When I first learned about South Korea roughly 6 years ago, it was certainly through its entertainment industry. All I could recall about the peninsula was what I’d learned through many years ago in high school (North Korea is the Hermit Kingdom and there was a longstanding war between the two Koreas), so the entertainment side was refreshing. I wanted to go to Seoul. It wasn’t on my initial bucket list, but it had wiggled its way up to the top.
What I didn’t realize, was just how many other people were introduced to South Korea through Korean dramas, film and pop music, wanted to go to Seoul, too. And only for those reasons.
I wanted to come and experience the foods, the landscape, and culture. I wanted to increase my understanding of the people and the country’s history. For some, that’s also true. For many more, the fantasy of Seoul being the entirety of the country is very real. I’m often asked questions along the lines of, “Have you seen any celebrities?” or “Are all the guys as handsome as they are on the dramas?” At one point in time, I used to live in Los Angeles, so I was used to these type of questions about Hollywood, but it gets to me a bit while living here. Is this the only thing that people want to know about?
No person, place or thing is the sum of all its stereotypes, so Korea is no different. It’s stuck in the muck of Hallyu Wave though, and people are too lazy to seek out more information. Living in Los Angeles, I was used to these questions because I was in the county that Hollywood exists within — many call it the effects of living in/near La La Land. Living here, I’ve realized that there are foreigners here with this mindset. Look, I’m naive, obviously, even in my thirties. I thought that anyone coming to South Korea would know that the whole, entire-in-its-fullness country is not just the city of Seoul. How could they not want to learn about the various temples, museums or adventures within nature? How could the historic information not appeal to them? I wasn’t a huge fan of history in grade school but if I’m going to be living somewhere, I need to know more than the pop culture side of things.
I want to go to Seoul, too, but I also want to leave this place with more enrichment than what I came with.