Everyone has asked me the question, and I mean everyone: why South Korea? They ask for a number of reasons but the top two are because (1) they genuinely want to know why I personally choose the country or (2) they are concerned for my safety and have decided to tell me not to go but they want to hear my excuse first.
Since you, people of the Internet, don’t know me that well yet: I hope you ask why for the first reason.
My first, noticeable piece of South Korea was something that I stumbled upon on Youtube. I watched this video that started this curiosity:
Mind you, at the time I was going through the worst semester ever and coping by trying to pick a study abroad program that was right for me. Maybe this was more subliminal messaging but I am glad that I fell for it.
With the video, I was interested in the one show that I wasn’t at all familiar with and it shocked me because I was definitely familiar with Tumblr. It was a show called You’re Beautiful. When I read what the show was about, I was sold. I didn’t realize it was Korean until I started watching it.
During the worst semester ever, there were some highlights. Watching the cheesy but terribly hilarious You’re Beautiful was one of them because discussing the drama was actually how I met one of my best friends. She is an exchange student from South Korea and throughout the semester, she pushed me into putting more effort into researching the study abroad program for South Korea. And I delved into everything I could about the country, culture, pop culture, and study abroad program. And found out some awesome things that I just couldn’t say no to.
Jeanna’s Top 5 Reasons Why South Korea Is The Place To Go
1. Book Publishing
I didn’t mention before but I am studying English and Communication Arts to become a book publisher—hopefully, right after graduation. South Korea’s book publishing industry (as it seems from the research I did) is developing but at a fast pace. The country is being showcased in this year’s (2014) London Book Fair. Also, there is a huge book convention in South Korea: Paju Booksori (파주북소리) every year, which is said to be the largest book publishing convention in all of Asia. Since 2012, I have participated in Book Expo of America (BEA) but to be able to attend another convention would be amazing. Plus, there is a place nicknamed Book City (Paju).
2. the Korean Wave
I actually wasn’t even aware of the Korean Wave until I read about it, during my research. South Korea is taking the world by storm with its pop culture. Right now, South Korean musicians and bands are touring the world, sharing their music with a wider audience than ever before. I’m curious to what or maybe why this all started (and I think it must have started way before Psy’s Gangnam Style). I think it’s awesome and definitely amazing how this pop culture can become such a huge hit with an international audience. It astounds me that audiences who may not even know the Korean language are still caught in this wave of pop culture.
3. the language
This reason didn’t become a prominent reason until I actually started learning the language this semester. My first glimpse into the language was listening to the Korean dramas/ TV shows last semester but I didn’t fall in love with the language until I started speaking it. Even now, I am hesitant to say that I speak the language, because I don’t—I’m still a beginner learner with a growing vocabulary. Languages are difficult to learn but the reason, in high school, why I wanted to learn French was because it sounded gorgeous. To this day, after six years of learning French, I still think it is a gorgeous language. The Korean language is different. When I speak Korean, the language makes me feel gorgeous (can I say that, does that make sense?). I don’t know what it is. It could be the way the words flow with one another, the way the lips and tongue move, or even the way there is no expression but so much expression at the same time. Learning the language is one thing (which is what I am trying to tackle now) but experiencing the language would be amazing.
This list is winding down but I could go on for quite a while. South Korean advertising made it to my top 5 list because I am so intrigued by it. What Americans call celebrities, Koreans call idols. We can discuss idols a different day, but a lot of the advertising is done with an idol’s sponsorship. It is persuasion at its best. I mean, sure we have lots of celebrity sponsorships: Taylor Swift is promoting Diet Coke, Emma Stone is promoting Revlon. But South Korea does their advertising with a different angle, a different style. I’d love to figure it all out. (pic: Lee Min Ho with 바나나맛 우유)
5. Dramas/ TV shows
I have to put this on the list because it is what started it all. Indirectly, my watching of You’re Beautiful began my research in looking into South Korea as a place to study abroad. From there, I opened endless possibilities. The more shows I watch, the more I find myself curious about what happened in this scene and why that character did that. It ties back to Korean culture and tradition. Obviously, everything one watches in the media is not true, but one has to filter some truth out of it. The TV shows are filled with endless locations that people visiting the country can go to. It is giving me several ideas of where to go when I have free time there. (pic: just finished Coffee Prince (커피프린스 1호점) last week)