Note: This short biography is derived from the scanty English language sources I have found on Ha Ri-Su, and probably contains many inaccuracies. If someone can send me an English translation of her autobiography which she has published on various websites, I would be grateful.
Ha Ri-Su was born 17 February, 1975 (this date seems certain, although confusingly many on-line sources give 1979 as her year of birth) in Songnam, a city just southeast of Seoul, South Korea as Yi Kyung Yup (also spelt Lee Kyoung Yop or Lee Su - or variations of all these).
The young Lee never thought of himself as a male, and his mother always treated and referred to him as a daughter. At the all-boy Naksaeng High School in Songnam, Ha Ri-Su was always considered very feminine, and had a serious relationship with a man - only separating due to the social prejudice they experienced. After finishing school in 1995 Ha took took a compulsory physical examination for army enrolment, but was released from it because of his light build and body weight.
In 1997, by now effectively transitioned, Ha moved to Japan and studied at the Tokyo Design School, majoring in Hair Designing. The next year - age 23 - she had breast augmentation and sex change operations, while still in Japan. She was discovered while performing as a singer at a Japanese nightclub in 1999 by a Korean-Japanese, who later introduced her to an agent. She began working as a model with the stage name Ha Ri-Su (sometimes spelt as Ha Ri-Soo and often simplified to Harisu), which is a Korean adaptation of the English phrase "hot issue.", and in 2000 she returned to Korea. In 2001, she legally changed her name to the feminine name of Lee Kyung-eun.
Ha Ri-Su says that the relationship with her parents was the most difficult thing after her operation, indeed her father still does not really accept his only son as now being a "daughter". Finally, Ha had dinner with her parents on Parents Day 2000, which was a landmark moment, although her father still says that he feels sad for his child, saying, "I-Soo [Ha Ri-Su] is the most pitiful person." But since this reconciliation with her parents, Ha has begun to participate in family events, such as birthday parties and weddings, and her family members seem to have begun to accept her new gender identity.
Miss Ha had her big break in February 2001 when she starred in a television advertisement for Dodo Co.'s new line of facial powder, called Palgantong Fania. In the ad, Ha stares blankly into the camera, with a nursery rhyme ringing in the background. As the camera zooms in, she lifts her neck and swallows, showing an Adam's apple. (This effect was actually computer generated to give viewers a clue to Ha's past; Ha has never had a noticeable Adam's apple). Ha comments about it: "The concept of the commercial was transgender and I didn't want to lose that chance to debut as a model. 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".
During the photographic session for the commercial, the advertisement producing team was astonished by Ha Ri-Su’s physique, saying that it was better shaped than any other woman they had used. This started a unusual rumour, that that Ha was actually lying about her transsexuality, and was really a genetic woman - the exact opposite to what most transsexual women experience! Exploiting this, she is now dubbed in Korea "a woman more beautiful than a woman."
She thus became the first entertainer in Korea who has made it publicly known that she has had a transgender operation. Despite having only one TV commercial to her name, she immediately one of the most sought-after models in the business, "When I go to be photographed for magazines, they ask me to pose as a sexy and elegant, chic and voluptuous, and simultaneously cute and innocent woman." Harisu says.
From modelling she quickly moved in to singing and acting, staring in the film "Yellow Hair 2" and releasing the album "Harisu 1 - Temptation" - with some success. She said "Even if I fail, I have no regret. I will have done what I've wanted all along, and that as a woman. I'll have no regret. Well, I may open a beauty salon because hair design is what I studied in Japan for two years.".
Sheer determination and talent seems to have carried Harisu to career success - despite her transsexuality and the family problems she has experienced after her operation. This has undoubtedly been assisted by the fact that by any measure she is a very beautiful woman, and after some initial shyness, her photo shoots and videos have been become quite revealing of her very shapely body .
On 19 May 2007 Harisu (age 32) married her boyfriend Miki Jung (age 27 - i.e. 5 years her junior). She had already received the betrothal gifts presented by her fiancé in accordance with traditional Korean wedding customs.
Asked by the local media about the sensitive issue of babies, she said "I asked my boyfriend, 'I can't have a baby: what should we do?'. And he responded so naturally, 'We can adopt.' He consoled me saying the baby will be mine if I give it a blood transfusion."
More information about her can be found on her official website (possibly no longer on-line).
In 2003 Harisu's vital statistics were published as being - height: 168 cm (5' 6"); weight: 48kg (106lbs); Bust 35" (34B bra), Waist 24", Hips 35".
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