Tuesday, July 4, 2017

So Your Character is From South Korea ... Featuring Lizzy @ The Bent Bookworm

It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's  So Your Character is from Puerto Rico ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!

Happy July 4th everybody! Today I have a post about well no America. XD I've had South Korean friends growing up, I love shopping at the Korean franchise Hmart, there's a large Korean population in my area, and I love Korean food, especially Korean BBQ. So I'm so happy to have Lizzy to tell me more about the country besides just the food. ;)

Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts are as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.

(None of the Images are Mine)

Hi, I’m Lizzy! I live in the southern part of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), in the city of Daegu. It’s about the size of Chicago and by far the biggest city I’ve ever lived in! I read a lot. Not as much as some of the book bloggers I follow but more than normal people deem usual, haha. When I’m not reading or writing you’ll find me obsessing over my cat or some form of fiber art. I’ve lived in Korea for almost three years.

What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
South Korea is a very old country. The name may be new but these people have lived here for centuries. When I first moved here and started exploring I was amazed when I would learn that the places we visited had been in constant use since, oh, 700 A.D. The holidays here are quite different from ours. The biggest Korean holiday is Chuseok, which takes place in the fall and is like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all rolled into one. It’s a HUGE deal. The next most important is the Lunar New Year. While they recognize the Georgian calendar new year, the Lunar one is the one they really celebrate. 

Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
While I’ve only lived in the big city - well, big is relative. Daegu is small compared to Seoul (almost 10 million as opposed to 2.5 million), but considering there are only a few U.S. cities that are larger...it’s the big city. And it’s PACKED. Everything in Korea is built UP, not out like in many U.S. cities. I lived in Dallas/Ft.Worth before, but because it sprawls out and out it doesn’t feel nearly as crowded. My favorite places here are all the coffee shops and stationery stores! They are everywhere, especially the coffee shops. 


Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Food is a struggle for me! Obviously, seafood plays a big part in the traditional food here - and I don’t like most seafood. :-( However, if you DO, you would love it here. Most restaurants have fresh tanks where you can literally pick your food. There is of course lots of kimchi, and in this part of the country most of the food is VERY spicy. I’m told further north of Seoul that they don’t season things quite as spicy, but I’m not sure. My absolute FAVORITE food tradition here is the Korean BBQ or what most Americans call the “beef and leaf” style restaurants. It’s amazing! Most places serve it with all kinds of side dishes, and different restaurants offer different marinades. It’s brought out to you raw and you cook it over a small grill set into your table. I am really going to miss it when I move back to the States!


Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
Unfortunately, I can’t really comment much on this as the Korean language, both spoken and the written (Hangul) form, has proved to be beyond me. I know a few basic phrases but the nuances are completely lost on me. HOWEVER, since English is taught to all Korean students in school, communication here is usually somewhat possible. Most people understand English even if they are too shy to speak it back. But in the biggest cities like Seoul and Busan, even if you try to speak Korean to someone they are likely to just speak English back! I did recently have an experience in a small Korean town though, where absolutely NO ONE spoke English AT ALL and no signs or anything were in English! 

Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
I live on the economy but work for an American company, so I’m not as immersed in Korean culture as say an English teacher would be. I get up in the morning, I take our car to work, I do my job...it’s very similar to living at home. Getting to work is a little different, as traffic/driving etiquette is VERY different than in the States. Lane lines are suggestions, not rules. So are stop lights. It takes some getting used to! 

How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
South Korea is much more environmentally conscious than the States in general. Recycling is mandatory and very specific - we have six different bins! They also use a lot of wind and solar energy. Politically the country is what I would consider more conservative, but some of that impression is due to cultural differences, I think. Being anything other than heterosexual is frowned upon and somewhat ostracized, and there is some blatant racism along with...what I guess would be just plain discrimination? For instance, my African-American co-worker was shunned in a spa, and we have been turned away from restaurants or seated away from other guests for no other reason than that we were American. GENERALLY though, people are quite polite and friendly!

South Korean President
Briefly describe three of your country’s historical events that you feel are important.
The Korean War is a recent memory to some Koreans...there are still lots of Korean War veterans living and there are monuments and memorials everywhere. The area where I live is one of the only major cities that wasn’t conquered by North Korea, so there’s a good deal of pride in that. South Korea also its own Independence Day in August--the liberation from Japan, and it is the only holiday still celebrated by both North and South Korea. These are the only really major celebrated historical events that I’m aware of, as South Korea only became officially a country in 1948. 

Korean War

What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Personally, I’ve come to realize that the “smart Asian” stereotype (which just lumps all of Asia together despite how different all the cultures and countries are) is ridiculous. It’s something I’ve discussed several times with some of the Koreans I work with. Of course there are smart people here, and there’s a large emphasis put on schooling. But there are smart people and not-so-smart people. There are friendly people and rude people. There are honest people and cons. There are math whizzes and artists. We are all people. We may have different frames of reference, but we are all people, and we all hurt and bleed.

What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
To be honest, I don’t watch TV, and I read mostly fantasy! That said, I have heard a lot of people highly recommend The Vegetarian, by Han Kang, and it’s on my TBR list. 

Who are your top three favorite characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?
Like I said above, I read a lot of fantasy, and it seems that Korean characters are severely underrepresented. Obviously due to the fantasy nature, more characters are rather indeterminately “Asian” versus Korean, but in The Maze Runner there is an awesome character named Minho (he’s such a badass, I really feel like he should have had a book of his own) that I believe he is of Korean origins.

Thank you, Lizzy, for this very informative post! I hope everyone enjoyed reading it. Come back next week for So Your Character is from Japan ...!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com.

Do you have any characters from South Korea? Did this inspire you to write a South Korean character or set a book in South Korea? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Lizzy? Be sure to thank her!

You may also like:

No comments:

Post a Comment