Discussing LGBTQ+ issues is still widely taboo in South Korea, and while some brave artists challenge gender norms, the mainstream media is often used to portray non-heterosexual lives. But some groundbreaking K-pop idols and groups have remained open about their LGBTQ+ identities over the years. Here are five of them.
Harisu (Lee Kyung-eun)
Lee Kyung-eun, better known by her stage name Harris, is a South Korean pop singer, model, and actress. Harris, who was born male, knew from an early age that she wanted to express herself as a woman, and in the 1990s she underwent gender reassignment surgery. She was South Korea’s first transgender entertainer, and in 2002 she became the second person to legally change her gender in South Korea. Her stage name is an adaptation of the English expression “hot issue.”
In 2001, she appeared in a TV commercial for Dodo Cosmetics and attracted attention. Her commercial was a success and marked the start of her career, which allowed her to branch out into other areas such as music and acting.
Aquinas (Kang Min Soo)
Korean rapper Kang Min-soo, aka Aquinas, posted on Instagram that he is bisexual. He told reporters that he wanted to “encourage” LGBT+ people in South Korea. Aquinas—whose real name is Kang Minsoo—was a contestant on the 2019 South Korean TV show High School Rapper, finishing second. He also appeared in a rap his competition “Show Me the Money” in 2016.
Som Hain appeared in the former survival program “IDOL SCHOOL,” but withdrew after two episodes. He is a model and solo artist who debuted on May 23, 2019. He is from Song Hae; and confessed to being bisexual on July 31, 2019. Not only that, but he admitted to dating a non-idol named Eun Bin on August 20, 2019.
Jiae (Wassup) is a South Korean singer. She was a member of the girl group Wassup. She will make her solo debut on October 8, 2022, with the full album “Love is Love.” On January 11, 2020, Jiae uploaded two photos of her to her Instagram story. She also revealed that she is currently dating a woman.
Choi Han Bit
Choi Hanbit is a model and member of Gaon Entertainment’s girl group Mercury, which debuted in 2016 but was rumored to have disbanded in the same year or the following year. She gained attention for being candid about Choi being transgender, especially when she underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2006 with the full support of her parents.
In 2009, she participated in a television show supermodel contest hosted by SBS. Some viewers felt her participation was unfair, but SBS supported her decision and disqualified her. She also participated in the third season of Korea’s Next Top Model in 2012 and continues her professional modeling career today.