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Kayageum player #4 in Miss Universe

Honey Lee with KayagumHoney Lee, crowned Miss Korea in August 2006, studies traditional music at Seoul National University, specialising in the kayageum. Her mother is a professor at Ehwa, and was designated a “living cultural asset” in kayageum music earlier this year.

Lee was a strong contender in this year’s Miss Universe contest, recently held in Mexico. In fact, in the unofficial polling at Global Beauties, a site affiliated to the contest, Lee came top in many categories: Face of the Universe, Best National Costume, Best in interviews, Best in a gown, and overall unofficial winner. (Update 20 Dec 2009: Global Beauties seem to be short of disk space – all their coverage from 2007 has now been deleted from their website)

It is of course the real competition which counts, and Lee came fourth. A rumour over at Popseoul suggests that a poor translation service cost Lee her victory:

Alert POPSEOUL! readers have pointed out that the translator made it sound that Miss Korea was a gold digger instead of the humanitarian motives for having a fat but endless wallet.

Maybe the official language of the competition was Spanish, because in her taped interview on the Miss Universe site her English seems fine.

One of Honey Lee’s ambitions as Miss Korea is to use her title to promote Korean culture. Her performance at Miss Universe has already done some of that, as not only did she give some publicity to the Kayageum (though strangely she felt she had to dumb it down for the Miss Universe audience, referring to it as a “Korean harp” instead of the more usual “Korean zither”): she showed herself to have a passing acquaintance with the changgo in the national costume section:

Honey Lee with Changgo

Some more conventional beauty pageant poses are given below:

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