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 dramas, actor Lee Joon-gi exhibits feminine qualities in his career that has in turn influenced his rise to stardom.
Today, the differences in what is seen as distinctly feminine and distinctly masculine have changed. This is why it is so important for actors to embrace roles that show both qualities. A perfect example of this is embodied through Korean actor 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 all of his other works, it’s hard to get rid of such a powerful label and change the way the he is viewed by the public. One way he did this was through his role in the Korean drama, Iljame, which will be discussed later.
Why, you ask, is Lee Joon-gi called pretty? Well, after seeing a picture of him, it becomes pretty clear why he is referred to in this way. Typically speaking, when someone is feminine looking, they have features such as long hair or a smaller bone structure. Joon-gi clearly fits the description for this with his small frame and delicate features.
This picture really exemplifies his feminine features.
Born in Busan, South Korea in 1982, Joon-gi didn’t always know he wanted to be an actor. It wasn’t until he saw the play, Hamlet, in high school that he showed an interest in pursuing an acting career. 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 the movie Fly Daddy Fly and the television series, Iljimae.
Going off his 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. 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. 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.
You would think that serving in the military would help get rid of his feminine image. Unfortunately, you thought wrong.
This picture shows Joon-gi in his military uniform, yet you can’t stop thinking how pretty he looks under that hat. It even appears as if he is wearing some kind of lipstick as well. This is just one more thing, whether he wanted it to or not, that adds to his feminine image.
Since starting his acting career in 2004, Joon-gi hasn’t stopped. Not only has he dived into movie acting, he has also dabbled in some television acting as well. First, though, we’ll start with his movie acting.
The role that shot Joon-gi in to stardom, as previously mentioned, was that of Gong-gil in The King and The Clown. In it, he portrayed a traveling clown in ancient china that exhibited extreme feminine qualities. He and his troupe of clowns would preform comical acts to the public as their means of making a living. In each act, Gong-gil would always dress up as a female because he not only looked the most feminine, but was also the best at acting so. In fact, the king actually goes after Gong-gil because of his strong feminine appearance With his long hair and pale skin, it’s impossible not to notice the feminine qualities he exhibits.
Starting at 3:00, the clip above shows a scene where the troupe acts out a little skit for the king. In the skit, Joon-gi portrays the king’s mistress.
In the scene, he wears a crop top and a skirt that has the bottom stuffed to make him look bigger in that area. It’s almost freaky how well Joon-gi acts like the mistress in his movements and mannerisms because most don’t even know how to move like that.
This video shows a collection of various clips from the movie. It’s clear in every scene just how feminine Joon-gi looks because of his hair as well as his clothes.
Responses to this movie and Joon-gi’s exemplary acting were overwhelming. Suddenly, in nearly every review, post, or blog, Joon-gi became known as the pretty boy of Korean stars. In the DramaFever blog, KrisE wrote:
This movie not only became the most popular in Korean history, but it also showed the beauty that is Lee Jun Ki. With delicate features and beautiful eyes he completely embodied the role of a feminine-looking court clown during the Joseon era who becomes the “favorite” of the King.
Clearly, fans are loving Joon-gi’s femininity. According to AsianWiki, Joon-gi was extremely dedicated in making his character in The King and The Clown as feminine as possible. For the part, “Joon-Gi spoke in a higher pitched voice and acted effeminate even when not in front of the camera to stay in the character of Gong-gil”. Now that’s dedication!
Although Joon-gi’s fame grew in part because of his femininity, he didn’t want to be known solely as that nor did he want to only be cast in only feminine roles. In an interview, he explained how he tried to separate himself from his character:
“Lee said Gong-gil’s character in The King and the Clown felt like a foot chain for him so he
wanted to escape from it, stating, “After my performance in The King and the Clown, I found
myself at the forefront of this ‘pretty boy’ trend, whether or not that was my intention.”
Success at being seen as something else came when he was cast as the main character in the drama, Iljimae in 2008. In it, Joon-gi plays a Robin Hood-esque character that is quite the opposite of his The King and the Clown character.
This video is the first episode of the series and just within the first 10 minutes, Joon-gi (playing Iljimae) shows more masculinity in these scenes than he ever did in The King and the Clown.
Even though Joon-gi’s fame grew tremendously from his more masculine role in Iljimae, which received extremely high ratings, he still couldn’t shake the pretty boy stigma. Four years after Iljimae was aired and seven years after The King and The Clown was released, another blogger on DramaFever also wrote about Joon-gi’s attractiveness, saying that he “is considered to be the first original “Flower Boy”. How frekkin pretty is he?!”. Wikipedia even writes, “After the film, Lee became “an icon” of the South Korean “pretty boy” aesthetic”. Although Iljimae wasn’t enough to make fans stop thinking of Joon-gi as feminine, it didn’t hurt his fame or career at all. In fact, it actually made him even more popular than he was before the series.
No matter how fans perceive Lee Joon-gi and call him a pretty boy, it will not have a negative effect on his career. It’s part of the reason why people are so crazy about this star. Take Leonardo DiCaprio, for example. When he first started off acting, he had very feminine features. However, just like Joon-gi, his feminine looks didn’t hurt his career at all. The picture below shows just how pretty Leo was during his teen years. Gaining his fame from The King and The Clown, Joon-gi was immediately praised for his pretty looks. Even after attempting to stray away from feminine roles, Iljimae still couldn’t make fans forget how good looking Joon-gi is. However, no matter what direction Joon-gi decides to go in, his pretty face will always help, and never hurt his evolving career.
“Lee Joon-gi.” Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.
“AsianWiki.” Lee Joon-Gi –. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.
Dan. “Lee Jun Ki: Knowing Him Is a Must!” DramaFever Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.
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