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Jeju Freddy Mercury statue unveiled

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Businessman Baek Soon-yeob (L) with the statue of British rock legend Freddie Mercury on Jeju. AFP

Jeju Freddy Mercury statue unveiled

A die-hard Queen fan unveiled a life-size bronze statue of Freddie Mercury on April 21 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.

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.

After receiving approval in 2020, Baek spent 50 million won ($40,000) commissioning the 177cm statue of Mercury clenching his fist, which was finally unveiled on April 21 on the scenic Jeju coast.

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