Fresh from her four-year hiatus, Lee Hyori is back with her new album “Seoul.” In K-pop, it’s hard to stay relevant, especially with the influx of new and competitive girl and boy groups that keep getting younger and younger. But for exactly these reasons, Hyori still remains the most anticipated queen, a complete entertainer who did a 360-degree transformation both in her image and in her perspective in life.
1. She has courage.
As part of Fin.K.L, Lee Hyori was practically one of the nation’s “fairies,” and in Korea, if you’re given the title of a “nation’s” something, it means you’re incredibly well-known and loved. She was considered number one in terms of popularity, earnings, beauty — no one could surpass her. But she had the courage to step down when she was on top, to focus on herself, and find who she really is. In an interview with “Happy Together,” she said, “In order to take a leap, you need to step back a little. I didn’t have the energy to just keep walking.”
Hyori was the poster girl for soju, the face of Samsung Anycall, and beauty product Isa Knox. These are only a few of her old endorsements; she could have done more, but she gave it all up.
2. For her, a simple life is all that matters.
Not only is she back on the charts, she is also back on TV for her reality show “Hyori’s Homestay,” which shows a glimpse of her life on Jeju Island with her husband Lee Sang Soon. When she veered away from the limelight, she simultaneously released herself from the pressures of being an idol: the difficulty of maintaining an “ideal” body and image, competing with others, and pleasing everyone. Now, Hyori admits that she finds happiness in simple things — seeing the sun rise and set, a morning of yoga while watching the waves crash against the rocks, and playing with her dogs.
For someone who used to be the face of a cellphone company, ironically, Hyori decided to delete all her contacts, change her number, and temporarily cut off her SNS accounts. She’s back on Instagram now only because of her comeback.
3. There’s more to her music than meets the ears.
TV host Yoo Jae Suk asked her about her songs “Seoul” and “Black” and commented that her fans might view it as something that’s very heavy and complicated compared to her other cheery, catchier songs like “U Go Girl” and “10 Minutes.” According to Hyori, she has changed tremendously over the years. She said hilariously, “I have all these wrinkles now and you expect me to charm a guy in 10 minutes?”
As for her more upbeat songs in the past, she revealed, “People like the me that did those songs eight years ago, but I don’t. That’s my dilemma now. I can’t only do what the listeners want me to do. I also have to do what I want.”
Almost all of her songs from her new album are her own compositions, and they talk about Hyori’s musings in life. Her lyrics now have a deeper meaning, reflecting the change that happened within her. One of her songs called “Diamond” was inspired by comfort women, with lyrics aiming to give them consolation and encouragement.
4. She’s still trendy.
There’s no doubt that Hyori is the most iconic sexy diva whose every song release becomes viral, and all her endorsements turn to gold. When Hyori first started wearing a dark eyeliner, every girl was in on the look. She also made leather leggings and sky high heels in vogue.
She is now sparking different kinds of trends from the ones she popularized before. In Korea, weddings are a huge deal and cost a lot of money. They are usually held in big name hotels, with wedding halls designed with exquisite flowers, they’re served with gourmet meals. But when Hyori got married in 2013, she didn’t wear a fancy designer dress, and all the flowers she needed were the ones on her head and in the bouquet in her hands. Her guests were just a few close family members and friends. Then a trend called “DIY weddings” became the norm in Korea, with even celebrities following suit! Now, her one-with-nature lifestyle on Jeju Island is making people rethink life in the chaotic city.
5. Honesty is her most alluring charm.
Hyori can get away with saying almost anything she truly thinks and feels. She’s not afraid to speak out.
“I have a bad taste in men,” she said, joking about her husband Lee Sang Soon. But she also said that she doesn’t care about looks, but rather how perfectly she and her husband match with each other. This is why, even though they have stayed for a long time in Jeju living the simple life, they still enjoy each other’s company and never get bored of being together.
6. Looks aren’t everything.
While Hyori is obviously beautiful, she doesn’t try too hard or let her looks overshadow her talents. “There are already so many beautiful, flower-like celebrities. I used to be like them, but it seems like these days no one really expects me to be this young beauty.”
7. Animals are her best friends.
As if we need any more reason to love her, Hyori is one big animal lover! She said, “It’s so hard to walk a big dog in Seoul, so it’s nice to be in Jeju. I like it even more because it’s out of the way. Raising a dog is a big deal. I started it, and I can’t stop. Our cat is doing well, too. It’s over 12 years old.”
8. She will always be everyone’s unni.
“I want to be a warm mentor people can talk to or an older sister instead.”
DP_Kim is an English magazine writer and fashion fan whose goal in life is to wear heels and find the best OOTD locations while living in the farm outside of Jeonju, South Korea. Follow her Korean adventures here.