Ultimate K-Pop Survival Guide: Lee Hyori

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 The second installment of our Ultimate K-Pop Survival Guide focuses on The K-pop Diva herself. Lee Hyori is someone we don’t really have to introduce to K-pop lovers, unless they are very new to the genre.

Disasters may change your life forever

Lee Hyori’s life story is that of a true Korean dream. Coming from a poor family, where her strict father wouldn’t even let her eat more rice than served, just to save money, she went on to be a feminine symbol, fashion icon and celebrated emcee. She initially gained fame as the most beautiful member of iconic girl group Fin.K.L, passing auditions in 1998 without even having to sing. In 2003 she launched her solo career and immediately rose to the top of the charts and conquered the hearts of millions. She co-hosted popular variety shows like Happy Together and Family Outing. Just like most superstars of her standing, she also could not escape smaller scandals, like the notorious radio call-in from Rain or the plagiarism accusations of her 2006 song, Get Ya. However, the worst was yet to come.

In 2010, in her desperate attempt to outdo herself and her previous success, Lee Hyori vowed to become  a producer for her fourth album, H-Logic. However, after the release of her successful title song Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, netizens started to notice that other songs on her album had striking resemblance to foreign artists’ works. It turned out that six of her songs were compromised, or to state it bluntly: simply stolen from other singers. The “songwriter” of these six songs was a rookie musician named Bahnus, whose songs were selected by Hyori and her then-agency Mnet Media from 200 submitted demos of the same songwriter. In their hurry to produce the album (as Hyori admitted later on) they failed to properly screen his background and the songs. Bahnus apparently not only plagiarized the songs but also forged documents to support a false educational background in music. He was sentenced to jail time.

The events, however, did not stop here. Though Hyori thought she was a victim of Bahnus’  trickery, some critics attacked her, saying she delayed response to plagiarism claims and “fooled the public”. As she stated in SBS’ Healing Camp show, she felt embarrassed and ashamed and ended up drinking her sorrow away.

The rules of survival for Lee Hyori were as follows:

  1. Get yourself together. When you reach the pitfall, it’s easy to give yourself to self-pity and do as Hyori did: drink. She needed the help of a good friend to realize she had to seek advice from a psychologist.

  2. Get the best out of the worst. As her perfectly built ivory castle crumbled, she started to see the world in a new light. She realized how much she depended on what others thought about her and how little she cared for her own needs. She began to write for newspapers and became a columnist, getting praised for her sense of humour, her wit and her clear writing style. She discovered the joy of giving and became an advocate of animal rights and the well-being of the elderly. She gradually came to appreciate smaller pleasures of life over money and fame.

  3. Turn your world upside down. During her self-reflection, Hyori’s world literally turned upside down. She sold her glamorous car and luxury villa and moved to a less spectacular house.  She started to date an “ordinary” man who was unlike any of her previous boyfriends. She became a vegetarian and adopted a stray dog.

  4. Dare to restart. After the collapse, Hyori dared to show herself again. First only on television programs and in advertisements, then news surfaced that she would be coming back with a brand new album.

After a three-year hiatus and multiple release pushbacks, Lee Hyori finally reappeared with a new song, titled Miss Korea (co-written by her boyfriend), and immediately swept the charts. Her 5th album Monochrome is due on the 21st of May.

What can we learn from Lee Hyori’s story? Well, as you could see, sometimes the worst that could happen to you might bring you a chance to transform your life for the better and realize the essence of happiness lies in small joys.

Banner created by Sovany Nguon
Photo source: B2M Entertainment
Sources: SBS Healing Camp ep. 39, 40, The Korea Times

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