He's one of the most in-demand actors and endorsers in South Korea at the moment. His legions of Filipino fans have been anticipating his visit for several months. His meet-and-greet fan events are totally sold out. He has four huge billboards along EDSA. Now, Korean drama superstar Lee Min Ho is finally in Manila and boy, he did not disappoint.
''This is my first visit to the Philippines. My Filipino fans are so warm and friendly. It's very cold now in Korea as opposed to the warmth here in Manila,'' Lee Min Ho said during a press conference a few hours after arriving from the airport. ''Everybody's so kind and welcoming here. I almost feel like I'm going on vacation.''
The 25-year-old actor first captivated Filipino viewers in his breakthrough role as Goo Jun Pyo in the hit Korean drama ''Boys Over Flowers.'' His perfect profile, charm, and talent have helped him capture hearts the world over-from Korea to Kazakhstan, from Manila to Mexico, from Panama to Botswana.
His dramas - ''Personal Preference'' and ''City Hunter'' - have bagged stellar ratings and showcased his true acting chops. In his latest drama entitled ''Faith'', Lee Min Ho portrays a warrior from the Goryeo period who travels to modern day Seoul to save the life of a princess.
But for the past three days, he's taking a break from acting to spend some quality time with his beloved Filipino fans and do a series of events for retail giant Bench and Bench Fix which he now endorses.
''I usually communicate with my Filipino fans through Twitter and Facebook. I haven't been able to reply to all them but since I've received so many sweet messages from the fans, I feel pretty close to them already. And it's nice to finally meet them all here in the Philippines,'' Lee Min Ho shared.
Widely known as one of Korea's top style icons, Lee Min Ho definitely looks good in any angle. But during his press conference, the media had a sneak peak at the different sides of Lee Min Ho. Lee Min Ho the actor, celebrity, fashionable guy and regular guy. Sam Oh, the host and translator for the event, even got close to making him dance the Korean dance hit 'Gangnam Style'.
The relaxed actor
Lee Min Ho first thought of being an actor when he was about to turn 19 and luckily he had the chance to try out but it wasn't until he was 20 that he decided that acting was his real passion. He looks up to actors like Hollywood's Leonardo DiCaprio and Hallyu's Sol Kyung-Gu and Kim Su-Ro.
''The last two dramas that I did, I played very heavy, dark characters. So if I could pick the next role to portray, I would want a character that could show a lighter side of me. Someone who's not so uptight, more relaxed. Someone more like me in real life,'' he shared.
The unassuming celebrity
Being an international celebrity himself, fans would think Lee Min Ho has got the whole Hallyu Wave- Kpop phenomenon all figured out. But the actor shyly confessed he's also astounded by the Koreans' shot to fame.
''Frankly, I'm not sure how the whole Hallyu Wave happened; but seeing as how Korean dramas and songs are so popular worldwide, there has to be a universal factor, something that as human beings we all can relate to. Things like love, family and friendship. I think that may be the reason why it's so relatable,'' he explained.
As with Psy's worldwide dance hit Gangnam Style, the humble Lee Min Ho said the breakout singer makes him proud to be Korean, ''Gangnam Style makes me very proud as a Korean because it's become such a big hit worldwide. I also think this new exposure for Kpop can help other aspiring singers like Psy.''
He added that he listened to the song quite a bit when it first came out and he'd be lying if he said he hasn't danced the Gangnam Style. The media almost shouted, ''Sampol!'' But he quickly said laughing, ''Maybe I can show you my dance move on an unofficial event another time.''
The fashionably savvy guy
According to Lee Min Ho, he anchors his personal style on pieces that combine dark colors and neutrals. He goes for the clean, crisp look and prefers items that are comfortable and casual.
He is open to experimenting with styles and enjoyed trying on the colorful jeans and tops from Bench's latest collection. In fact, joining the Bench family was an easy decision for Lee Min Ho.
He said the most important thing he considers before accepting an endorsement is personal confidence with the brand. He also makes sure that the brand's image fits his image as an actor. Recognized internationally and respected for its stylish and high quality clothing, Bench was definitely a brand that he wanted to represent.
''During the last campaign shoot, I noticed that there were some very nice, colorful skinny jeans which I thought were very stylish. I also liked the oxford jackets. Generally I like clothes that are young and stylish looking,'' he said.
As to what kind of style in women that he finds attractive and sexy, Lee Min Ho has this to say: ''When it comes to fashion, it could be a woman in a bikini or it could be a woman wearing a simple dress. It really doesn't matter what she's wearing. It comes down to how she projects herself, what is appropriate, it doesn't necessarily have to be revealing. That's not necessarily sexy. But confidence is very sexy and attractive.''
The regular homebody
When the busy actor has some spare time, he likes playing soccer with friends (his childhood dream was to become a soccer player). He also likes watching movies but usually, he just likes to stay home and relax.
''I'm a homebody. What people don't know about me is that I'm actually very simple. In fact, I think the best thing about being a Bench endorser is having all those billboards with my face on it,'' he said with a smile that ultimately melted the hearts of every girl (and a lot of guys) in the room.
Lee Min Ho is scheduled to visit Bench stores today for a Mall Tour and Autograph Signing Promo. Participating Bench stores and venues include: SM North Edsa (3 p.m.), Glorietta 5 (5p.m.) and SM Mall of Asia (6p.m.). For more Lee Min Ho updates, like Bench's official page at facebook.com/benchtmofficial and follow @benchtm over Twitter.