5 Female Idols Who Spoke Out About Female Empowerment Despite The Backlash

“I want to change that… for all the future female idols in the industry.”

For many female idols in K-Pop, speaking out about feminist issues often comes at a price. Netizens have attacked so many celebrities online for talking about women’s rights, even going as far as to burn their photocards in protest. But despite the risk of backlash, these 5 idols didn’t let anything stop them from openly supporting female empowerment.

1. Wendy (Red Velvet)

In an interview with Refinery 29 to celebrate the release of Red Velvet’s “RBB”, Wendy made a clear and confident statement about female empowerment. While girl groups are often expected to stick to specific concepts and ideals, Red Velvet is one of the groups pushing those boundaries.

[Women] can be anything! You can be whatever you want, seriously. Even if you want to play somebody else—you can play someone else. But in the end, no matter what you decide, you’re always just you.

— Wendy

2. Mina (TWICE)

TWICE’s Japanese single “Breakthrough” is very different to the group’s previous Japanese songs—not just in sound, but in its progressive lyrics.

Breakthrough, breakthrough
Time that polishes to make
A shining me that the world is waiting for
Say say, don’t give up

— “Breakthrough” by TWICE [translated]

And in a behind the scenes clip for the song, Mina didn’t hesitate to reveal the song’s true meaning.

Breakthrough is an empowering song written about a strong woman who will break through any barrier and go on to create her own world.

— Mina

3. Sooyoung (Girls’ Generation)

Girls’ Generation’s Sooyoung once revealed that she’d read the book Kim Ji Young, Born 1982. This feminist novel is the same title that saw ‘fans’ of Red Velvet’s Irene burn her photocards simply because she said she read it.

Alongside confessing to reading the book, Sooyoung was adamant about sharing her thoughts on it too. After finishing it, she realized just how unfair the world is for women and how things need to change. She even went as far as to name her reality show Choi Sooyoung, Born 1990 after the book.

I read the book and it changed how I think. Everything I’ve put aside, thinking they don’t mean anything, is actually because I am a woman. I realized how unfair it has been all this time.

— Sooyoung

4. Seolhyun (AOA)

For several years, AOA’s Seolhyun has been known for her sexy image. But in an interview last year, she revealed that it’s not all she wants to be known for.

It troubled me for a while. I began to question why I had to wear cropped tops all the time… but I have so much more to me than just that.

— Seolhyun

On top of that, she confessed how hard it is to deal with sexual harassment online—both for herself and for the hoobae (junior) groups she sees going through the same things. After trying to handle it quietly for so long, Seolhyun spoke out about how it’s time for change.

I want to change that. Not just for me, but for all the future female idols in the industry.

— Seolhyun

5. Sulli

Throughout her career, Sulli was an unwavering champion for women’s rights and female empowerment. She once came under fire for something as harmless as not wearing a bra in public. When she was criticized, she spoke out about how she wouldn’t back down on the issue.

When I first posted a ‘no bra’ photo there was a lot of talk about it. I was scared and could have hidden, but the reason I didn’t is that I want to change peoples’ prejudices about that. Part of me also wanted to say: ‘This isn’t that big of a deal,’

— Sulli