Hyori Lee was born on May 10, 1979, in Choong Book, South Korea. The youngest of her two siblings (she has a brother and a sister), Hyori enjoyed a normal childhood in which she often expressed an ambition to become a police officer. Singing was not something that she ever pursued seriously, as Hyori generally preferred to spend her free time drawing and acting.
Hyori’s life changed dramatically, however, after she was discovered while hanging out in a shopping mall with her friends. She was approached with an offer to join a new group consisting entirely of girls, alongside Ju-hyun Ok, Jin Lee and Yu-ri Seong. Fin.K.L. — which essentially means “ending the oppression of all freedom” — immediately got to work on their first album, with the final result being 1998’s Blue Rain. Buoyed by the strength of three singles, including the title track and “To My Boyfriend,” the disc instantly established Fin.K.L. as a promising new force within the South Korean music landscape.
Fin.K.L. eventually released another five albums, including such big sellers as White, Now, and Forever, before disbanding in 2002. The group’s four members, including Hyori, wished to try their respective hands at various endeavors, but they’ve never entirely ruled out a possible reunion in the future. Hyori’s first post-Fin.K.L. gig was a series of appearances on the popular South Korean programs as Time Machine and Happy Together, on which she acted as an MC.
Hyori spent much of 2003 working on her debut solo album and, by the end of that year, Stylish was released to rave reviews and financial success. Hyori even found herself a victor at the annual South Korean Daesangs music awards ceremony, where Stylish won a whopping seven trophies in a variety of categories. It was also around this time that Hyori took on a role in a drama series entitled Three Leaf Clover, although poor ratings resulted in the show’s cancellation after just 16 episodes.
In February 2006, Hyori emerged with her sophomore effort, Dark Angel, and the singer soon found herself at the center of an unexpected controversy. The disc’s first single, “Get Ya,” was accused of being a rip-off of Britney Spears’ song “Do Somethin’,” which forced Hyori to immediately cease any promotional activities revolving around the song. Consequently, the album sold poorly, though this didn’t hinder Hyori’s rise to success as a solo artist.
When the time came for Hyori to sign a new record contract, she eventually settled with M-Net Entertainment and quickly became South Korea’s highest-paid female singer. It was also around this time that Hyori agreed to star in a four-episode series entitled If In Love… Like Them for M-Net, and she even wound up recording three tracks for the show. The soundtrack hit No. 1 in South Korea. In 2007, she signed on to appear in a lucrative advertising campaign alongside none other than Jessica Alba.