Digital Essay Rough Draft – Feminism & Lee Joon-gi

This is all I have so far, I’m still working on finding more research about his roles in movies and his music.


In today’s ever-changing and ever-evolving modern society, new definitions for what is considered feminine are being created as the once clear and definite line between femininity and masculinity becomes blurred. In the world of Korean movies and Korean pop music, actor and idol, Lee Joon-gi exhibits feminine qualities in both of his careers.

With women dressing more like men, who didn’t even wear pants 50 years ago, and men dressing more like women, it becomes harder and harder these days to define just what femininity really is. A perfect example of this is embodied through Korean actor and singer, Lee Junki, now referred to as Lee Joon-gi. Ever since his breakout role in the blockbuster, The King and The Clown, where he played the effeminate clown, Gong-gil, Joon-gi has been labeled the pretty boy of Korean popular culture by his fans and the media. Although he doesn’t carry this feminine aspect into his all other works, it’s hard to get rid of such a powerful label and change the way the he is viewed by the public.

Before diving into how Joon-gi exhibits feminine qualities, it is important to explain what is meant when something is described as being feminine. Femininity is defined as

Femininity (also called womanliness or womanhood) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with girls and women. Femininity is socially constructed, but made up of both socially-defined and biologically-created factors. This makes it distinct from the definition of the biological female sex, as women, men, and transgender people can all exhibit feminine traits (“Femininity).

As this is the formal definition for femininity, it is also equally important to note the differences in cultural perceptions of femininity in the West, specifically the United States and Asia, specifically South Korea. In the west, femininity on men is usually considered to be things such as make-up, tighter fitting clothes typically worn more by females, accessories and jewelry. In Asia however, characteristics such as make-up and tighter fitting clothing on men aren’t necessarily seen as distinctly feminine, especially in the world of Korean popular culture. Idol groups, especially, exhibit “western” feminine qualities in their appearance.

Born in Busan, South Korea in 1982, Joon-gi didn’t always know he wanted to be an actor, let alone a singer. It wasn’t until he saw the play, Hamlet, in high school that he showed an interest in pursuing an acting career (“Lee Joon-gi”). After high school, he worked random jobs until he got into the Seoul Institute of the Arts. His first breakthrough role came in 2005 when he landed the part of Gong-gil in The King and The Clown. Soaring to fame after the immense success of The King and The Clown, Joon-gi went on to have roles in My Girl and Fly, Daddy Fly (“Lee Joon-gi”).

Going off he newly found fame, Joon-gi went on to star in other Korean and Japanese films. By doing this, his popularity in other countries continued to grow. Joon-gi also won best actor in the television drama, Time Between Dog and Wolf. Now a fully fledged movie star, Joon-gi landed the main role in the TV series, Iljimae, where he played a character similar to Robin Hood (“lee Joon-gi”). The show was such a success that it won the Top Excellence Award at the 2008 SBS Drama Awards and also began airing in Tokyo, thus expanding his international stardom.

Unfortunately, in 2010, Joon-gi had to begin his mandatory military service. While gone he was stationed in the public relations department of the Ministry of National Defense. Although he was gone on military leave, he did not cease his passion for acting (“Joon-gi”). To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, he co-starred in a musical titled Voyage of Life. After being discharged from the military, Joon-gi wasted no time in getting back to work. In fact, the day he was released, he held a fan meeting and soon after went on a fan tour.

Since starting his acting career in 2004, Joon-gi hasn’t stopped. Not only has he dived into movie and television acting, but he also jumped into a singing career. He released short albums in 2006, 2009, 2012 and most recently, 2013.

The role that shot Joon-gi in to stardom, as previously mentioned, was that of Gong-gil in The King and The Clown.