Boys Love Genre Gains Popularity Among New Audiences in South Korea

Boys Love Genre Gains Popularity Among New Audiences in South Korea

Boys Love Genre Gains Popularity Among New Audiences in South Korea

South Korean singer and actor Park Jae-chan, formerly a member of the K-pop group DKZ, took a risk by auditioning for the TV series “Semantic Error.” Not only was the show part of the Boys’ Love (BL) genre, which was relatively unknown in South Korea, but it also depicted same-sex romance, something rarely seen on the country’s screens. Despite concerns from Jaechan and his label, the risk paid off as “Semantic Error” became a hit upon its release in 2022. The success of the series surprised the star, but the genre’s fans and creators had seen its growing popularity coming.

The Boys’ Love genre, which originated in Japan in the 1960s as “yaoi,” typically portrays homoerotic relationships between two men. In South Korea, these stories are primarily written and consumed by heterosexual women. The success of “Semantic Error” marked a turning point for the genre as it transitioned from online fiction to television and film adaptations.

Although South Korea’s attitudes towards LGBTQ issues are comparatively conservative, the BL fandom has been steadily growing online. BL readership increased with the rise of dial-up internet and personal computers in the 1990s when homegrown writers began anonymously creating their own Korean stories, often featuring boyband members influenced by the emerging K-pop industry. The launch of online fiction platforms in 2013 allowed amateur writers, including those creating BL content, to make a living through web novel sales.

The growing interest in the BL genre has extended beyond Japan to wider Asia, with successful series in Taiwan and Thailand. In South Korea, the success of “Semantic Error” led to the production of more BL shows. The loyal and vocal BL fan community has contributed to the genre’s profitability, with fans supporting their favorite shows by repeatedly watching them and even purchasing tickets for screenings they couldn’t attend.

Critics of the genre argue that BL stories depict problematic power dynamics, with masculine characters often pursuing more passive ones. However, BL fans contend that these stories are fantasies and not realistic representations of LGBTQ people. Despite the criticisms, the popularity of the genre in a country where same-sex marriage is not legally recognized may contribute to greater understanding and acceptance.

Boys Love Genre Gains Popularity Among New Audiences in South Korea

Notably, openly gay K-pop artist Go Tae-seob, known as Holland, believes that the growing visibility of BL books, TV series, and movies is a positive step, providing positive representations of same-sex relationships and challenging negative portrayals of the LGBTQ community in South Korea.

With more LGBTQ voices participating in the creation of BL dramas and a diversifying audience that includes men, the genre is expected to have a transformative impact on conservative views of gender and sexuality in South Korea. It is predicted that the line between BL and queer media will eventually blur, contributing to a more inclusive entertainment landscape.

In summary, the Boys Love genre has found new audiences in South Korea, with shows like “Semantic Error” gaining popularity and challenging societal norms, fostering understanding, and representing diverse forms of love and relationships.


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