Freddie Mercury to live forever in South Korea statue


A die-hard Queen fan unveiled a life-size bronze statue of Freddie Mercury on Thursday on South Korea’s resort island of Jeju, after an eight-year quest to honour his late hero.

The music of British rock band Queen is popular in South Korea, a country more associated with home-grown K-pop dance bands, including global megastars BTS.

Jeju businessman and Queen superfan Baek Soon-yeob, 57, used to listen to bootleg recordings of Freddie Mercury — who died of AIDS-related complications in 1991.

Queen’s music was banned in South Korea in the 1970s by then-military dictator Park Chung-hee’s regime, which considered it “unsuitable” in an era when men were also barred from growing their hair.

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Mercury’s songs “kept me going despite many hurdles along the way”, Baek told AFP, adding it had been an emotional eight-year effort to build the statue.

“I started emailing Queen’s company in 2014 asking for a rights approval” to erect the statue, Baek told AFP.

He wrote an email every month but did not get a reply for seven years.

In early 2020, he finally received a response ahead of Queen’s first-ever South Korean concert — band members and label officials were prepared to meet him in Seoul.

That concert was a result of South Korea’s recent fervent embrace of Queen, after nearly 10 million people watched the 2018 Oscar-winning biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” starring Rami Malek.

In a country of 51 million people, that means approximately a fifth of the population watched the movie in cinemas, where it grossed $70 million and sat atop box office lists for weeks.

After receiving approval in 2020, Baek spent 50 million won ($40,000) commissioning the 177-centimetre statue of Mercury clenching his fist, which was finally unveiled Thursday on the scenic Jeju coast.

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