By Han Sang-hee
, the first Korean actor to publicly "come out of the closet", is hosting his own television talk show, "Coming Out", a program that features the lives of homosexuals.
Hong will be hosting the program with actress Jung Kyung-soon
on cable channel tvN. He stirred the nation when he came out in 2000 and suddenly stopped appearing on television for a while.
At a press conference for the show, which was swarmed with reporters and photographers eager to get a glimpse of the now successful owner of three restaurants, Hong said that he was not initially thrilled about hosting the program.
"When I first saw the synopsis of the program, I thought it was crazy. There are people around me who once thought of coming out, but there were always problems with family and work. This program is not just coming out to your friends or family, but to all of Korean society", he said.
The program will show mini dramas of guests' lives as homosexuals and talk with Hong and Jeong. The two hosts will work as mentors and give advice and coach guests on gay issues in Korea, particularly coming out.
Choi Seung-jun, the producer, said that his perspective toward the gay community changed as he worked on the program.
"Five percent of Korea's population is considered homosexual, but who knows if the number is higher? These are people who are living with us right now and the suffering they go through is unimaginable", Choi said.
He added that he wanted the audience to try and understand the homosexual community for a more "healthy society".
Perhaps it was because Hong had a rather difficult life after his announcement, being shunned by producers and friends and even the public.
"I don't advise people to come out because I know it is a hard decision. But as for myself, I have never been happier. I don't have to lie to myself any more", Hong said.
Actress Jung, who is straight, said that when she was asked to be the co-host of the program, she was more than happy to participate.
"I told the crew that the program must be based on humanity. So many minorities (including the gay community) are being discriminated against. Korean society needs more programs like this", she said.
Korea was never a haven for the homosexual community, but the hosts and producer agreed that the program will work as a means to bridge the gap between homosexuals and the public.
"Coming Out" airs tonight at midnight.