Rays of the morning sun came through a window high like the rooftop. Sitting in front of this window, Lee Hyori was getting her hair and makeup done for the photo shoot. “Welcome. It must have been hard to come that early, right?” Last year, Lee Hyori and her husband Lee Sang Soon held their wedding in this place and we were here after they had come back from a short trip.
Anyone would be curious about Lee Hyori’s house. This place isn’t Lee Hyori’s vacation home. It’s her only “home”. “I no longer have a house in Seoul. Jeju people like us who don’t have a house in Seoul reserve an apartment in Seoul they can use together. I don’t really have a reason to go over there.” A garden and a wide field can be seen through the window. There are a studio and solar electric plate(s) next to the house. This house built of wood and stone is naturally a part of the forest. The house and the studio are decorated with this merbeau tree red color that looks so outstanding that one would wonder how it would change as time went by. “This is the final version of the house made by an architect we were introduced to. Except for saying things like “I wish there would be no room”, “I wish there would be a high rooftop”, there was no concrete plan. We didn’t know the house would look like this!” As they wished, the house has no room and the space is divided by curtains. The three dogs – Soonshim, Iguana, Mocca – which were the first to welcome us here went everywhere inside the house and were in the middle of morning greetings. Every time the door leading outside was opened, they never missed a chance to rush outside. The thing that especially got Iguana’s attention was the pony that was the new member of Lee Hyori’s family. It was absorbed in discovering this pony. Once her preparation was over, Lee Hyori also came outside with two big sticks of celery to see her pony. Lee Sang Soon brewed coffee for the Seoul guests storming in since Sunday morning, the sweet pumpkin soup was simmering in a pot. Everybody came to sit at the wooden table and ate the warm and soft sweet pumpkin soup.
Everything felt natural, peaceful. Like the interior of this house filled with things the two of them like such as pictures in every corner, albums, DVDs and books filling the bookcase and could even be found on the floor. It seemed that this was how her daily life was.
Between Jeju’s camellia forest and tangerine trees, canola flowers that showed an early spring, we took pictures. Once the shooting was over, we went back to the house. It was already getting dark. The fire in the fireplace was flaring up. Exhausted after playing all day, the dogs grabbed their favorite spot in front of the fireplace. We decided to make Lee Hyori the cover model of our “Allure”‘s April issue based on a environment-friendly issue. That was because she’s bravely putting into practice a green life more than anything else. It is now time to listen to her story. Sitting in front of the fireplace, she held her cup of green tea. “Shall we start?” The fire coming from the fireplace lit up the dim-lit interior. It brought out the heat and the nice crackling sound of the wood. Two cats that were hiding all day began to quietly show themselves. And so Lee Hyori’s story began.
Seoul has this fine-particulate air, but the Jeju’s weather is clear.
When I got off the plan a few days ago, I realized how grey and cloudy the sky was. When I was living in Seoul, I didn’t know. Now that I live away, I’m aware of it.
Your house is really beautiful. It seems you take into consideration environmental parts a lot.
It was really hard to create these parts. At first I didn’t want to use cement. I was going to build a house only made of wood, but the wind is strong and there is a lot of humidity in Jeju, so I was told a house made of wood would go down right away. I wanted to build a house where I’d spent the rest of my life, so I had to give up on a few parts of my plan.
Your house is surrounded by a forest. Did you like this place as soon as you saw it?
The forest is the only thing in my surroundings. Some people asked me if I didn’t pull out the trees because there’s no tree in the yard, but this place was actually a field. I only changed the parts where the house got built. Everything else is the field. There are canola flowers planted over there.
All the green sprout that sprang up are canola flowers? The yellow flowers will bloom soon.
You can look at the flowers and you can also eat the greens. Oppa and I are planning to do some farming together. There are times when I want to eat eggs, so we’re also planning to raise our own chickens.
That’s why there are the books “Organic Vegetable Garden” and “Growing Vegetables Guide”. When we open the back door, the first thing we see is the solar heating collector. How do you feel about to use solar power?
City gas isn’t available in Jeju. If they operate an oil-boiler, the oil keeps being delivered, so it must be used. It can be overbearing or expensive, so we get through winter by using wood or solar heat instead of oil-boilers. The weather isn’t very cold in Jeju, so it wasn’t that uncomfortable.
Even time seems to flow differently in Jeju.
Indeed. In Seoul, you must eat when it’s time to eat. Here, you eat when you’re hungry. You get up when you want to get up. You sleep when you want to sleep. To be honest, Seoul is still bright, even when the sun is down. Here, when the sun sets, it’s completely dark. It feels natural to live by the course of the sun. I like it.
How do you start your day in Jeju?
When the sun rises, I get up and take my dogs out for a walk. I drink a cup of tea. We only eat two meals a day. We have lunch and dinner, but we don’t eat breakfast. Then we read a book, or we listen to some music, or each one of us takes care of what we want to do. Around 2PM, we have breakfast and lunch at the same time. Then oppa, Jang Pil Soo-unnie who lives nearby and I do yoga three times a week. The yoga teacher comes to my house. I can work on some music, or I’ll go take a walk with my dogs by the lava tubes or on the beach.
Are you getting a little bit closer to the lifestyle you wanted after getting married?
I am. I wouldn’t have been able to come to Jeju if I were alone. Living alone in the mountains is scary. If something breaks down, I can’t fix it all by myself. Oppa also wanted to come down to Jeju. So we got married fast because we wanted to come live quickly in Jeju more than because we wanted to get married fast.
This house was the hidden driving force behind this marriage!
It was. We could have dated a little bit longer, but we got married while the house was finished.
Did you also personally take care of the wedding planning? It’s a bit late to say this, but your wedding was quite beautiful!
I bought the dress for 150 000 won (a little less than 150 US$) 5 years ago during a trip to Bali. I thought “I must wear this if I get married later” and it really turned out this way. And oppa’s suit as well as my veil were made by designer Yoni-unnie. Hye Won, Sung Hee, Ji Sun who were here for today’s photo shoot all helped out with the tents decoration in the garden. Master Chef Korea winner Kim Seung Min is our neighbor and he made the food. It was a simple wedding, but a famous designer made our clothes and a famous chef made the meal, it was great. It was a great day.
It seems that you’ve made a lot of new friends in Jeju.
My neighbors are teaching me how to pluck bracken fern, camellia seeds and how to cook them. Right now, I see more my Jeju friends than my Seoul friends.
Do your friends express concern about you not using cosmetics and your “natural” lifestyle?
I think it’s been about a year since I completely stopped using cosmectics after reducing the amount I used. Using things with chemical components made me uncomfortable and I hated the smell of artificial products. When I stopped putting on makeup, my face felt tight, but this phase was over after a month or two. After that, I felt that my skin adjusted to the right level of hydration.
I read about it, but it’s my first time seeing someone who actually tries to live like this.
It’s hard for me because I make TV appearances in Seoul and I have to meet a lot of people. Here, my husband is the only who can see my face, so I can test things on my face and my body as much as I want. I do lower-body bathing once a day and I don’t use soap or bath products. It’s been three years now. I don’t know about people with oily skin, but I think it’s better for people like me with dry skin not to use a lot of detergent or soap.
Makeup artists or skin care experts say to apply sunscreen. Don’t you apply sunscreen?
The neighborhood ajummas told me to wear sunscreen here and to wear a hat with a visor. But I like the sunlight, so I’m not scared to be in the sunlight. The sun gives people good energy. For 99 good things about the sun, ultraviolet rays are the only negative thing. I hate blocking the 99 good things about the sun just to stay away from that one thing.
Aren’t you concerned about skin aging?
Even if it ages the skin, I want to feel the bright and warm energy from the sun. When the sun rises, I go out in the garden to lie down sometimes. My friends say I’m crazy.
Do you want to share your thoughts and your experiences with other people?
It’s a pity that people think they’re getting old when they compare themselves to celebrities. Celebrities go through a lot of medical procedures. After a photo or ads shooting, they’re photoshopped a lot. I don’t think people know that. If you want to match this society that demand youth and beauty, you’ll keep being stressed out. No matter how good the cosmetics you use will be and the surgery you do, you won’t be able to reach these expectations in the end. Isn’t it better to have a peaceful and healthy life?
How would you define beauty?
If you’re healthy, your face also shows a bright glow. Having a bright skin through exericising is different from getting your skin treated through medical procedures. I think that if this energy doesn’t come from the inside, you won’t look pretty on the outside.
So how do you get to feel such energy?
I realized that the apple of the eye becomes clearer. As I followed a vegetable diet and reduced my use of chemical products, my eyestrain really decreased. However, the wrinkles don’t disappear. Why eating like a baby doesn’t give you baby skin? Haha.
You used camellia oil even on your body instead of using makeup during the photoshoot.
I use camellia oil and flaxseed oil a lot. Especially flaxseed oil. Compared to other vegetable oils, it’s not sticky. It really goes well with my skin. I need to learn by myself the things that go well with me.
So you keep “testing” out things.
My first test was to stop using cosmetics. The second one was to switch to cotton sanitary pads. This test made me change a lot my fixed ideas about what’s clean and what’s dirty. Even if it’s just when you’re at home, try to use cotton sanitary pads. If you use disposable sanitary pads during the day and you use cotton ones at night when you’re at home, your body will be at ease, it’s good for the environment and you’ll be able to reduce your expenses.
As a celebrity, there must be times when it’s uncomfortable for you to talk about this kind of experiences?
It’s not hard to talk about my vegetable diet. Talking about sanitary pads is a bit embarrassing. Still, I’m a “sexy star”, so if I tweet “let’s use cotton sanitary protection!”, I think people will go “what’s wrong with this ajumma?”. However, I tried it and I really liked it, so I wanted to share this. I want to keep learning, I want to keep experimenting more things. I want to try to release a book or blog about my experience later on.
What other things do you want to experiment?
It’s been 6 months since I’ve started wearing organic clothing and underwear. I want to try to keep wearing this kind of clothes for two or three more years and see what changes will come out. Living without a car, without electricity, I’d like to try to do things like that. My ultimate goal is to be self-sufficient even about food. My lifestyle is still similar to my lifestyle in the city. If I run out of something, I go to the supermaket and buy it. It’s a bit unfortunate.
Do you think about wanting to live a life healthier and happier than it is today?
When I thought about it, it wasn’t to live for a long time and be healthy.
So for what things do you think we must change?
Hm… To be free. I thought that I had to buy this bag in the city or I had to film this program in order to be happy. However, things like that weren’t things from my free will. I must earn money to buy things, I must be requested by the show PD if I appear in a program. These are things I’m only able to do because of others. I think that I can feel more freedom if I reduce one by one the things I depend on. People are the happiest when they have freedom.
It seems that you’re finding the way for you to really be happy in your life.
I must understand the purpose of life through happiness. I think deeply about what I must do in order to become happy. Right now, happiness seems to be only about owning this, meeting that person, working for that company and earning money. I experienced it all, but true happiness isn’t over there. I think true happiness is about doing the things you want and the way you want to.
Recently, you joined the “Yellow Envelop” project for the Ssangyong Motor laid-off employees, didn’t you? Is it also a way to find happiness?
If I donate 100 or 200 million won, others will think “she gave 200 million won, looks like she has a lot of money to donate”, “she does well”. What I wanted to convey by donating 47,000 won just like anyone else was that it was something we can all do together. I think that seeing how many people joined the project will give them more strength than the actual amount of money.
It seems that you want to use your fame to be a good influence on our society. You’re strong, you’re brave.
Because when I tweet about an abandonned dog, we can rescue more lives, even if it’s just one. Because I did it, my goal is to let others know about the good deeds we can do together. I want to tell “Allure” readers to try to do anything they’re really into. Things like protecting the environment, animals, the right to work. In a country where human rights aren’t protected, animals can’t be protected either. If you do things with the intention of leaving a good mark in this world before you die, isn’t this the way to broaden your horizons and to find happiness ? This is how I feel.
I wonder what is your biggest fear now.
I think people have sympathy and compassion. When I see someone miserable, I want to help that person. When I see wounded animals, I want to protect them. But I think our industrial society stole away even the hearts of those carrying this compassion. Besides, I’m scared of seeing people,scared of my child living in a world where the environmental pollution is slowly increasing.
Instead of only being afraid of these things, I want to change them, even if it’s just one. I want to tell people “let’s try to change things”.
This is place is very peaceful. When do you think that coming to Jeju was the right decision?
When I was out with my dog in Seoul, there were a lot of cars and many people who hated dogs or were afraid of them, so taking a walk was made on a thorny path. When I was busy with my activities, it was hard to find the time to take my dogs out for a walk. Seeing how my dogs run around as much as they want is what makes me happy the most. And at night, there’s absolutely no noise. It’s very silent. In Seoul, I had no other choice but to hear the noise I hated, but my ears are at ease in here because there’s absolutely no noise.
Original article: Allure