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K-pop is taking over the world at a constant and powerful rate. Influences in music, fashion, skincare, makeup, and even cafe life, the Hallyu Wave is pushing the walls all over the world. However, there is a stigma amongst male K-pop idols, where there is negative impact towards adapting beauty routines and fashion OOTDs (which are originally female by standards). Sadly, one wrong decision, artists are criticized for those actions taken. But despite living within a society where gender norms are heavily imposed, there are K-pop idols that are breaking those boundaries as far as expressing themselves. Below are a few male K-pop idols that are pushing the boundaries of gender norms: 

1. Jo-Kwon (former 2AM member) IG: https://www.instagram.com/kwon_jo/

Former 2AM member, Jo-Kwon is one of the few K-pop idols that is not afraid to express himself. He is known for showing off his male diva persona on television and skills in perfecting girl group choreography. He is also recognized for his variety of styles, as he took part in a Korean adaptation of the musical Priscilla (2014), where he took on dual roles of drag queens Adam and Felicia. He continues to conquer the stage, leaving people in awe. 

2. Wonho (former Monsta X member) IG: https://www.instagram.com/iwonhoyou/

Apart from his superhuman buff image, former Monsta X member Wonho, is known as an advocate of gender equality. When approached with questions such as, “who is your ideal type?”, he comes with a neutral response that allows for a gender equal platform. He is known as the K-pop idol that shows off his muscular body, however, he has been seen in many female based fashion looks. From female designers to actual clothing items that are found in the women’s section, Wonho has fans drooling for more. 

3. Ren (NU’EST member) IG: https://www.instagram.com/glorypath/?hl=en

Even before making it big, Ren was well known for his “pretty” features. From his debut, he sported his signature long hair and kept it for some time throughout his career. From his features, to his physical body frame, to his personality, he is an open and kind man. He has even mentioned in an interview that, “people around me tell me that I look like a girl, but I think these sort of reactions are fun, partially because it makes me hope that they will want to get to know me better.” He possesses feminine traits, however, he has shown a contrast between his pretty boy image with his powerful performance on stage. 

4. Jungkook (BTS member)

The youngest member of BTS, has stood up and broke the gender norms in fashion. In an interview with Vanity Fair, he said that regardless of gender, the key to amazing style is not limiting your choices and to wear anything. Jungkook has always chosen what he wants to wear despite the strict boundaries of traditional Korea. He has stated that fashion is gender fluid. He has also mentioned in a live stream broadcast that he wanted to try out getting a manicure (influenced by close friend and singer Lauv) and is a proud supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Sadly, gender discrimination still happens every day. Thankfully, the idols mentioned above are just a few of the people who are becoming vessels of change. They are using their talent, influence, and platform to push the boundaries of gender stereotypes. Hopefully, with the increased popularity of K-pop, their influence can reach further and help society accept that gender norms can be challenged.

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Shannon Kang is a California native. She is finished community college back in her hometown and is now enrolled at University of California, San Diego to pursue her Bachelor's Degree in Communications. After undergrad she is planning on furthering her education to pursue an MBA in management and operations. When it comes to tasks and her interests she is determined and persistent, she will not stop till she gets what she wants. Her interests include, music (KPOP stan), food (total foodie), Asian culture, fashion, skin care, and literature.
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