For dentist, brush with fame all in a day’s work

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For dentist, brush with fame all in a day’s work

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Stella Park

For Stella Park, 43, life is sometimes a bit complicated. That’s because she alternates between two lives - one as a dentist and the other as a singer with a successful recording career.

In her everyday life, Park, whose Korean name is Park So-yeon, focuses mostly on her career as a dentist. She spends most of her time at a dental clinic that she owns and operates in Yongsan District, central Seoul.

In her second life, she is a professional singer with albums to record and concerts to give.

This summer, Park is spending most of her time as a singer and promoting her recently released third album, “The Song of Stars and Wind.”

Since a very young age, Park has been mesmerized by music. She studied vocal music at two of Korea’s most prestigious art schools: the Yewon Middle School and the Seoul Arts High School. But when it was time for college, she suddenly decided she would become a dentist and entered the School of Dentistry at Yonsei University.

“At first, I applied to the music schools,” Park said. “But there were some unsavory incidents in the admissions process that made me disillusioned and I decided to turn away from music forever. That’s when I suddenly decided to become a dentist.”

As she approached her mid-30s, however, her passion for music resurfaced when she met composer Lee Young-hoon (1960-2008), a longtime friend and collaborator of singer Lee Moon-sae. In the winter of 2004, the two began exchanging e-mails.

One day, after a year and a half of trading messages, the composer wrote, “Your passion for music is amazing. I’d like to hear you sing sometime.”

That’s how Park became the last singer Lee worked with before his death. Giving Park several of his unreleased songs, Lee promised to help produce her next album. But the project stalled when Lee’s health suddenly began to deteriorate.

Despite the unfortunate turn of events, however, Park released her first album in September 2009. Lee passed away the following February, after bequeathing his very last composition to Park.

In Korea, Lee is somewhat of a legend for having produced several hits for Lee Mon-sae in the 1970s and 1980s. With his poetic lyrics and sweet melodies, Lee’s songs are credited with having elevated the singer to the status of a legend.

Park’s three albums contain several of the late composer’s final songs.

“At first it wasn’t easy to return to music after having left it for over a decade,” Park said when asked how it felt to have been left with Lee’s final compositions. “But after Lee’s death, I felt like I had a responsibility to his final works. It was something I just had to do.”

Park says that although her life as a dentist sometimes gets in the way of her music, when she gets on stage all that matters is the music.


By Chung Kang-hyun, Minji Kim [estyle@joongang.co.kr]

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