Story by Shane Henry:
1) When were you first introduced to Korea?
I was first introduced to Korean culture while playing the dancing game ‘Pump It Up’ (PIU) in 2001. It is a game similar to DDR which mainly had K-Pop as its main attraction. I got to learn a lot about old school K-Pop artists like Clon, BabyVox, SES, 1TYM, H.O.T, Seo Taiji and many others. I didn’t think much about K-Pop at the time.
It was a great alternative to the music we had back in those days. The game was only the catalyst though; I travelled to S.Korea in 2006 as a UK representative for a major world tournament called WPF (World Pump It Up Festival). During my trip, I got the chance to tour parts of Seoul and meet many amazing people around the world. I felt it was a life changing experience. Without that trip, I wouldn’t be where I am at today…I have now travelled there 5 times, and each time I went, I had many amazing experiences, and my love of Korean culture has grown tenfold. Language exchange meetups made me have many lovely friends, and because of that, I feel like I have some sort of place in this world.
2) Why are you interested in Korean culture?
At first, I didn’t understand Korean culture, or any other culture for that fact. As if I was oblivious to the world around me. Haha!! After that trip, I had a huge dosage of their culture and it instantly clicked with my tastes and the way that I am as a person. I love it because of the people…the people are amazing to me. They are welcoming, curious, willing to learn, and they know how to have fun. Their history is amazing and genuinely interesting in how their country came to be. The mannerisms in their everyday life, which is also ingrained into their own language. When I went to Korea the second time, I remember going on the Metro going to my hotel…all the ahjumma’s looking at me with fierce looks. I was kinda nervous back then because I didn’t know how the people would view me. Maybe because I am black?? I don’t know. But as time went on, the people are absolutely lovely to me, and now that I understand their culture, I want it to become a part of the person that I am. I think the most decisive moments were when certain ahjumma’s and ahjussi’s loved the way I was…one person saying that I was a diamond in the rough, and that I will hopefully shine one day if I ever do move to Korea. I want to give back to those people by understanding their culture and hopefully become a part of it.
3) What aspect of Korea do you like the most?
One of the aspects that sticks out most for me, is the convenience. Food, bars and coffee shops everywhere, Wifi is everywhere, chicken delivered to you IN THE PARK, Metro with Wifi as standard with proper air con, and a lot of modern technology. But I don’t want to get things twisted. There is hardship among many Koreans that hardly gets talked about, mainly the work ethic, and the way of life over there. Its very hard over there. But I think the biggest thing of all, is that Korea is generally like a massive community, and that they are together in the grand scheme of things. Family matters, and I often see that people have people close to each other over there. The camaraderie among them is amazing. Its hard to explain.
I guess what I want to say, is that being in Korea, I can forge experiences out of nothing, and make those moments memorable. I am a different person there. Experiences make me go back, and I will keep going there. I need my Hongdae sesh…
‘Inspired by KOREA series’ is an ongoing collection of posts by YOU! Since we are a community of Korea lovers, we want to share your passion and how you are inspired by Korea! Submit your story of how you found out about Korean culture and what draws you to Korea!