I suppose it started from Kpop?- Now before people start wagging their fingers at me, let me rewind and try to explain.
I didn’t always have the most amiable thoughts towards Korea. Because of some bad friendships and experiences, at one point I decided to simplify my heritage by saying that all Koreans were cliquish, not wanting to be my friend, and too hard to understand. With this oversimplification, I went on with my life only crossing over to my Korean side to eat its delicious food.
But then one day in eighth grade, my Korean friend started talking about these Korean dramas and music. I knew about the dramas; my mom watched them a lot. But for the music, beforehand I had a bad impression of them because of the first group I was exposed to in fourth grade, the Wonder Girls. They were all skinny, pretty, and perfectly synchronized: everything I wasn’t. I immediately despised them and settled to make fun of them and judge them harshly.
However, the group my friend showed me wasn’t all bubble gum pop. It was rock based! The group was CNBLUE, a popular rock/pop group in Korea. I liked the more layered sounds of the group compared to the song “So Hot” by the Wonder Girls I heard years ago. So I gave them a try and listened to some CNBLUE songs when I got the chance.
Then I moved to Montreal and met Louisa, a Haitian girl who is pretty much an honorary Korean. She ran up to me, the new kid, and immediately asked if I was Korean. After I answered, she started asking me all these questions about different groups like Big Bang or BAP (Black Eyed Peas? Big Bang theory, the TV show?) or 2NE1.
I was lost. And she stared at me, stunned. She couldn’t understand how I didn’t know my own culture’s music.
At about this time, my brother got some random Korean songs too. One day I found ‘Sorry Sorry’ by Super Junior on the computer and gave it a try. As he got some songs here and there from Big Bang and Louisa fed me songs from 2NE1 and BAP, I slowly came to love Kpop in all its weird eccentricity and colour.
Even my parents noticed and kind of laughed if off. Aha, they said, Ashley is listening to Korean music now? Does she even know what they’re saying? (Which, by the way, I’m understanding more because I’m listening~)
From the music grew a longing to understand the language. Gradually I started adding Korean words to my everyday conversation and tried to be intentional in its usage. From the language grew a longing to understand the history and mindset.
And then, there was nothing stopping me. Over this break, I’ve read Escape from Camp 14, a story about Shin Dong-Hyuk, a man who was born and raised in a North Korean concentration camp and escaped and Clay Walls, a story about a Korean family moving to America in the 1920’s. I’ve also read The Birth of Korean Cool. And I have another book coming through mail. As for the music? Rather than listening to a genre in English, I’m instinctively listening to the same type of music in Korean, be it rap, indie, rock, or jazz.
I don’t know if this is a phase I’m going through, or if it’s a break through. Is it healthy to want to know this much about a country? What will I get out of this at the end of it? Should I be investing this much time into learning about America? I’m not sure. Either way, it’s fun to dive into a culture and I anticipate learning more about Korea~ 🙂