|A Korea.net honorary reporter makes a graphic with the Taegeukgi national flag to express her love for Korea. (Yostina Wasef)|
By Korea.net Honorary Reporter Yostina Wasef
Family and friends ask me why I fell in love with Korea. What is so special about Korea that I fell in love with it a long time ago? I haven’t been able to answer that question, as I haven’t been able to put my thoughts into words. Simply, it’s about connection, connection at the level of the soul, that just can’t be easily explained. Let me try to explain by stating here the things that I personally love about Korea.
TV and music industry
I love many forms of art, and Korean TV shows and Korean music are some of these forms. I love watching TV soap operas and living through the on-screen events through my heroes’ lives.
I really like the fact that Korean soap operas — most of them, at least — are character focused and not plot focused. What I mean is that often the story’s purpose and focus is to show the emotional and psychological development of the characters, specifically the hero or co-heroes, and how they handle what life throws at them, rather than focusing on some event or ending that the character must reach. Another thing I like is the love stories. They show how each party is doing everything in their power to take care of the other party and make them happy. It’s just so heartwarming to watch.
The other thing that really attracted my attention is that Korean TV shows can have many seemingly opposing genres in one show without any disharmony. Some very well-known recent soap operas like “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God” (쓸쓸하고 찬란하神 – 도깨비) (2016) and “Strong Woman Do Bong-soon” (힘쎈여자 도봉순) (2017) seem to have opposing genres, like comedy and tragedy or comedy and action. There’s a strange ability to include multiple genres in one show. “Guardian,” for example, has many genres. It’s has fantasy, history, action, tragedy, comedy and romance, all in one, without any disharmony at all. Amazing, isn’t it? I think this ability to include multiple genres is fantastic and unique. It makes the show able to connect more deeply with its viewers because, in our lives, we have some happy moments, some sad moments, some angry moments, some fearful moments and some other tribulations, so it becomes more like the drama of real life.
This brings me to the screenplay writers. As you know, the script writers are the backbone of any TV series or program because they have the plan that everyone will follow to produce the show. It’s no secret that Korean screenplay writers are very skilled at writing and know very well how to evoke emotions from the audience. Song writers, too, are so expressive, especially if they write for a TV show. Actually, I don’t want to leave out anyone who’s responsible for getting a show or a song out to the world, so I’m including the directors, the cinematographers, the sound professionals, the composers, the makeup artists, the people responsible for setting up the studios, and everyone working on TV shows and music that I might know nothing about. I want to say thank you to all of you for bringing such beautiful works of art to the world.
All artists, whether they are actors or singers, are very passionate, talented and really invest their true self and emotions into what they do. They really evoke the intended emotions of the writers in the show or in the song they perform and leave their imprint on the artwork that no other artist can mimic. Each of them is unique.
Another thing that I really like about Korean artists is unrelated to their work. They are so humble and modest, and don’t really have any star complex. They act like normal people wherever they are and fans can approach them very easily and talk with them like normal people, which I really love. They also contribute to charity a lot and oftentimes in secret.
With all that said, I believe that the Korean TV and music industry can become well known globally and can even become a new Hollywood. With all that passion, talent and effort, I truly believe it can become a new Hollywood.
One of the most fascinating things about Korean society for me is that it’s a society of respect. Everywhere you go, you speak formally and you especially have to pay extra attention to anyone older than you and to your boss and to those in authority positions. The language has several levels of respect, and you must use the proper one, depending on who you’re talking to.
Another thing that I like about Korean society is the use of close, sibling-like names for people older than you who are close to you, though this is more used by young people. If you’re a woman, you can call your older brother, your male friend or your older boyfriend oppa (오빠) and your older sister or older female friend eonni (언니). If you’re a man, you can call your older brother or older male friend hyeong (형) and your older sister or older female friend nuna (누나). Anyone who’s older than you, in any social gathering, always cares for the younger person, even if they’re younger by just one month or even by just one day. The older person has to buy the drinks, snacks or simple things, and provide loving brotherly or sisterly care and advice.
Young women are thereby required to sometimes act cute to their older male acquaintances, especially to their boyfriends, to get them to buy something for them. I find that so adorably cute.
One personality trait I’ve seen in Korea is that what some people misunderstand as rudeness is actually assertiveness. Everyone knows their boundaries and they don’t cross them. Sometimes a non-Korean may not understand these boundaries, like, for example, on the subway. There are seats that are only for the elderly or for pregnant women. People don’t go anywhere near those seats, even if they’re empty and there are no other available seats around. They know that once they start to be OK with it, everyone will be using them and the elderly and the pregnant people won’t be able to use them. So they might ask an unknowing non-Korean to move. This might sound rude, but psychologists say that communicating boundaries and what you’re OK and not OK with is actually healthy. Not doing so can lead to resentment and can manifest physically as chronic pain or even as diseases. I think that this assertiveness is what helped the Korean people keep and not change their social structure.
Traditional Korean architecture and clothes
Traditional Korean houses are called Hanok. They almost always have a courtyard and all the rooms have a view of the courtyard, which I really like. The courtyard can be planted with plants, set with a pool or a pond, and be the place on the property where one connects with nature. It can also be a multi-purpose space to do whatever you like. A Hanok home is traditionally heated from beneath the floors with a heating system called an ondol system, which uses the fire in the kitchen as the main heat control. If you look inside a Hanok room, you will feel so relaxed and clear-minded. I hope one day to live in an eco-friendly modern Hanok.
|Traditional Hanok houses show how people lived in the past. (Korea.net DB)|
Traditional Korean attire is called Hanbok. There are two versions of it. The female version consists of two main parts, the lower chima skirt and the strapless upper jeogori dress that’s like a long-sleeved jacket and that stops at the bust line. I really like the style of female Hanbok. It looks so elegant, classy and feminine.
|Hanbok is one of the representative Korean heritage items. (Lalien guillen Park)|
When I first heard the Korean language, it was through music on soap opera soundtracks. It sounded to me that the language was so musical. The sounds made while speaking, or singing, in this case, flow very nicely with musical notes.
I also like the way that Korean people speak. You know each society has its own way of speaking. There are special sounds and expressions in each society and language. I like the way that Korean people speak because it feels like you can really express yourself thoroughly. There are many ways to say something in Korean, depending on the level of formality and on the degree of how strong or how weak your emotions are. I specifically like the fact that when you talk cutely, like young women to their older male friends or boyfriends, it’s just so adorable.
Makeup and fashion
Cosmetics made by Korean companies are known to be of high quality and can be bought at an affordable price, too. I really like everything from modern fashion to makeup and cosmetics, and the styles of makeup and hair styles and hair care are all great. I have a list of beauty products that I buy when I visit Korea. I keep adding stuff to the list, too. It’s getting really long. I also hope to get a Korean hairstyle and makeup when I’m there.
Falling in love with Korea made me open minded
Ever since I discovered Korea and really strived to learn more about this country and its society, I realized how narrow minded I was and how I was missing out on so many interesting perspectives and points of view. I became more open minded toward other societies. Also, by following my favorite Korean pop stars very closely, I realized how hard they worked to achieve their dreams and I was inspired to achieve mine, too, and to come out of my shy self a little bit. I owe all of this to Korea for making me open minded. Thank you so much, Korea. I love you~