Where is Harisu, K-Pop’s First Transgender Idol, Now?

She took Asia by storm in the early 2000s!

Harisu is a pioneering figure in LGBTQ+ representation in popular media, not only in Korea but all across Asia. Her career kickstarted in 2001, giving the continent its first transgender K-Pop idol.


Assigned male at birth, Harisu went under sex reassignment surgery in 1995 as a 20-year-old. Korea’s most prolific sex-change surgeon, Kim Seok Kwon, performed the procedure. Harisu became only the second person in South Korea to change their gender legally.

Harisu before transitioning | WikiTree
Harisu after transitioning | JoongAng News

As an openly transgender public figure in a conservative place like South Korea, that too in the early 2000s, Harisu bore the weight of advocating for the rights of her community and openly shared her experiences to help others understand transgender people. Talking about her sex reassignment surgery, she shared that living in a male body while knowing since childhood that you’re a woman inside was a painful experience, which could have pushed her towards death had she not taken the necessary steps.

If I had lived as a man without undergoing a sex change operation, I might be dead already. I was already a woman except for my genitals. I didn’t want to live an awkward life with those genitals. I’m a woman, so I wanted to live as a woman.

— Harisu

Interestingly though, Harisu had already started working in the entertainment industry in 1991, when she was still living as a male. She worked in some TV shows in supporting roles, but her big break came in 2001 when she appeared in a TV commercial for DoDo Cosmetics. Her stunning visuals got viewers intrigued to know who she was, and once they discovered that she is a transgender woman, her popularity shot up overnight.

She debuted as a K-Pop idol that very year with her debut album, Temptation, and followed it up with a second album, Liar, the next year. In 2003, Harisu left her agency TTM Entertainment and fought a long legal battle over the rights to her stage name, “Harisu.” In the end, the court ruled in her favor, and she continued her activities as Harisu but under her own agency, G&F Entertainment.

Her career kept progressing, even internationally. In 2004, she released her third album, Foxy Lady, starred in a Taiwanese drama called Hi! Honey, and landed a role in Yonfan‘s Colour Blossoms, an erotic drama film from Hong Kong in which she shared a role with veteran Japanese actress Keiko Matsuzaka. That same year, Harisu also appeared in a series of advertisements for Taiwanese company UFT, promoting their sanitary napkins. The campaign was a huge success, and she was reportedly paid 100 million won (around USD 87,241 dollars according to the average exchange rate in 2004).

In 2005, she appeared in MBC’s miniseries Beating Heart, which was her most notable project in a Korean drama yet. The following years saw Harisu expand her career in Taiwan and Malaysia through various movie and drama projects. She kept releasing new music in Korea as well. In 2007, she married rapper Micky Jung, but they divorced ten years later.

| Yonhap

So, where is the icon today? And what is she up to?

Harisu still appears to have an entertainment career, appearing in variety shows such as JTBC‘s Turning Point, where she surprisingly revealed that nearly 100 male celebrities have pursued her in her life. In 2019, she also opened a YouTube channel where she frequently posted her performances and vlog-style content. But she hasn’t updated the channel in the last two years.

Her main job now seems to be her own company, Nuevo Perro. It is a pet care brand, and Harisu is the CEO.

| @risu_ha/Instagram

She also occasionally does livestreams and TV appearances.

But when she is not busy with her schedules, she’s living her best life with her cute puppies!

And in case you were wondering, yes, those doll-like visuals that captivated the entirety of South Korea in 2001 are still very much in place!

| @risu_ha/Instagram
Source: WikiTree and Instagram