K-pop singer Yang Joon-il (L) waits backstage ahead of a recording session.
Thirty years ago his floppy hair, make-up, and flamboyant fashion sense outraged audiences, who threw stones at him as he performed on stage and threatened to beat him at shows.
Today, 50-year-old Korean-American singer Yang Joon-il is enjoying an unlikely comeback, re-discovered by the YouTube and social media generation through online clips and hailed as a forerunner to today's K-pop stars.
The K-pop industry is now estimated to generate $5 billion a year and many of its male stars are celebrated at home and abroad for their gender fluidity, while Yang -- who was once shunned for exactly that -- is often compared to current idol G-Dragon, lead of hugely popular band BIGBANG.
Standing in front of a 2,000-strong crowd at an appearance in Seoul, the middle-aged singer felt speechless as they cheered: he had never experienced such mass adoration.
He was once banned from radio shows for speaking English on air and a civil servant told him that "people like you take away jobs from us Koreans".
Yang made a few appearances on the nation's top pop television shows -- displaying moves that would not be out of place in a K-pop video today -- but struggled to find mainstream appeal as many found his approach too "effeminate" and "foreign".
Once, he recalled, an audience member faked a handshake to pull him violently down to the ground from the stage, telling him: "You need a beating."
Fans remember being ridiculed for supporting him.
'Nostalgia for the past'
Yang's big break came three decades after he first began performing.
In 2018 South Korean television stations started streaming long-archived pop TV shows on YouTube, and millenials -- many not even born when he made his debut -- discovered him.
The singer's rise to fame comes at a time when intergenerational conflict is mounting in South Korea.
Tamar Herman, a K-pop correspondent for Billboard, says fans are looking "nostalgically at the past".
Bringing "hidden gems" like him to light, she added, "gives audiences a sense that they can change the past at a time when changing the present is hard".
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