BAZAAR Man Choi Minho
Sweater, Dior Men.

As a member of SHINee, Choi Minho’s teens and twenties have revolved almost wholly around the South Korean boyband since its debut in 2008. Outlasting many of its fellow second-generation idol groups in the ever-evolving K-pop scene, SHINee is now into its 15th year. Boybands with such longevity are rare, particularly when their members are called up for mandatory military service, causing them to go on hiatus. This was the case for the group, when three members—including Choi, who is better known by his mononym Minho—were called up for military duty in 2018. He enlisted in 2019, taking his first real break from the entertainment scene since joining the group as a fresh-faced 16-year-old.

On the positive side, his time in the Marine Corps allowed him to reflect on himself and his career ambitions, away from the limelight. “Going to the army meant that I was able to take a breather and take a closer look at myself,” he shares. “I realised that to be more creative so as to show a different side of myself, I had to have free time to do things outside of the entertainment world.” For instance, he adds, it is now part of his routine to do something completely different from what he usually does at work, like going on long walks to clear his mind. Otherwise, he enjoys staying at home, spending his days watching movies. “As I’ve been working ever since I finished high school, I find doing these activities relax me and give me clarity. I am then able to cultivate my creativity which is then channelled back into my work.” At 31, the main rapper of the group has also carved out a name as a thespian, displaying an acting range that includes genres from period dramas (Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth) to rom-coms (To The Beautiful You) to action flicks (Derailed), scooping up a number of television and film award nominations and wins along the way.

Related article: SHINee’s Minho Joins Ralph Lauren Fragrances To Launch New Scent In Singapore

BAZAAR Man Choi Minho
Sweater, Bottega Veneta.

At the start of 2022, after he was officially discharged from military service, the singer-actor set himself a challenge—to end the year with a bang. In between a radio hosting gig and appearances on variety shows and dramas, he spent four months working on his mini album. Released last December, the hip hop and R&B-inflected album, Chase, gave Minho a chance to show off his own musical style, as he finally made his debut as a solo artist. “When you record as a group, the members are each known for their different skills.

Rapping was always my strongest suit so I focused more on that,” he shares. “But with this album, I wanted to show a different side of me to the fans.” Minho not only raps and sings in the six-track EP, he also personally chose the songs to be featured, co-wrote the track “Runaway” with South Korean rapper Gemini, and conceptualised the direction of the album cover. He was also very much involved in the filming and directing of the music video for the first single from the album, also called “Chase”, which he is very proud about. Rather than a typical music video featuring the slick dance moves and glitzy sets associated with SHINee, it unfolds like a movie and lets Minho showcase his acting chops. “I wanted to tell a story with this album, especially with the music video. It is something different from what the fans are used to,” he says. “Watching a group is always interesting for listeners because they get to experience the different voices and performances from the members. But as a solo artist, I had to focus on entertaining them on my own.”

Related article: Singaporean Director He Shuming Reflects On Life After ‘Ajoomma’

BAZAAR Man Choi Minho
Sweater, Fendi. Shirt, Gucci. Trousers, Ralph Lauren.

As the last among his bandmates to release a solo album, he definitely felt the pressure to deliver what he calls “the final piece of the puzzle”. Now that the puzzle is complete, a band reunion is also likely in the works this year. The members have been pursuing individual projects in the last two years, as they have been unable to perform as a complete unit due to their overlapping military service dates. For faithful fans waiting to hear the band’s famous catchphrase “SHINee’s back”, Minho, who is currently in Japan on his fan-meet tour across Asia, has hinted at an anniversary album for the group that could possibly materialise this year.

Related article: Kang Hyung Suk Takes On His First Lead Role In Singapore’s Oscar Bid ‘Ajoomma’

BAZAAR Man Choi Minho
Shirt; trousers, Bottega Veneta.

In the meantime, fans can catch him in the Netflix series The Fabulous, which captures the career struggles and romantic entanglements of four friends: Minho plays a freelance photographer who rekindles a relationship with his ex, a fashion PR executive. Together with their friends, an up-and-coming fashion designer and a top model, they navigate Seoul’s capricious fashion industry.

Despite being part of a fashion-themed drama, the South Korean star is momentarily at a loss for words when asked to describe his own style. After a long pause, he replies: “Because I have done so many performances and photo shoots where I get to wear very cool clothes, I actually find it very hard to describe my sense of style. After a while, I think the clothes and styles I’ve worn, have naturally become part of my own personal style.”

Related article: 4 Takeaways From Choi Min-ho’s Press Conference For ‘The Fabulous’

BAZAAR Man Choi Minho
Cardigan; trousers, Gucci. T-shirt, Dior Men. Shoes, Bottega Veneta. Necklace, Fred.

Photographed by Wee Khim
Styled by Jeffrey Yan
Makeup: Chaeri Kim/BLOW
Hair: KwanSeok Son/BLOW
Wardrobe consultant: JinYoung Choi
Producer: Cindy Ow
Photographer’s assistant: Ivan Teo
Stylist’s assistant: Isabella Low