Actress Choi Han-bit has entered the spotlight recently because of her stellar performance in the drama "Saving Mrs. Go Bong-sil," where she plays the role of a transgender who works at a bar in Itaewon.
Choi's role in the show, which airs on TV Chosun, mirrors her own life in many ways. She became a woman after having a sex change operation when she was 20.
"I was initially hesitant to accept the role of a character whose situation so closely parallels my own," she said. "But I changed my mind after meeting the director. Some of the scenes were surprisingly close to what I went through myself."
Choi developed an interest in dancing as a child and went on to study at an arts high school to chase her dream of becoming a professional dancer. She was a good student and a filial child, never disobeying her parents. But she began to feel confused about her sexuality while still in high school.
"I majored in dance, so I was surrounded by girls, and at that time I wondered about my true identity," Choi said. "In order to escape from my feelings of confusion, I absorbed myself in dancing almost everyday. That helped me become really good at dancing, but didn't resolve my sense of confusion."
She was accepted to the prestigious Korea National University of Arts, but continued to wrestle with her confused sexuality. Finally, Choi decided to live the rest of her life as a woman.
"I convinced my parents. It wasn't easy, but they finally understood," she said. "I promised myself that I would not hide away from the public, but would live openly and confidently."
As such, she competed in Korea's Super Model Contest in 2009. Nobody knew she was a transgender until the final qualifying round. "I wanted to show that I could compete on the same level as other women," Choi said.
After she became a professional model, she began receiving acting offers. However, she said she turned them all down at first.
"I was not confident about my ability to act. The only thing I was really accomplished at was dancing, so I had to give it a lot of thought," she said.
After chewing the idea over, she decided to give it a shot and appeared in the KBS TV drama "The Princess' Man" last October. Beforehand, she took acting lessons and even learned some stunt skills in order to acquit herself in the drama's action scenes.
"I didn't want to compromise the quality of the show due to my poor acting skills," she said.
Through her role in "Saving Mrs. Go Bong-sil," Choi said she feels that she has taken a step further in her career as an actress. "I'm learning a lot from the veteran actors that I'm working with. That makes me want to take on more challenges in the future," she said.