Wavve, a South Korean streaming service, plans to release two LGBTQ dating shows in July 2022. While dating and romance reality programs are popular in South Korea, non-heterosexual couples have not been represented in programs developed by mass broadcast studios. Smaller, independent media companies like Wavve on the other hand are more responsive to these communities because they are focused on attracting new audiences, not avoiding controversy with existing viewers.
The first show, “Merry Queer”, is described by Wavve as “the first coming-out romance reality in Korea.” “Merry Queer” will feature multiple LGBTQ couples, following their coming-out experiences and the difficulties surrounding their relationship. The second, “Men’s Romance,” is a reality dating show where gay or bisexual men move into each other’s homes.
As a private streaming company, Wavve can push boundaries and speak on various social issues. While public and cable broadcasting companies have made dramas including gay characters, most have yet to feature LGBTQ leads or portray physical affection in LGBTQ relationships. In fact, public broadcasters have previously censored a gay kiss scene in “Bohemian Rhapsody” and LGBTQ references in Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
Although Korean public support for homosexuality has been gradually increasing, the majority of the population still perceives it negatively. Therefore, broadcast networks may be hesitant to focus on LGBTQ relationships due to concerns of alienating viewers. However, subscription-based services do not have this concern and are able to engage the growing population of those part or accepting of the LGBTQ community. Much like how Netflix provided a platform for activists to highlight South Korea’s sexual violence problems, domestic streaming services also offer space to push boundaries.
This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.
Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Jae Chang, Kaitlyn King, Yu Na Choi, and Mai Anna Pressley. Picture courtesy of Wavve.