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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Harisu

is the stage name of Lee Kyung-eun (born Lee Kyung-yup, February 17, 1975), a transsexual pop singer, model and actress from South Korea. Despite being born male, she identified as female from early childhood, and underwent sex reassignment surgery in the 1990s. She is noted for being South Korea's first transgender entertainer, and in 2002 became only the second person in Korea to legally change their gender. Her stage name is an adaptation of the English phrase "hot issue".

Harisu first gained public attention in 2001, after appearing in a television commercial for DoDo cosmetics. The commercial was a big success and ended up launching her career, allowing her to branch out into other fields such as music and acting. So far she has recorded five Korean musical albums, switching genres between techno and R&B, and her overseas releases have featured songs recorded in Mandarin. Her first major acting role was in the 2001 film Yellow Hair 2, and since then her credits have included Hi! Honey, a Taiwanese drama series, and Colour Blossoms, an erotic drama by Hong Kong filmmaker Yonfan.

On May 19, 2007, Harisu married boyfriend Micky Jung, whom she had been dating for two years previously.

Early life and transition

Harisu was born Lee Kyung-yup in Seongnam, South Korea, and is one of five children. recalling, "I was always a girl who loved playing with dolls." This did not go unnoticed by her family or school friends, who often remarked that she looked and acted like a girl.A failed relationship with another boy during her teenage years convinced Harisu of the need to change gender, and by the time she graduated from the all-boys Naksaeng High School, she was already undergoing hormone replacement therapy. It was for this reason that she was exempted from the military servicemental illness".By the end of the 1990s, Harisu had undergone breast augmentation, sex reassignment surgery, and rhinoplasty, having had surgery performed in both South Korea and Japan. Although born male, she identified as female from an early age, usually required of males in South Korea, being rejected on the grounds of "mental illness". By the end of the 1990s, Harisu had undergone breast augmentation, sex reassignment surgery, and rhinoplasty, having had surgery performed in both South Korea and Japan.

Harisu lived in Japan for several years, where she studied to be a hair stylist.It was while working as a nightclub singer that she was discovered by a talent agency, and soon after she began her career as a model. After returning to South Korea in 2000, she signed with management company TTM Entertainment, and first began using the stage name "Harisu", derived from the English phrase "hot issue".

Career
Debut

Harisu first gained public attention when she appeared in this TV commercial for DoDo cosmetics. Note the Adam's apple, which was added digitally.Harisu made her acting debut in 1991—while still a boy—as a supporting actor in a high school TV drama series,[11] and this was followed by other minor film and TV roles as an extra during the 1990s.

Her big break came in early 2001, when she appeared in a TV commercial for DoDo cosmetics. The commercial hinted at the fact she is a transsexual, zooming in to reveal her Adam's apple DoDo were initially cautious about using the commercial, and had been prepared to withdraw it if the response was negative, but it turned out to be a big success and quickly established her as a celebrity. As South Korea's first transgender entertainer, there was a great deal of media interest in Harisu, and she was routinely described as being "more beautiful than a woman". Explaining her reasons for "coming out", she said, "I don't want to face people dishonestly. I won't be able to hide it after all. It's better to make it clear from the start." In June 2001, Harisu was the subject of a television documentary produced by KBS, which covered her childhood, family relationships, and debut as an entertainer. (although this was added digitally, since Harisu herself does not have a prominent Adam's apple).

Later that year she was cast in the film Yellow Hair 2, her first leading role. Also contributing several songs to the films soundtrack, Harisu played a transsexual who, along with several other characters, goes on the run after the apparent death of a convenience store owner. Regarding her decision to appear in the film, she said, "I wanted to break the stereotype of transsexuals - the demureness and extreme weakness with which they are often portrayed." The film was released on July 21.

Also in 2001, Harisu published her autobiography, Eve from Adam, and appeared in a music video for dance group Turbo. In September, she entered the K-pop music scene with her debut album, Temptation, a mix of techno-style pop music and slow ballads, which peaked at number 32 on the MIAK (Music Industry Association of Korea) K-pop albums chart. She released her second album, Liar, in October 2002, describing it as "a high-energy dance record with a very upbeat rhythm." Liar became her biggest domestic chart success, reaching number 23 in its first month of release.

2003-2005

In October 2003, Harisu made the decision to leave her management company, TTM Entertainment. However, TTM claimed to hold the rights to her stage name, and announced their intentions to use that name to promote other artists. The matter was taken to court, and in early 2004 the ruling went in favour of Harisu, allowing her to keep the name. She subsequently set up her own company, G&F Entertainment, in order to make her own decisions regarding her career. In February she released her third album, Foxy Lady, which marked a change from the sound of her previous albums towards a more hip-hop/R&B style, with Harisu saying "now I am on my own, and showing my true colors, doing exactly the kind of music that I've always wanted." The album, however, failed to make the top 50 in the Korean charts.

In 2004, Harisu began to develop her career overseas, expressing some frustration at being "pigeon-holed" as a transgender in Korea. She starred in the Taiwanese drama series Hi! HoneyMandarin (her lines were spoken in Korean and later dubbed). She also drew attention by promoting sanitary napkins in a series of advertisements for Taiwanese company UFT, for which she was paid an estimated 100 million per ad. Although she had been initially reluctant to take on the project, some observers hailed the casting of a transwoman in such a campaign as a sign of progress. Towards the end of the year Harisu appeared in Yonfan's Colour Blossoms, an erotic drama film from Hong Kong in which she shared a role with veteran Japanese actress Keiko Matsuzaka. Released on October 18, 2004, it was poorly received at the box office and by the media, though it had some success at film festivals, and picked up a number of awards and nominations.

Harisu made a return to Korean screens in early 2005, after being cast in the MBC miniseriesBeating Heart, her first major role in a Korean drama. She starred in several episodes as a transsexual woman, returning to her family after a lengthy absence in a bid to gain acceptance. Foxy Lady album was released in Taiwan and China with the inclusion of several songs re-recorded in Mandarin, and she was even promoted by her Taiwanese record label as the "Kylie Minogue of the East". In September 2005, Harisu gained a foothold in Malaysia after signing a three-year memorandum of understanding with Hock Star Entertainment, a deal which included the production of two feature films and also secured the Malaysian release of her album.

Later that year she was cast in the film Yellow Hair 2, her first leading role. Also contributing several songs to the films soundtrack, Harisu played a transsexual who, along with several other characters, goes on the run after the apparent death of a convenience store owner. Regarding her decision to appear in the film, she said, "I wanted to break the stereotype of transsexuals - the demureness and extreme weakness with which they are often portrayed." The film was released on July 21.

Also in 2001, Harisu published her autobiography, Eve from Adam, and appeared in a music video for dance group Turbo. In September, she entered the K-pop music scene with her debut album, Temptation, a mix of techno-style pop music and slow ballads, which peaked at number 32 on the MIAK (Music Industry Association of Korea) K-pop albums chart. She released her second album, Liar, in October 2002, describing it as "a high-energy dance record with a very upbeat rhythm." Liar became her biggest domestic chart success, reaching number 23 in its first month of release.

2006-present

After a prolonged absence from the Korean music scene, Harisu returned in January 2006 with her fourth, self-titled album. Although her comeback was originally scheduled for the summer of 2005, this had been prevented by other commitments overseas, and rumours of health problems were unfounded. The album was preceded by a digital single, "Winter Story", and marked a change in her image, with an emphasis on being "cute" rather than "sexy". Harisu charted at number 46 in Korea, and as with her previous album it was also released in Taiwan and China with extra songs recorded in Mandarin. Her fifth Korean album, Summer, was released just six months later, though it failed to chart in the top 50.

Her next film—the first as part of the deal with Hock Star Entertainment—was Possessed, a Malaysian horror film released on November 30, 2006, in which she starred alongside Amber Chia. Harisu played Lisu, a murdered pop singer who becomes a vengeful ghost, and also performed the films theme song, though it was necessary for her dialogue to be spoken in Korean and later dubbed. She was praised by director Bjarne Wong for her hard work and professionalism, and has hinted that they may collaborate on another film in the future.

In early 2007, Harisu was cast as the lead actress in Police Line, a Korean drama series produced for cable network On-Media. The series, based around a special unit for victims of sexual abuse, stars Harisu as a policewoman who was molested as a child by her stepfather. Filming for Police Line began in April 2007, and the series is due to launch in June. She is also expected to release her first Japanese album later in the year.

Personal life

Harisu's decision to undergo sex reassignment surgery placed a strain on the relationship with her family, and she noted that when her parents first found out they "were very upset. They weren't angry, but very sad." Her father in particular had great difficulty accepting his child as a daughter, but her family have since accepted her and show great pride in her career.

Harisu has been given credit for raising social awareness of transgenderism within South Korea, and has said in interviews that she hopes to be a role model for other transsexuals. In April 2007, she came to the aid of a Chinese transwoman unable to afford surgery, giving her the financial support needed to complete her transition.

Legal recognition of gender

On November 29, 2002, Harisu filed a petition with the Incheon District Court to have her sex changed on her family register from male to female, and also that her birth name be changed from Lee Kyung-yup to the more feminine Lee Kyung-eun. The subsequent court ruling went in her favour, and on December 13, 2002, she became only the second person in South Korea to legally change their gender. Speaking of the difficulties she had previously encountered, Harisu has said: "My most embarrassing moments were when I have had to show my personal identification card in public... I couldn't get a passport, visa or even my own bank accounts because I was legally a man".

Marriage

Since her debut in 2001, Harisu has consistently expressed a desire to marry and have a family of her own. In 2005, she began dating Micky Jung (real name Jung Yong-jin), a rapper whom she had met online. Jung, who had been a member of dance group EQ during the 1990s, later joined Harisu's management company and worked on her fourth and fifth albums. The couple briefly separated in 2006, but were reunited after Jung saw her dating another man on a TV show. Rumours that the two were to marry began circulating in November 2006, and a date for the wedding was announced in February, following several meetings between their respective families.

On May 19, 2007, Harisu and Jung were married at Central City Millennium Hall in the Seocho-guSeoul. The ceremony was presided over by KBS anchor Shin Young-il, and officiated by Kim Suk-kwon, a Dong-A University professor who had performed Harisu's sex change surgery in the 1990s. The couple honeymooned on the Thai island of Ko Samui, and are due to begin their married life at Harisu's family home in Nonhyun-dong, located in the Gangnam-gu district of Seoul. The couple have said that they plan to adopt four children.

Discography

As of 2007, Harisu has released five Korean language studio albums, though her song lyrics typically include some English as well. While her early work has been described as "techno-flavored K-pop", her more recent albums have leaned towards the R&B, hip-hop and discogenres. She has named Madonna and Janet Jackson as her musical influences, while of her contempories she holds Chae Rina in high esteem.

Studio albums

TitleRelease dateChart positionSalesNotes
TemptationSeptember 22, 20013225,474
(as of October 2001)
Also released in Taiwan.
LiarOctober 28, 20022315,760
(as of October 2002)

Foxy LadyFebruary 2, 2004Released in Taiwan, China and Malaysia in 2005, with extra tracks recorded in Mandarin.
HarisuJanuary 24, 2006461,596
(as of January 2006)
Also released in Taiwan and China, with extra tracks recorded in Mandarin.
SummerJuly 25, 2006

Other releases

TitleRelease dateNotes
Yellow Hair 2 OSTJuly 23, 2001Film soundtrack by various artists; includes two songs by Harisu, "Paradise" and "Sad Love".
The First Live ConcertJuly 29, 2002Live concert, released on VHS and VCD.
Dance Fever #01June 12, 2003Compilation by various artists; includes Harisu's version of "The Cheeky Song", originally recorded by The Cheeky Girls.
"Winter Story"December 5, 2005Digital single, taken from the album Harisu.

Music videos

  • "History" by Turbo (2001)
  • "Temptation" (2001)
  • "Always" by Kang Sung (2002)
  • "Liar" (2002)
  • "Foxy Lady" (2004)
  • "Reaction" (2006)

Filmography

YearTitleRoleNotes
2001Yellow Hair 2JAlso performed two songs on the soundtrack.
2002City Horror Series (TV)General Bai LanAppeared in "The Song of the Dead".
Emergency Act 19HerselfBrief cameo appearance.
2004Hi! Honey (TV)Lu Jia Ling
Colour BlossomsMadam Umeki
2005Beating Heart (TV)Kim Hae-jungAppeared in episodes 3, 4, 9 and 12.
2006PossessedLisuAlso sang the films main theme song.
2007Police Line (TV)
To air from June 2007.

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