If Park Junhee could dive into any painting, it would be Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, the pièce de résistance of the Sistine Chapel. It carries the mark of a sculptor turned painter, a far cry from Junhee, the leader of K-pop group A.C.E, better known as Jun. “I can only draw stick figures,” he tells Teen Vogue in a video call from South Korea. But just as Michelangelo sculpted with marble and painted with lime plaster, Jun sculpts with melody and paints with body expression — both artists, united in their ability to draw others into their story.
In the new Boys’ Love drama, Tinted With You, Jun takes on his first lead acting role as high school student and art aficionado Eunho. He’s transported from modern day into a painting of Korea’s feudal past, where he meets Prince Heon (Yoo Hyunwoo) and his bodyguard Geum (Kim Taejung). As he attempts to finish the painting, Eunho forms a romantic bond with the prince in impeccable K-drama fashion. It’s a short and sweet 8-episode webseries, just enough to make an impression and leave you yearning for more. (Some spoilers for Tinted With You ahead.)
With a global audience eager to wolf down the latest romance, South Korean BL dramas gained even more popularity in 2021 with shows such as To My Star and Light On Me, the latter of which features an OST by Jun and his fellow A.C.E members. Jun told Teen Vogue last August that he hoped “BL dramas like Light On Me and others in the future can help break down prejudices and create a more equal world for all.” At that time, he’d already been cast in Tinted With You, and he’s even more aware of the significance of his casting now than he was back then.
“This was the first time I’ve played the role of a gay character,” Jun says (his answers have been translated from Korean). “I thought about it a lot, in great detail, because I knew that there would be a mixture of responses within the audience watching this drama.” Simply playing the lead role in a BL is furthering queer representation in the more conservative Korean entertainment industry, but Jun is an idol — subject to heightened scrutiny and criticism even before you add in the political climate in Korea, where same-sex marriage still isn’t legal. “[A.C.E members Byeongkwan and Chan] told me that it wouldn’t have been an easy challenge to take on such a role as an idol and that they were proud of me.”
He’s quick to note his stance on queerness. “I am quite open-minded about [the topic of] LGBTQ+ [people] and respect everyone’s values and decisions,” Jun says. “I definitely don’t think it’s something that is wrong because we are all born differently. I’ve always thought quite simply about this topic — what is, is.” It’s refreshing to witness a BL actor who understands his own impact in a queer space, and who genuinely cares about normalizing thoughtful stories about LGBTQ+ characters, especially since he isn’t part of that community. “I’ve seen comments where people questioned my sexuality because of this role,” he says, “and I wanted to take this opportunity to let everyone know that I am not gay.”