Eight Years After Coming Out as Gay, Hong Seok-chon Is Thriving

"I wanted to publish a book like this to celebrate 10th anniversary of my coming out, but it came a bit earlier than expected", says actor Hong Seok-cheon, celebrating the publication of his book "Design Your Own Restaurant" at "My Song Bar" in Itaewon.

In fact, it has only been eight years since Hong shocked the establishment by becoming the first celebrity to come out as a gay man.

The book, however, celebrates his successful transformation form suddenly-out-of-work actor to restaurateur. "I tried to write about how to make fewer mistakes rather than how to succeed. Because people had misconceptions about me, I endured the tough years with sheer determination".

Hong, who found himself in a small rented room costing W350,000 (US$1=W1,375) per month eight years ago, has become the owner of restaurants worth W4 billion. First came Italian restaurant "Our Place", then Thai restaurant "My Thai", then Thai-Chinese fusion restaurant "My China" and then karaoke and wine place "My Song Bar".

Hong says he turned to restaurants when his future as an actor began to look insecure. "To me, my restaurants are people. After I came out, I had to endure so much hostility. I missed seeing my friends and my supporters so much at the time. I thought if I open a restaurant, they could come and visit me. That is how I came to open my first restaurant, 'Our Place'."

What has it been like for him? "After I set my foot in the entertainment business, I only thought about popularity, money and fame. But I changed a lot after I came out in 2000. I still think it was the right thing to do. I had many difficulties since then, but because I'm an optimistic person, I didn't run away but squarely faced the world. If I had run away at the time, I don't think I'd be as happy as I am right now".