CULTURE

Block B’s P.O—Singer, Rapper, Actor, Photographer—Is K-Pop’s Busiest Star

The musician, born Ji-hoon Pyo, still makes time for fashion presentations by his closest friends.


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Last year, the South Korean television station MBC debuted a new reality-television series. The title has been translated alternately as Living Together in an Empty Room, Insolent Housemates, and My Unexpected Roommate, but the concept remains the same: A Korean celebrity installs him or herself in the home of another celebrity, who lays out the terms of their cohabitation; hijinks ensue. At the end of their short lease, the roommates vote on whether they would opt to live together again.

Around the fourth episode, P.O—born Ji-hoon Pyo—a rapper and musician who was one of the founding members of the boy band Block B, takes up residence in the home of designers Steve J. and Yoni P., who was, at the time, pregnant. The experiment lasts about four episodes before Pyo moves in with actress Eun-jung Han, but it is, apparently, a success, as Pyo and his roommate, the comedian Se-ho Jo, both vote yes on Steve J. and Yoni P.

Several months later, the designers reached out to Pyo, asking him to attend their fall 2018 presentation, an off-site, off-the-calendar show at the Studio Concrete exhibition space in central Seoul that featured a performance by choreographer Lia Kim. Pyo hadn’t attended a fashion show in several seasons—it was never quite his scene, he said—but he would make an exception for former roommates. Which is how we ended up sitting across from each other at Soonsoo, a salon in ritzy Gangnam, Seoul, on a recent March afternoon.

Singer P.O, of the group B Block, in Seoul, South Korea, during Seoul Fashion Week 2018. Photo by Yeongmo Lee for W Magazine.

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Soonsoo is known for its celebrity clientele, with patrons including members of the boy band Winner and Eun-ji Jung of the K-pop group Apink. Still, it’s rare that K-pop stars offer outsiders a glimpse at how they prepare for public appearances. So I asked Pyo: What’s his normal getting-ready process like?

“[I’m] a very positive person,” he told me, through a translator. “[I] want to prepare my mindset and want to be in a good mood—and give good vibes to people.” He grabbed my hand and started dancing in his chair. “Yeah!” he cheered.

In spite of the burgeoning design community in Seoul—with designers like 99%IS–, Kye, and Blindness rising to international success—Pyo told me that he’s not especially concerned with labels. “Whatever [I] wear, I want to look like a boy—a young boy, a funny boy,” he said. (When I arrived, he was wearing a houndstooth blazer with a chambray shirt; by the time we sat down to talk, he had changed into a Ralph Lauren sweatsuit with an oversize gray button-down layered over the top.)

There are Tumblr blogs dedicated to documenting the style of Block B’s seven members, entire posts devoted to tracking down their specific looks. Scrolling through them, it quickly becomes apparent this is P.O’s brand: He’s the group’s boy next door, the playful, youthful one. Pyo has also cultivated a distinct voice of his own, independent of Block B: He released his first single as a solo artist last fall; there’s the reality show thing; and three years ago, he established a theater company—the aptly named “Company Boy”—with a group of five other friends.

Singer P.O, of the group B Block, in Seoul, South Korea, during Seoul Fashion Week 2018. Photo by Yeongmo Lee for W Magazine.

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In fact, just a couple of hours after the SJYP fall 2018 presentation, Pyo underwent yet another transformation—into a young food-truck operator, performing the lead role in his play Superman.com. Inspired by a night spent drinking and eating street food with friends, he wrote the play with the rest of Company Boy; it opened in February. When the subject came up, Pyo bounded up from his chair to track down his phone in the next room, looking for images from the production. No luck. “Sorry, I don’t have my phone,” he apologized. “Lost it.” But just a moment later, a member of the salon staff peered in, holding out Pyo’s phone. He grabbed it and began to scroll through his photos, showing me the Superman.com poster.

In addition to the play, Pyo is working toward his debut solo album, slated for release online later this year. As a member of Block B, he primarily raps; as a solo artist, he can do a bit of everything, eschewing the hip-hop sound for something with a little more funk. “It’s very exciting and very sexy,” he told me, citing James Brown, Bruno Mars, and the Korean hip-hop group Dynamic Duo as inspirations.

To him, this synthesis of theater, music, and fashion is also what sets Korea’s pop landscape apart from that of other countries: “The Korean music scene is all about the performance—the dance, the music, and the lights,” he told me. “Everything comes together.”

Related: Former Wonder Girls Star Park Ye-eun Opens Up About Love, Gender, and Embarking on a Solo Career as Ha:tfelt

Who’s Who: Meet the Beautiful People of Seoul Fashion Week

Joy from Red Velvet.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee, styled by Ye Young Kim. Joy from Red Velvet wears Lucky Chouette pullover, $248, wannabk.com; Thisisneverthat skirt, $51, intl.thisisneverthat.com; stylist’s own earrings. Hair by Ji Sun Han, makeup by Ho Sook Kwon. Producer: Biel Parklee. Local Production: Intoo Creative Group. Translator: Soo Ryn Lim.

Wendy from Red Velvet.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee, styled by Ye Young Kim.

Wendy from Red Velvet wears Moschino T-shirt, $550, moschino.com; Miu Miu tiara, $385, miumiu.com; We Who Prey choker, price upon request, wewhoprey.com. Hair by Ji Sun Han, makeup by Ho Sook Kwon. Producer: Biel Parklee. Local Production: Intoo Creative Group. Translator: Soo Ryn Lim.

Irene from Red Velvet.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee, styled by Ye Young Kim. Irene from Red Velvet wears Eyeye jacket, $240, eyeye-official.com; Oioi shirt, $43, oi-oi.co.kr; We Who Prey choker, price upon request, wewhoprey.com.

Hair by Ji Sun Han, makeup by Ho Sook Kwon. Producer: Biel Parklee. Local Production: Intoo Creative Group. Translator: Soo Ryn Lim.

Yeri from Red Velvet.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee, styled by Ye Young Kim. Yeri from Red Velvet wears Miu Miu dress, price upon request, miumiu.com. Hair by Ji Sun Han, makeup by Ho Sook Kwon. Producer: Biel Parklee. Local Production: Intoo Creative Group. Translator: Soo Ryn Lim.

Miu Miu dress, price upon request, miumiu.com.

Seul Gi from Red Velvet.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee, styled by Ye Young Kim.

Seul Gi from Red Velvet wears Oioi sweater, $68, oi-oi.co.kr. Hair by Ji Sun Han, makeup by Ho Sook Kwon. Producer: Biel Parklee. Local Production: Intoo Creative Group. Translator: Soo Ryn Lim.

The designer Kim Won Joong, 29, is a former model who has walked in the past for Prada and Kenzo but is now at the helm of his own line, 87MM, which he founded with fellow models Kim Chan and Park Jiwomn. The friends just wanted to sell their designs online, but they attracted such a cult following that 87MM (pronounced “eight-seven milli”) is now one of the most sought after menswear brands in Korea.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim. Kim Won Joong wears 87MM Seoul coat, $160, shirt, $68, hat, $36, socks, $8, and pants and shoes, prices upon request, 87mm.co.kr. Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Oh Hyuk is the frontman of Hyukoh, an indie rock band signed to HIGHGRND, a music label founded by Korea’s most popular hip-hop group, Epik High. Hyukoh has put out two EPs since their start in 2014, and both have been chart-toppers (helped along by an appearance on South Korea’s biggest variety show “Infinite Challenge”). It might be because their mellow sound is a far cry from the plethora of over-produced K-pop.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim. Oh Hyuk wears Vetements jacket, $4,750, matchesfashion.com; SJYP T-shirt, price upon request, collection at ssense.com. Hair by Ji Sun Han, makeup by Ha Sook Kwon. Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee. Fashion Assistant: Hye Mi Paeng.

The singer Yoon Bo-ra, better known as Bora, is a member of the chart-topping girl group Sistar, and of the spinoff Sistar19. And because pop stardom in Korea is just a gateway to all corners of the entertainment industry, the 26-year old has also acted on a number of TV shows, including a web drama in which she plays the captain of a judo team, and was recently announced as the emcee of a new fashion show that will offer insights to her idol singer life. Not that her nearly one million Instagram followers can’t get that already on their phones.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim.

From left: Yoon Bo-ra wears 91,2 top, $252, vfiles.com. Yoon Bo-ra wears Acne Studios top, $440, and pants, $690, acnestudios.com; Miu Miu shoes, $620, miumiu.com.

Hair by Ji Sun Han, makeup by Ha Sook Kwon. Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee. Fashion Assistant: Hye Mi Paeng.

Born in Los Angeles, the actress Ye Seul Han, slid smoothly into Korean films and TV after winning a televised modeling competition in 2001. Since then, she’s proved a versatile talent, switching between drama and screwball comedy (she won several best new actress accolades for the 2007 romcom Miss Gold Digger).

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim.

Ye Seul Han wears Isabel Marant top, $500, Isabel Marant, San Francisco, 415.781.0113; Prada earrings, $515, prada.com.

Hair by Ji Sun Han, makeup by Ha Sook Kwon. Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee. Fashion Assistant: Hye Mi Paeng.

As the host of Korea’s Next Top Model, Yoon Joo Jang is basically K-Pop’s answer to Tyra Banks. The 35-year-old began modeling nearly two decades ago, and in that time has released two albums and co-authored three books. Not one to slow down, she made her acting debut last year, in Ryoo Seung-wan’s crime thriller Veteran—which she promoted to her 944,000 Instagram followers, alongside pics of how she eats, travels, and of course, models.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim.

From left: Yoon Joo Jang wears Tchai Kim dress, skirt, and shoes, prices upon request, blog.naver.com/tchaikim; Nohant coat, $368, the-nohant.com. Yoon Joo Jang wears Thursday Island blouse, $222, thursdayisland.com.

Hair by Ji Sun Han, makeup by Ha Sook Kwon. Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee. Fashion Assistant: Hye Mi Paeng.

Since GFriend, or Girlfriend, released its first EP in January 2015, its six members have kept up a perfect, schoolgirl-uniformed synchrony—even when they are falling repeatedly on a rain-slicked stage during a performance in Seoul last fall; and even when a video of the incident went viral. That slippery start, though, ended up being just another showcase of the group’s ultra-coordinated professionalism: Now on their third EP, Yuju, Sowon, Yerin, Eunha, SinB, and Umji are still at the top of the charts, making them one of the only major faces of K-pop signed to a smaller label.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim. GFriend wears their own dresses; stylist’s own shirts.

Hair by Han Ji Sun, makeup by Won Jo Yeon. Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group, Uni Yang, and Roian. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Bizzy, Mi Rae, and Tiger JK of the MFBTY rap collective—as in, My Fans [Are] Better Than Yours. They were later absorbed into the Drunken Tiger Collective in 2013, but their superior fans continue to refer them as MFBTY.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim.

From left: Bizzy wears Stereo Vinyls jacket, $162, stereo-shop.com. Yoon Mi-rae wears Stereo Vinyls sweatshirt, $59, stereo-shop.com. Tiger JK wears his own clothing.

Hair by Han Ji Sun, makeup by Won Jo Yeon. Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group, Uni Yang, and Roian. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Bak Jun Young, or Bizzy, is a founding pillar of Korean hip-hop. Much the 36-year old rapper’s work, though, stays behind the scenes: He’s a prolific songwriter and producer for major Korean acts like YDG and Kim Wan Sun.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim.

Bizzy wears Prada jacket, price upon request, prada.com.

Hair by Han Ji Sun, makeup by Won Jo Yeon. Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group, Uni Yang, and Roian. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Rapper Tiger JK, of Drunken Tiger, is the one to thank for bringing the hip-hop movement to Korea. The founder and former CEO of Feel Ghood Music, he’s not only had a successful music career of his own with wife and collaborator Yoon Mi-Rae, but also launched the careers of other K-hip-hop stars. Think of him as the Korean Lucious Lyon.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim.

Tiger JK wears Gucci dressing gown, $5,490, and shirt, $850, gucci.com.

Hair by Han Ji Sun, makeup by Won Jo Yeon. Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group, Uni Yang, and Roian. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

The wife of Tiger JK and third member of Drunken Tiger, Yoon Mi-rae, 34, is a Texas-born rapper who debuted in South Korea at the age of 16. Beyond their shared musical career, Yoon Mi-rae and Tiger JK have one son together.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim.

Yoon Mi-rae wears Gucci jacket, $3,860, pants, $850, and, shirt, $910, gucci.com.

Hair by Han Ji Sun, makeup by Won Jo Yeon. Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group, Uni Yang, and Roian. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Stephanie Young Hwang, better known as Tiffany, and sometimes known intimately on the Internet to her 2.5 million Instagram followers as Fany, is part of the pop juggernaut Girls Generation, which is like a normal-sized girl group, plus three (or sometimes four) more. In fact, the group was big enough to spin off a super subgroup, Girls Generation-TTS, featuring the three best vocalists, among them Tiffany, 26. Might she just be in the running for a stellar solo career, a la Bey?

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim.

Stephanie Young Hwang wears SJYP shirt and skirt, prices upon request, collection at ssense.com.

Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group, Uni Yang, and Roian. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Choi Jeong Hwa, 55, has garnered plenty of comparisons to Pop artists since he first burst onto the Seoul art scene a decade ago, thanks mostly to his brightly colored irreverence with materials. (Think plastic bottles, dollar-store dishware, and Iron Man masks.) Hwa’s super-sized ambition is equally modern: His installations have included 1,000 doors piled ten stories high, and two million pieces of trash strung in dignified garlands—on the Seoul Olympic Stadium, no less.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim.

Choi Jeong Hwa wears OUI Paname T-shirt, $45, park-store.co.kr.

Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group, Uni Yang, and Roian. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

The DJ Peggy Gould is also a street style star, stylist, illustrator, and London correspondent for Harper’s Bazaar Korea. In other words, she is like most fashionable DJs: she dabbles in the art of being a woman about town.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim.

DJ Peggy Gould wears Used Future hoodie and pants, $68 each, usedfutureeshop.com; Thisisneverthat hat, $43, intl.thisisneverthat.com.

Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group, Uni Yang, and Roian. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

The supermodel Jung Ho Yeon, 23, came in second on Korea’s Next Top Model in 2013, but the red-haired beauty is the top bet to cross over in New York and Europe. Like Cara Delevingne, her goofy selfies—not to mention her street style stardom—have won her a sizable fan base, with over 250k followers.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim. Model: Jung Ho Yeon.

Jung Ho Yeon wears SJYP T-shirt, overalls, and boots, prices upon request, collection at ssense.com.

Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group, Uni Yang, and Roian. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

The model-turned-actress Seung Ah Yun, 32, turned into a huge star during her run on the hit TV show “Playful Kiss.” She got even more attention for drunken tweets sent by the actor Kim Moo Yeol, outing their secret relationship. The story has a happy ending, though—they got married last year. There’s no drama like K-drama.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim.

From left: Seung Ah Yung wears Tchai Kim dress, pants, and shoes, prices upon request, blog.naver.com/tchaikim. Seung Ah Yung wears Low Classic jacket, price upon request, and T-shirt, $49, collection at openingceremony.com.

Hair by Hye Young Lee. Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group, Uni Yang, and Roian. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Since meeting in London where they were both studying fashion, the husband-and-wife designer duo Steve J & Yoni P, who are flanked here by the supermodel Ho Yeon Jung (left) and the stylist Ye Young Kim, have built their denim brand into one of the hottest tickets at Seoul Fashion Week. Their hip-hop inspired pieces, carried by the likes of Opening Ceremony and 10 Corso Como Seoul, have a feminine touch and a light sense of humor; and they’re coveted by Korean celebrity devotees, not to mention their 100k-plus followers on Instagram.

Photo by Peter Ash Lee. Styled by Ye Young Kim. Model: Jung Ho Yeon.

From left: Ho Yeon Jung wears SJYP jacket, price upon request, collection at ssense.com. Yoni P wears SJYP coat, T-shirt, and boots, prices upon request, collection at ssense.com. Steve J wears SJYP jacket, T-shirt, and overalls, prices upon request, collection at ssense.com. Ye Young Kim wears SJYP jacket, price upon request, collection at ssense.com.

Production and Casting by Intoo Creative Group, Uni Yang, and Roian. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

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