn stories of Hwang having a relationship with a young woman because he was reported in the past as a “strong family man” and a “pillar of honesty.” There are even reports on how much he loves and cares for his only son. Yet, in a situation when the Silent Monster team is able to get Hwang’s phone which ends up in Eun Hwan Ki’s hands, he ends up getting a call from Hwang’s “daughter.” This, along with other details he picks up, is enough for Hwan Ki to piece together what is going on. Hwang verifies Hwan Ki’s theory after Hwang realizes Hwan Ki surely does what’s best not for the public, but for the client.
The truth of the situation is revealed near the end of the episode. Hwang’s son is gender fluid and now identifies as a female even going through physical changes (the topic of gender change surgery, cross-dressing, etc. were avoided probably on purpose) to look like a young, beautiful woman. The pictures captured of Hwang in a vehicle with a young beautiful woman is when Hwang’s daughter opens up to her father that she feels unsafe in South Korea, and how people now hate her for her choice. Hwang, who loves his child no matter what, does what he can to keep her safe. In this case, he moves his daughter to the United States, which is relatively more accepting of LGBTQIA than South Korea.
The fact that Introverted Boss portrayed one of the touchiest subjects in South Korea shows that K-dramas are appealing more to Hallyu than the domestic viewership. Reason for such a statement is because incorporating any issue pertaining to the LGBTQIA community in K-dramas will most likely be a ratings killer. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what happened as the third episode saw a major drop in viewership as recorded by both AGB Nielsen Korea and TNmS Media Korea. The former recorded 1.907 percent for the nation and 1.494 percent for the Seoul National Capital Area while the latter only recorded 2.1 percent for the nation. These numbers are technically not bad since tvN is a Korean cable channel (pay channel), but compared to the numbers they’ve earned with 2016 K-dramas like Reply 1988, Another Oh Hae Young, The K2, and Goblin, they are dismal.
Introverted Boss is currently suffering a slump at the moment, but it is still too new to say it is down and out. It airs on Mondays and Tuesdays at 11 p.m. KST on tvN. For those who do not have access to Korean cable channels, it can be viewed on DramaFever and OnDemandKorea depending on the viewer’s location.
[Featured Image by the Total Variety Network (tvN)]