The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Singer-songwriter Lee Min-hwi on bringing big questions into music

By Hwang Joo-young

Published : Oct. 9, 2023 - 14:56

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Lee Min-hwi ( Lee Min-hwi (

Singer-songwriter Lee Min-hwi's serene acoustic music and soft melodies disguise a cynical edge.

"Your tongue and ears were never yours" she says on her first album "Borrowed Tongue."

Lee's lyrics -- delivered in a whispering tone, sometimes like reciting poetry -- are the part of songwriting she finds most time-consuming.

"Once I sat down to work on my music, many questions pop up in my head, and usually they lead to one question," Lee told The Korea Herald after her performance Friday at Veloso Hongdae, a live music venue in Seoul’s Mapo-gu.

“Once I decide on a subject, I conduct a plethora of research. I read books, papers and old diaries. I gather every piece of notes and memos,” she noted, adding “I think the path for writing a new song is akin to exploring answers for big questions.”

Her debut album deals with “things that are known but not said, things that should be said but are not, things that cannot be said but nonetheless are,” she explains on her album.

Her second album titled “Hometown to Come” (translated) catches her question derived from a sense of loss.

“While I was staying abroad for five years, it felt as if I got lost. I thought it would feel better if I come back to Korea, but it didn’t. Then, there arose a question: ‘was it because I had already lost a place to return to?’”

The 34-year-old said she wanted to share her feelings about the definition of home with the rest of her generation.

"If we don’t have a hometown, then who are we? If we don’t have such a place, where should we go and how?" she said.

Lee’s new album “Hometown to Come,” which comes out in November, will have lyrics both in English and Korean to reach a broader audience.

Lee is already enjoying new-found fame in the European market with her 7-year-old album “Borrowed Tongue” and will tour Japan in the forthcoming months.

“I think the lyrics in my album hold an important meaning, so a proper translation will be necessary. … I find it exciting to go abroad and I’m very open to it,” she said.