Credit: CULTURE VULTURE By Therese Jamora-Garceau
Seoul man: Singer and actor Kim Hyun Joong says, “The Philippines has given me a lot of good experiences because the fans have been really welcoming and they’re really warm inside.
If hallyu is the love for all things Korean, then Kim Hyun-Joong is the undisputed prince of this Korean wave. As the former leader of boy band SS501 (he’s now singing solo) and actor in the beloved Korean dramas Boys Over Flowers and Playful Kiss, KHJ is a pop-culture phenomenon — a standout in a country where it’s tough to stand out, considering that South Koreans are some of the most style- and beauty-conscious people in the world. The plastic surgeons here are reportedly the best in Asia, and many young Koreans — even those who aren’t in show business — will go for tweaks to their noses, eyes or cheekbones without suffering the same stigma they might get in other parts of the world.
“The attitude is, ‘I’m doing it to look more beautiful and if I can be the most beautiful I can be, what’s wrong with it?’” says Diane Lee, overseas marketing associate of The Face Shop’s overseas business department.
Not surprisingly, cosmetics are also big business, and The Face Shop, having gone global and offering a wide array of natural skincare products to address every need, is the best-known and most trusted Korean brand. As their endorser since last year, Kim Hyun-Joong has traveled throughout Asia, thrilling fans while talking up the brand. (He left yesterday to tour Japan.)
Today we’re catching up to him during a rare break in his schedule. Wearing a black suit perfectly tailored to his six-foot frame, his light brown hair styled into a piecey coif, the three-time winner of Korea’s style icon awards offers a friendly handshake. He seems a bit tired but game, answering questions with a wicked sense of humor that unfortunately seems to get a little lost in translation. On the table are a few of what we assume are his favorite Face Shop things: the Power Perfection BB Cream, a triple-action cosmetic that whitens, fights wrinkles and acts as a sunscreen (it can also be used as foundation); and the E’thym O2 Water skincare line, which includes a Balancing Toner, Recharging Essence, Moisture Lotion and Aura Wave cream. Barring a tiny scar under his eye, KHJ’s complexion is flawless thanks to these products.
“Kim Hyun-Joong is the perfect brand ambassador because he’s not just a pretty face but (at the age of 25) he also has a good heart with all his charity works,” says Keti Maderazo, Face Shop’s brand manager in the Philippines.
As a model of male grooming who travels with his own stylist and makeup artist, KHJ also proves that there’s nothing wrong with a man wanting to boost his image by taking good care of his skin. Excerpts from the interview:
THE PHILIPPINE STAR: You’ve won many awards for being a style icon. How would you describe your style?
KIM HYUN-JOONG: I don’t think I am stylish myself but a lot of people say that I’m stylish. So I’m in a dilemma about whether I’m really stylish or not.
What do you think makes a man stylish?
KHJ: I think that instead of fashionable clothes, a man should have his own characteristic himself, his own charisma that shows how stylish a man can be instead of just clothing.
Are there any celebrities whose style you admire?
KHJ: Grunge (keeps repeating the word “grunge”).
The face of The Face Shop: “My image is well-matched with The Face Shop’s concept of being natural and using natural ingredients.”
Can you describe your grooming regimen in the morning? How long does it take you to get dressed?
KHJ: I don’t do much of the grooming thing in the morning because I have a lot of schedules every day, so the only thing I do is take a shower before I leave.
Why did you choose to work with The Face Shop?
KHJ: My natural looks are well matched with The Face Shop’s concept of being natural, and using natural ingredients. The Face Shop believes in the naturalism concept, so I think the image matches very well.
What are the Face Shop products you can’t live without?
KHJ: I’m exposed to the sun and to the lighting onstage, so I protect myself with the BB Cream — it’s on the table — and another one is the sunblock.
You’ve been to the Philippines a number of times. How do you find the Philippines and your Filipino fans?
KHJ: The Philippines is a very nice place and has given me a lot of good experiences because the fans have been really welcoming and they’re really warm inside. They’re really passionate and their response rate is really high.
What Face Shop products you would recommend to them?
KHJ: Because the Philippines is a hot place, I recommend the sunblock, of course, and because people in the Philippines sweat a lot because of the warm weather, they need to take a shower very often, so having a light moisturizer would help them.
Where do you like to shop for clothes and get your hair cut and colored?
KHJ: My stylist actually goes and picks clothes and outfits for me, instead of me having to do the shopping. I go to have my hairstyle done at this salon called Azunsoo in the southern part of Seoul, where a lot of celebrities go. I also get my hair colored there.
What do you like most: music, TV or film, and why?
KHJ: I can’t choose from the three because the three can’t be separated: in the movie there is music, for the music I have to do music videos. So I can’t really choose.
What kind of music are you listening to right now?
KHJ: I’m planning to make my next album, so I’m listening to a lot of music that shows the winter feelings, because in the Philippines there’s no winter, right, so a lot of fans can just feel the winter through my music. So these days I’m listening to a lot of winter-related songs, like carols.
When is your album coming out?
KHJ: The single will be out in December, but the next regular album will be out, like, mid of next year.
Are you working on any TV shows or films right now?
KHJ: I’m working on a drama series, but there’s no film planned yet.
What is the hardest thing about being a celebrity?
KHJ: The hardest thing about being a celebrity is to have pressure from fans, because whenever I come out with something, all the fans will expect something better next time.