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Fluency in Korean Required 130 Movies

2009/03/01 | Permalink | Source

By Kim Se-jeong
Staff Reporter

Watching TV is a well-known method of language education. However, one might find it difficult to sit for hours without understanding much.

Jimmy Lin, a Taiwanese representative in Korea, persisted in doing it and mastered Korean, a language he only began to learn in college.

"I watched about 130 movies in one year", he said in Korean during an interview with The Korea Times last week.

He was a student at the Department of Korean Language and Culture of National Chengchi University in Taipei. Studying at Pusan National University in 2001 as an exchange student, he said he wasn't satisfied with the number of hours allocated to learning Korean.

"It was only three hours per week", which wasn't enough for him.

So he decided to spend more time watching Korean TV and films. Of course, that wasn't all he did. He hung out with Korean friends practicing Korean and attended classes taught in Korean but still gives the most credit to the time he spent watching Korean movies.

When he returned home and graduated, his command of the Korean language took his life in an unexpected direction.

He was recruited to become a correspondent for Apple Daily, a Hong Kong-based publication in Taipei, covering Hallyu, the Korean wave of contemporary culture that swept through Asia.

He got the job because he could speak Korean and polished his ability even more while on the job.

The job required frequent trips to Korea, attending press conferences and interviewing Korean celebrities. "I interviewed 30-40 Korean celebrities", he said. Among them were Jo In-sung, Jang Nara, Lee Young-ae and Kim Tae-hee.

Lin said he had always taken photos with each celebrity after an interview. On his laptop are 30 some photos of him with the Korean idols, which he sometimes peruses to reminisce.

With a few celebrities, he developed a personal relationship. "I know Jo and Jang. I would like to meet them, if possible, while I am in Korea".

He has an unforgettable memory of the latter.

He was in Korea covering Jang in 2003. A Korean tabloid one morning had the headline, "Handsome Taiwanese Journalist Fell in Love with Jang". The article quoted him as saying, "I like her no end. She is very kind and cute. I sent her emails, and hope to hear from her soon".

The article that got him into trouble, Lin said, was blown out of proportion. The Korean reporter who wrote the story called him asking a few questions, yet he never actually said what was quoted.

Lin is an expert on contemporary Korean culture, ranging from pop music to TV series and film. He is quick ― even quicker than some Koreans ― in matching films with leading actors and actresses. His favorite movie is "Peppermint Candy", starring Seol Kyueog-ku, who impressed Lin a great deal. "He is a very good actor".

He also likes The Era of Girls, a teenage girl-group.

His journalism career ended in 2006, after which he began his own food business, which didn't last long. Again, his command of Korean earned him a job, this time at the Taiwanese Information Office as a Korean specialist, and he was posted to Korea in January on a four-year mission.

Lin said Korea is better and more widely known in Taiwan than vice versa, thanks to Hallyu. When it was at its peak, Korean movies and soap operas drew a stream of Taiwanese to movie theaters and their television sets.

He praised the Korean government for its strategic approach in promoting its cultural content abroad.
Jimmy Lin, right, with Kim Tae-hee

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