During last year’s UnitedKpop Awards, we revealed a special award named the Shining Light award. This accolade was presented in honour of the late Kim Jonghyun, who passed away in 2017. As many fans know, Jonghyun was an inspiration for many artists and fans for his contribution to the industry and the South Korean community and this award is to recognise artists or figures that do just that.

After careful consideration among the UKP Team, this year’s Shining Light award goes to solo artist, Holland; who debuted early last year with the track, “Neverland”.

However, this rookie artist has proved that he is a shining light in more ways than one. Holland’s debut caused a media uproar as he was the first South Korean artist to be open about his sexuality. LGBT+ Idols have been out of the question for a long time and only a minute number of celebrities have been forthcoming about their orientation; Harisu and Hong Seokcheon to name a few. However, Holland has been very honest to the fact that he is the first openly gay idol to debut and has embraced it as a platform to raise awareness of the LGBT+ community.

You may think that this has been a long time coming but LGBT is still very much a taboo subject within South Korea; with Holland even admitting that he was subject to bullying and violence during his younger years when he came out. This stigma falls not only on society but also within the military with men actively serving being subject to a “witch hunt” and arrested for being gay.

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South Korean men and women admit that they are often scared to come out as they may not be accepted in their community. Many figures outside have become a figure for them but there has been very little reassurance from their own culture until now; something which Holland has recognised during his many interviews this year; “Among celebrities or any other communities, an awareness of LGBT+ itself has not been properly built. People are still prejudiced. Even talking about it in public is not accepted yet. I wish we had a better atmosphere in Korea to openly talk about LGBT+ issues.”

Since his debut in January, he has been actively pursuing his goal and through his three singles; “Neverland”, “I’m Not Afraid” and “I’m So Afraid”, he has become a beacon of hope not only for the LGBT+ community in South Korea but also for international fans who have welcomed him with open arms.

His inspiring debut and work has earned him the title of this year’s Shining Light. The team at UnitedKpop hope that his career continues to spread hope and love on a more accepting industry and Pride in the LGBT+ community.

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