Interview: Miss Korea 2011 talks fashion, her new job and plastic surgery
(In English and Korean - no subtitles.)
It's hard work, being beautiful.
For Miss Korea 2011 Yi Seong Hye, photoshoots, interviews, community service and learning how to do her hair and makeup herself are all part of her weekly official duties as the public relations ambassador for the country.
After spending 13 years in the United States -- she attended high school in Boston and is currently on leave from studying at Parsons in New York -- Yi had to learn a great deal about Korean culture upon returning to to the country of her birth.
"The pageant was actually not why I returning to Korea," says Yi, who turns 23 this week.
"I came back to be back with my family and to learn about Korean culture, and then the lucky opportunity of entering the pageant came along."
Crowned the winner of Korea's largest beauty competition in August after winning Miss Seoul earlier this year, she promptly began her duties "representing Korea" by promoting events around the country, including Design Korea 2011 and charity fundraisers.
Her chief concern?
How to best convey Korea's beauty to the rest of the world, she says.
Which, when talking about the beauty industry rather than Korea's sights and culture, in itself is interesting. Plastic surgery is hugely popular in Korea, among both men and women.
Yi says cautiously that she is not opposed to plastic surgery, but people should clearly identify their reasons for undergoing the knife.
"I think it's okay for people who are already very comfortable and happy with who they are, but not if they are trying to become better people or suffering from low self-esteem and trying to change that."
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As a fashion design major at Parsons, Yi says her favorite shopping spots in Seoul are Samcheongdong -- "because it's cozy" -- and Galleria Department Store in Apgujeong for its selection of brands.
Her other favorite spots around Seoul include the Han River and Namsan, where she participates in the 'Turtle Marathon' organized by Hankook Ilbo on the third Sunday of each month. Participants of the "marathon" are encouraged to walk slow (hence the name) as they do a round-trip hike from Namsan National Theater at 8 a.m.
"Namsan is so beautiful in the mornings when it is all misted over," she says.
Yi also recommends the night views at ON River Station, a riverside coffeeshop and bar, and eating juk (Korean porridge) as part of a beauty regime.
Surprisingly, she says that the gift she would like to recommend the most from Korea is tteok, sticky Korean rice cakes.
"There are so many different colors and flavors, and it is also good for you," she says.
So what's in store for the beautiful fashionista?
"I want to become a fashion CEO," says Yi. She plans to finish her studying and launch her own fashion brand someday.
"Americans think more about with being unique and what suits them personally, while Seoulites are more concerned with trends and what other people are wearing," she says of the difference in the fashion worlds of the United States and Korea.
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"I love the Korean use of colors and silhouettes," she says, and adds that she would use them in her future designs to raise more awareness about Korea abroad.
And what about entry into acting, the path that so many of her predecessors have taken?
"I'm thinking about it, but no definite plans yet," she says. Her first foray into the broadcasting world will be this December, as an MC on Channel A.
CNNGo spoke to Miss Korea at CNN Café, Seoul