Tuesday, July 4, 2017

So Your Character is From South Korea ... Featuring Lizzy @ The Bent Bookworm + Jiyeon @ JJellie's Journal

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.

Hello, my name is Jiyeon! I made up my English name to be Ellie, but no one seems to call me by that name, so Jiyeon it is! Back on topic, I’m currently living in South Korea, in the city of Seoul. I lived in America for more than 10 years and it took me awhile to get used to the American culture. I have always missed living in Korea and wished to move back. I’m currently doing an online degree program to receive my B.S. degree in early childhood development. However, I enjoy fashion, interior designing, and general art more than anything else. I love blogging and taking photos as well. 

What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
Lizzy: 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. 

Jiyeon: South Korea has a lot of small unique celebrations including Children’s day, Pepero day, and celebrations dedicated to couples. Children’s day is on May 5th and it is celebrated in Korea and other places around the world. Usually, schools will be closed on children’s day and parents will get a day off, in most cases, to spend time with them. 

Pepero day is on November 11th and it is similar to Valentine’s Day. Pepero is a snack brand similar to Pocky in Japan. It is a biscuit stick covered in chocolate except for the ends. There’s also another Valentine’s Day called White Day, where it’s the guy’s turn to give a lady chocolate. 

There are so many couples everywhere you go in Korea, so there are a lot of celebrations dedicated to couples. For example, couples celebrate their 100th day anniversary or “Twotwo Day” where it’s their 22nd day of dating. Korea has so many more adorable holidays like these, which can bring joy to everyone around or…slowly lose change in his or her wallets. 

Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
Lizzy: 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. 


Jiyeon: South Korea has one of the most unique cafes ever! These are only few cafes I will mention, but every café in Korea are aesthetically pleasing.  There’s a café called, Thanks Nature Café, where you can pet a sheep! 

Another café that’s interesting is the Board Game café, where you can sit down to play different unique board games they have in Korea. "Board Game Cafe!". If you skip to the middle of this video, you can see the different types of board games you can play!

The peach-gray café is a café where you can sit and paint while enjoying a drink or dessert! 

Even their menus are so aesthetically pleasing! Korean cafes being aesthetically pleasing is very common and can be found almost anywhere in Seoul. 

Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Lizzy: 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!


Jiyeon: In South Korea, we like to eat our meals with side dishes, soup, and rice.  My most favorite food on the Earth is called ddukbokgi. It’s a plate of deliciousness with rice cakes, fish cake, red paste, and etc. The real tasty ones are the ones in the street food vendors where the sauce mixes very well with the rice cakes

I love street foods in general and I would recommend Myeondong where there are so many interesting streets foods to try! 

Chicken is a must try in Korea! They have so many different flavors, but my favorite is seasoned chicken! Like pizza with coke, in Korea, it’s Chicken with beer and pickled radish. 

Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
Lizzy: 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 was in English! 

Jiyeon: There are many words that are shortened or added to Korean words. In this video, "Common Korean Words/Phrases That Sound Strange in English lol - Edward Avila", he explains how words are used in Korean but could sound strange in English. 

Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
Lizzy: 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! 

Jiyeon: A regular day in my country is mostly riding the bus to get to the subway station and riding the subway to get to places. It’s the worst to ride it during rush hours since people are squished into the trains. You will see everyone just looking into their phones and not really engaging with one another. On the other hand, I like to just observe people without noticing and look outside the windows of the train or bus. I don’t like using my phone, since I’m on it all the time at home, so it’s nice to stare into space once in awhile. Other than that, I usually do my online class homework, go shopping, hang out with friends, and etc.

How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
Lizzy: 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!

Jiyeon: If you walk down the streets, you will notice that Koreans are more to themselves and find it strange to engage with strangers. Whereas in America, they like to engage and are more friendly towards others. A lot of foreigners mistake this for Koreans being rude or cold, but they must consider that that’s just part of their environment. 

South Korean President
Briefly describe three of your country’s historical events that you feel are important.
Lizzy: 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
Jiyeon: April 16th, 2014: I think it’s important to mention the tragic event of Sewol ferry sinking. I was in the cafeteria back when I was in High School at the moment it was happening. At that moment, I didn’t think much of it because I thought the rescue team will be on their way and the captain will make sure that everyone gets out safely. I later found out that they had failed to save a lot of people and it made me so furious that the captain commanded the passengers to stay on the boat, while he escaped! There were 304 people that have passed away and most of these passengers were young high school students going on a field trip. It breaks my heart thinking that there might have been more people alive if there were more rescue teams and for everyone to safely evacuate the ferry. My condolences go out to the family and friends of the ones that lost their loved ones that day. 

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?
Lizzy: 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.

Jiyeon: One of the stereotypes for Koreans are that they eat dog meat. Some may eat dog meat, but it’s not very common as people might think it to be. There are more stereotypes specifically for Korean girls on this YouTube video: "Korean Girls Answer Questions/Stereotypes". Plastic surgery is another stereotype that might be seen negatively by many. However, I believe that a lot of people are sometimes pressured by society to look how the world sees others as attractive and want to enhance their looks or to make themselves feel better. 

An example of stereotype in the media was this "EXID on TMZ during LAX arrival for KMF" video. When I moved to America, I had to deal with stereotypes and racism that it made me feel ashamed to be Asian. However, I revisited my country and fell in love with almost everything there. It made me realize that being Asian isn’t something to be ashamed of and I wish I could have embraced it during the times people were being racist towards me. Maybe it could have helped them to realize that we are all human and equal as much as they are. It’s so unfortunate that we deal with racism and stereotypes anywhere we go. 

What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Lizzy: 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. 

Jiyeon: I love the Korean drama “Hello My Twenties” and “Hello My Twenties 2”. It shows how life can be bizarre for these girls living together from difficulties with family, friends, romantic partners, and etc. I definitely recommend watching it!

Who are your top three favorite characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?
Lizzy: 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.

Jiyeon: I love Lady Rainicorn from Adventure Time because she’s very adorable and she can actually speak Korean in the show. There’s not a lot of characters that speak actual Korean in American shows, so it’s refreshing to see on television. 

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!

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