#HYOLO: A Portrait of Hyoyeon for Her 26th Birthday

I was approached by the writing staff of Soshified to write an article on behalf of Hyoyeon’s birthday, and I was more than honored to accept! You can see the article here, but I felt like preserving it on TPC as well ^^ Thanks for reading!

140815 DoubleYou Hyoyeon dance parade IMG_5297...

DoubleYou – SMTOWN Live in Seoul – Dance Parade [2014.08.15]

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “HYOLO? Hyohunny, please. I know what this article’s going to be about—endless praise about Hyo’s globe-trotting, party-going, Bangkok-loving lifestyle.” You probably even rolled your eyes at the oh-so-clever portmanteau of Hyo + YOLO.

For those not “in the know”, “YOLO” is an acronym of the phrase, “You only live once”—a phrase used by the youths of a culture that derives its pleasures from living boldly and adventurously. It almost epitomizes youthful vigor and vitality—living on the edge, seizing the moment, all for the sake of pleasure. Why not do the things you want? What are you waiting for? You only live once—just do it!

However, Kim Hyoyeon grew up with a different idea of “you only live once.”

“What is your life motto?”

Concert spotlight

“‘The place where I am standing
will become a flower in an unchanging land;
I will be a person as clean as the stream water,
and be diligent, sincere, and honest!’

“This is a little long to call a motto, but it’s something my father has always been saying since I learned how to speak. I think this phrase contains everything my father wants to say…. I remember he would check if I had this memorized once a week.” [i]

Hyoyeon’s drawing of her father from “Girls’ Generation and the Dangerous Boys” Episode 3

Hyoyeon’s drawing of her father from “Girls’ Generation and the Dangerous Boys” Episode 3

You don’t really see it at first glance, but after watching Hyoyeon for a very long time, you begin to notice just how much of an impact Hyoyeon’s parents have had on her life: from her everyday habits to the starting point of her career and life as she knows it.

“When I was young I didn’t know that I could dance well, but my father felt that I had the potential to make something of it, so he encouraged me early on and made it possible for me to dream of being a singer.” [ii]


That act alone gave Hyoyeon the motivation and, later on, the opportunity to enter the world of the Korean entertainment industry—for it was none other than her father who took her picture and submitted it to SM Entertainment, a move that opened the door for an audition at SM. But both her father and her mother showed Hyoyeon the extent of their love for her and their faith in her gift for dancing, investing a great deal of love and sacrifice on her behalf:

“Before I debuted in SNSD, I spent 7 years as a trainee, but right from the first day I came to SM until the day I debuted, my mother or my father would always come with me, and they’d wait outside SM for the 6-7 hours that I was practicing. Even now, I think that it’s because I have parents who always encourage and cheer me on that I am able to do this and enjoy it.

“Because parents worry about their children, especially when they’re that young. Also, throughout the seven years, their expectations of me grew bigger and bigger. So I think there was a lot of pressure coming from those thoughts. I practiced while thinking a lot about how happy my parents would be when I debut. I worked hard.” [iii]

Hyoyeon learned early on that pursuing the dreams of a bright and glorious future wasn’t a walk in the park. She acknowledged her parents’ sacrifices for the sake of her future, and she did her very best to live up to that: working hard, only looking forward, never complaining.

Enduring the fall from glory

Hyoyeon and Shim Jaewon dancing to Bobby Valentino’s “Anonymous”

Sure enough, you could see Hyoyeon’s skill, determination, and effort from the very beginning, even while Shinhwa was still performing under SM. During a press conference in 2012, Shinhwa’s Minwoo stated, “When the members of Girls’ Generation were still young, the person I remember the most was Hyoyeon. When Hyoyeon was a kid—she was really young at the time, so young—she danced very well! (Junjin: We were shocked!) During the days when BoA was in the midst of her promotional activities, I thought she was going to be the second BoA, so I used to pay a lot of attention to her.” [iv] Even Eunhyuk, the respective “dancing machine” of Super Junior who trained during the same period as Hyoyeon, recalls clearly: “Back then, there were about a hundred trainees altogether [at SM], but Hyoyeon stood out the most among them all! So when we had to practice choreography that we learned during lessons, many trainees personally went to Hyoyeon to ask for help.” [v]

But things took a different turn after Hyoyeon debuted with Girls’ Generation. “I was only popular when I was a trainee!” she said on “Happy Together” during the “I Got A Boy” promotions. “Then after debut it kinda… just…” The cold reality of the entertainment industry came crashing down on Hyoyeon, and it took her by surprise—her years of hard work and her parents’ investments of time and money amounted to nothing in the real world, despite such positive feedback and esteem from both her peers and superiors alike.

“Other people say it’s difficult dancing with power, but I’m the opposite and have difficulties dancing without power. And so, for a while, trying to match Girls’ Generation’s color was homework for me. I believed that if I worked hard, I would be able to capture the hearts of the public, but the reality was different from what I had imagined, and I suffered because of this.” [vi]

“Kissing You” – SBS Inkigayo [2008.01.20]

“Kissing You” – SBS Inkigayo [2008.01.20]

I think that’s why she was always mentioning “Kissing You” in all of her interviews. It was a period when she was struggling the most with the discrepancy between the demands of her role in Girls’ Generation and the urge to show off the skills she’d honed for nearly half of her life at the time.

“There was a time where I resented having to give up dance lessons I personally planned, wondering why [SM isn’t] helping me when I’m trying to have my own time to grow.” [vi]

 Work still harder

“Have you ever wanted to quit Girls’ Generation?”

“Instead of thinking about wanting to quit, I think about what I have to do in order to work harder, about why I have made such an effort until now.” [vii]

The unfortunate reality of life is that there are times when we work wholeheartedly and vigorously towards a goal which fails to come to fruition. But there is a distinct and raw nobility in those who work still harder despite the undesirable outcome, whose humility is such that they bear the responsibility themselves instead of blaming their circumstance or situation. Hyoyeon is such a woman.

“Dancing with the Stars 2″ – Hyoyeon and Kim Hyungsuk

“Dancing with the Stars 2″ – Hyoyeon and Kim Hyungsuk

“I never felt that it was unfair.” Hyoyeon’s eyes grew big and round. “I think everything was my own doing, that my name was known as much as the effort I put in. Of course I did work hard in the past, but on the other hand, while [participating in Dancing with the Stars], I also realized ‘I can work this hard.’ I also thought, ‘Before this show, too, I should have worked harder. If I focus this much then there’s nothing that’s impossible.’” [viii]

Paris performance

“Music Bank” in Paris – Dance Battle – Hyoyeon [2012.02.08]

The place where I am standing is a flower in an unchanging land; I will be a person as clean as the stream water and be diligent, sincere, and honest!

Life is short, but despite it being a small drop of time in a sea of eternity, there is still value in living as a pure, hardworking woman who is honest with herself and the people around her. In a world where the state of being cynical and jaded is almost the prime defense against the injustices of this world, big or small, Hyoyeon manages to be that one pure flower in an unswervingly ruthless world—that diligent, sincere, and honest flower ever blooming before our eyes.

But Hyoyeon could only have flourished as such in the right environment, nurtured and supported by a group of fellow trainees turned into sisters, for each of whom she bears great love and affection. And just as her parents had taught her and shown her—the ultimate expression of love is sacrifice.

“[Hyoyeon] showed her affection for Girls’ Generation by revealing, ‘Thinking about how the nine members need to harmonize, I tried really hard to become one group, rather than trying to stand out with dancing.’” [vi]

The girl whose talent far exceeds that of her peers, whose hardworking, persevering mindset has remained steadfast all these years, whose goal it was to be a solo dancer-singer in her own spotlight on her own stage—put all of that talent and determination and effort into not standing out—all for the love of eight sisters.

“The members’ individual stages did receive a good response at the last concert. But I was the member who suggested we take solo stages out this time, and center it around showing stages with the nine members together. This was because I’m confident that, right now, the performance our nine members can show is really great.” [vi]

Girls’ Generation World Tour “GIRLS&PEACE” in Bangkok [2014.01.11]

Girls’ Generation World Tour “GIRLS&PEACE” in Bangkok [2014.01.11]

I think that is, in itself, the key factor that defines the Soshibond. Despite the fact that each singular member possesses an abundance of talent by herself alone—that they are, individually and respectively, truly amazing and vibrant in their own, unique ways—their true strength lies in their bond with one another: They choose to be amazing together rather than being amazing apart—to share and enjoy the glory together rather than basking in it alone.

“소녀의 기도” Sonyeoui Kido – Girls’ Prayer Girls’ Generation’s 1st Asian Tour “Into the New World” in Seoul [2009.12.19]

“소녀의 기도” Sonyeoui Kido – Girls’ Prayer
Girls’ Generation’s 1st Asian Tour “Into the New World” in Seoul [2009.12.19]

The fact of the matter is, Hyoyeon isn’t alone in the sacrifices she’s made. Each and every single member of Girls’ Generation has made sacrifices large and small in her life for the sake of this indestructible, unbreakable bond. And I think that’s what makes things easier—or rather, that’s what makes it all worth it. They understand more than anyone else that glory is fleeting, but there’s just something extraordinary and miraculous about this bond of friendship that rivals familial ties, and that’s something you rarely see more than once in a lifetime. After all… you only live once.

“Our members are always a source of help and comfort when things get rough. Not one, not two, but eight! I feel really secure…It still amazes me how not just one or two, but all nine of us have such a strong bond. Our members help me out and bring me joy when I’m struggling, and console me when I’m sad. I love you as much as my family. This is a gift.” [ix]

Girls’ Generation’s First Photobook in Tokyo

Girls’ Generation’s First Photobook in Tokyo

“I met eight great members. I really don’t think that anyone else could get along like how our nine girls get along so well. Because we’re girls, there can be a lot of jealousy going on. Thinking back on it now, I think I’m a kid that received a lot of good fortune.” [iii]

[i] NHK MUSIC JAPAN SNSD Special [2011.06.09]
[ii] Dancing with the Stars 2 – Episode 8 [2012.06.22]
[iii] Star Life Theater – Episode 10 [2011.11.22]
[iv] Shinhwa’s comeback press conference [2012.03.05]
[v] SMTOWN’s “I AM” movie premiere press conference [2012.06.18]
[vi] 1st Look Magazine Vol.48 Cover Story – “Rhythm Emotion Hyoyeon”
[vii] The Best Album – Solo Interview Movie
[viii] Hyoyeon’s DWTS Interview [2012.07.20] (translation) (original source)
[ix] All About Girls’ Generation: Paradise in Phuket – Hyoyeon’s Self-Talk

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