A week ago, Jonghyun of South Korea’s leading boy band SHINee switched his Twitter profile picture to the image of a hand-written poster.
The poster was written by Kang Eun Ha, a trans student studying social sciences at Sungkonghoe University, who says 'love is more powerful than hatred', as a protest against the discrimination the LGBTI community face.
Jonghyun’s goodwill, however, was soon met with malicious attacks from the influential right-wing online community Ilbe.
They began leaving hateful posts about his actions and even nude photos on SHINee’s communities, leading to endless feuds between Ilbe members and SHINee fans.
While Ilbe – which has scolded another star for having a Vietnamese mother – is hardly a universally endorsed group in South Korea, its opposition to LGBTIs is nonetheless ironically reflective of the plight the country's seuxal minorities are in.
Actor Kim Ji Hoo made a bold move to come out of the closet in 2008, only to see his management contract gone. He hanged himself months afterwards.
Given SHINee’s influence over youngsters, Jonghyun’s support for Kang Eun Ha may well turn the current debate about LGBTIs slightly in their flavor.
Jonghyun was so considerate as to explain his move to Kang Eun Ha first, fearing unwanted spotlight for her.
‘I support you. As a celebrity, as a minority of a different sort facing the public, I also feel disappointment towards the world that does not accept difference. Of course, it can’t be compared to what you feel,’ reads his Twitter message, which Kang Eun Ha later disclosed.
‘I support you who are rightly exclaiming that difference is not wrong,’ he continues. ‘I do not think you need comfort or concern. You are that strong. I hope health and warm is with you for this end of the year.’