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Love – Hyori’s Column About Vegetarianism on Cine21

June 30, 2012

Lee Hyori the Vegetarian

You know we love Hyori. We blogged about how awesome she was even before she became vegetarian. Well now, she’s so awesome that she’s becoming the face for the Korean vegetarian movement!

Hyori has been a regular columnist for Cine21 – a Korean movie review magazine, and she wrote a column about vegetarianism for last month’s issue. I enjoyed it very much, so I translated it so you can read it too! 😉


Written by Lee Hyori, 2012. 05. 18

I am eating Kim-bap [Korean sushi, or California rolls] again today. When I’m busy with my schedules and eating quickly, I don’t have much choice but to eat Kim-bap or Ddeokbokki [a spicy Korean rice cake dish]. When I go to a Kim-bap shop, I ask for the original kim-bap without the ham, egg and pickled radish. I eat a vegetarian diet, so I ask them to exclude the ham and egg, and I try not to eat too salty, so I ask them to take out the pickled radish. Then the shop owner always asks, “then why even bother eating kim-bap?” It’s too complicated and long of an answer, so I just replace my answer with a smile but eating kim-bap with just some carrot shreds in it does make you question if it is worth it.

Just one year ago, I was a meat maniac. Except for dog meat, I loved everything – beef, pork, chicken, duck meat, etc. I ate the head, skin, feet, intestines, everything. It really is amazing how much that person has changed – that I am now picking the little strip of ham out of my kim-bap. But I feel uncomfortable talking about animal rights on TV and then eating meat and wearing leather jackets. Ignoring the animals in the massive factory farm system while I treat my dogs and cats as my family members isn’t right either. And we don’t think about how going vegetarian is more helpful to the planet than buying a hybrid car. The biggest cause of global warming is the gas from factory farming.

Having those thoughts, I started being vegetarian, but it wasn’t easy. It was hard to make the decision that I don’t need the flavor of meat. Vegetarians eat soy meat. If you go on the internet, you’ll find vegetarian sites where you find soy meat, soy sausage, soy fish cakes, all sorts of things. They say that it tastes just like meat, so I tried it. But it just tastes like soy. I tried using bulgogi sauce and eating it with lettuce wraps, and I had it with fried chicken sauce and beer, or in army stew. And then one day I looked at myself and saw someone who decided not to eat meat, but was having soy meat with the bulgogi sauce, and I felt sad. I finally realized that there will not be anything that could really replace meat, and only then was I able to be free from the desire to replace meat with soy meat.

The most challenging thing after become vegetarian is answering people who ask “why vegetarian?” every time I go eat with anyone. In the beginning, I tried explaining everything, but now, I just say something that anyone can relate to, like “I don’t feel too well” or, “The high cholesterol is not so great”. But as time goes by, people are getting more considerate. These days, when I’m shooting commercials, some companies provide me with vegetarian catering. Every time something like that happens, I realize that I am one of the people who are working towards the Korean vegetarian movement. So I try to talk a bit more about vegetarianism at public events, and I find myself getting more strict with myself in my everyday life.

I still miss some things. Leather jackets still look cool. I sometimes miss the grilled meat that I used to eat with friends while drinking. But vegetarianism is beyond a habit, it has become a promise that I want to keep with myself. Because the most active way to show my love for myself, the animals, and the earth, is to be vegetarian. Vegetarianism is not a strict rule or inflexible, hard philosophy for me. Vegetarianism is love.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2012 3:27 pm

    Great that you translated the article! Lovely to read this.

    Must be hard to be vegetarian in Korea though, in a place where the concept of it is still so alien. I feel for her with the constant “Why vegetarian?” – I still get that after so many years, and people still think that they will be able to come up with some argument I haven’t yet heard before (I have heard them all!). It’s such a boring question/conversation to me now that I don’t mention the veg-thing (let alone the vegan) unless it’s unavoidable.

    • Sunnie permalink*
      June 30, 2012 5:43 pm

      Hi, Alua – yeah, I understand. I always go back and forth between “I don’t need to talk about it, it’s better for them to think about the issue when they are truly ready” vs. “I need to talk about it as much as I can, as it will at least help others get introduced to the ideas and possible solutions”. So yeah, it’s a tricky one. Answering those questions is not easy – really burns you out sometimes and upsets you even, as people come up with all sorts of arguments like you said! But hopefully, all our efforts are headed the right way!

  2. Julie permalink
    June 30, 2012 5:55 pm

    Great article, thanks for translating. I too get tired of the “why vegan/vegetarian?” questions. My simple answer has evolved to: I love animals. I only expound if I am asked, but that usually stops the questoins unless someone is truley curious or interested, then I could talk all day about veganism. It’s not nearly as bad as it used to be though. 20 or even 15 years ago, it was almost an all out war if you said you were vegetarian let alone vegan.

    • Sunnie permalink*
      June 30, 2012 7:48 pm

      Hi, Julie!! I hope you are well and you’re feeling completely better. I think your approach is a really good one. If they are truly interested, I could talk all day, but it might not be the best idea to be too aggressive with the topic when they aren’t ready. Having a simple answer that people can relate to – like “I just love animals” is a good idea too, like you said. I know, it must have been so much harder back then, we’ve only joined the force in 2006, so that was when things were already becoming a lot easier, I think. Thanks to people like you – we appreciate it! 😉

      • Julie permalink
        July 1, 2012 10:17 am

        Thanks Sunnie, I am feeling a bit better. You are right it is much easier the past 6 or 7 years and it is getting better all the time. I think the internet has helped a lot too; like minds coming together and getting the word out to companies that there is a demand for vegan products. And of course bloogers like yourself and Bill, who give us wonderful ideas and recipes and a place to have our say. The hard work and time you guys put in is greatly appreciated too!

      • Sunnie permalink*
        July 1, 2012 4:03 pm

        I agree — fighting for veganism and for the Internet!! 😉

  3. June 30, 2012 11:18 pm

    Yay, Hyori! 🙂 As someone who enjoys soy meats and other meat-type substitutes, I enjoy hearing from people who don’t. I like to think about the question and remind myself to consider what I’m eating in terms of health and balance. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with eating meat substitutes (and I suspect that the longer Hyori gets away from her meat-eating past, the less unappealing soy substitutes might taste to her), but I like hearing about diets that avoid them.

    Thank you for posting this essay, Sunnie, and congratulations to you and Bill on your successful move!

    • Sunnie permalink*
      July 1, 2012 7:36 am

      Thanks so much, Lu! Moving is not fun, but we got through it. 😉 Yes, we enjoy meat substitutes sometimes too and I don’t think Hyori is saying that she doesn’t eat them at all. I think she is just trying to highlight how difficult it was for her to make that decision of going off meat and accepting the fact that she will really never be able to replace meat with anything! I’ve seen her often talk about the usefulness of meat substitutes on her cable tv show!

  4. July 3, 2012 10:01 pm

    Thank you for translating this article! It was a beautiful read.

    • Sunnie permalink*
      July 5, 2012 7:14 am

      Thanks Samantha for reading it! So glad you enjoyed it. 😉

  5. July 29, 2012 5:41 am

    Oh thank you Sunnie for translating. I am currently learning to speak Korean because of Big Bang and I started watching dramas and game shows and all. I want to know what’s being said as well as I love the people and the food. Only thing is I’m vegan and I’ve been working on making vegan versions of dishes as I learn about them.. Your we presence has been a treasure. This article, was such a joy to read. I had been having dreams for the pass three months about going to Seoul to teach American vegan cuisine as well as Korean dishes to those who are struggling and curious about it. So to read this article, it brought tears to my eyes to know that someone there is opening doors and minds. I am asked often elder Asian women if I am Korean, which is strange because in some circles I would be considered Latin, others African American. Yet, I smile and say, “As far as I know I’m not, yet thank you, such an honor!” I wonder, what does she do for make up or does she use BBcream and such?

    • Sunnie permalink*
      July 29, 2012 3:33 pm


      I am so happy that you enjoyed the article. It is a beautiful read, isn’t it? So interesting that they think you are Korean! We love Big Bang too, love their music and attitude. I’m sure Hyori uses BB creams for her natural look. All Korean celebrities do. 😉

  6. Meghan permalink
    October 3, 2012 6:53 am

    I love that last sentence “Vegetarianism is not a strict rule or inflexible, hard philosophy for me. Vegetarianism is love.” That’s such a perfect way to put it! I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 4 years now & it’s one if the best decisions I’ve made.

    • Sunnie permalink*
      October 3, 2012 8:00 am

      I know Meghan! The last line really spoke to me as well. I am so glad you enjoyed the column too. And yes- going vegan was our best decision ever too!! 😉

  7. November 22, 2012 1:56 pm

    This was very informational. I have been trying to find pamphlets or resources in the Korean language that I can give to my family because they don’t understand why I am a vegetarian. Can you recommend any more? I would really appreciate it.

    • Bill permalink*
      November 23, 2012 10:49 am

      Great, so glad it was helpful! We’re not really too sure about additional resources but would suggest CARE and KARA, the Korean animal rights organizations. We have links to them in our menu on the right! Also, it’s not Korean, but the movie Earthlings is free to watch online on its website if you search for it, and as they say, a picture can be worth a thousand words!

  8. Ragu Sauce permalink
    January 21, 2013 8:52 pm

    Yeeeeah girl 🙂 You tell’em unnie ❤

    • Sunnie permalink*
      January 22, 2013 6:14 pm

      😉 Yup, you go girl.

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