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[HERALD INTERVIEW]Talk show mirrors diverse views on Korean culture

2007/01/29 | 1714 views | Permalink | Source

Globalization isn't just a word used for political and economic situations. The power of its foreign influence has begun to filter into other countries, and Korea is no exception.

KBS, the country's largest broadcaster, made an attempt to objectify the country from the viewpoint of the third person - foreigners living in Korea. The state-run broadcaster airs its "Global Talk Show Minyoduleui Suda (Girls' Talk) every Sunday morning. The first show deals with images of Korea and its people in the eyes of 16 beautiful ladies.

After four months on the air, the weekly program is gaining widespread popularity with viewer ratings hovering in the 12 percent range.

There are still pros and cons concerning the program. Some say the show relies heavily on the appearance of the foreign guests with their provocative costumes that show a lot of skin, while supporters say it tells viewers what Koreans are actually like.

Although it can sometimes be difficult to understand the intention behind the show, it seems obvious that viewers are anxious to hear foreign women speaking Korean so fluently. And it is undoubtedly their passion and love toward Korea that makes viewers happy and feel proud of their country.

The Korea Herald met three ladies appearing in the 16-guest show on Saturday and asked about their lives in Korea and their thoughts on the country.

The three ladies from Asia, Europe and North America said it is warm-hearted Koreans and their dynamic culture that brought and kept them here.

"I have a passion for Korea which started seven years ago because of Korean drama and music", said Dominique Noel, an exchange student majoring in Asian studies from Montreal, Canada. "Hallyu (the Korean wave) isn't just in Asia but it is also in North America. Although it's smaller back home, hallyu is a reason why I came here. I really have a big passion for Korean singers and actors", she added.

"I met a lot of Korean friends when I was staying in Beijing in my second year at college and got interested in Korean culture and language. I have just fallen in love with Korea since then", said Eva Popiel, from Britain.

"Koreans are more open and honest about their feelings, while Japanese don't openly say exactly what they have in mind. I feel more comfortable about speaking directly, in the Korean way", said Junko Sagawa, who wants to be a reporter bridging Koreans and Japanese.

Asked whether Korea is embracing multiculturalism, the three ladies said "yes" but pointed out that the country needs more time and effort to fully understand "differences".

"I think Korea is at an on-going stage toward multiculturalism, but the country needs to learn how to embrace different opinions. Especially, I can't say what I want to say because I am Japanese. It is weird to see Koreans accepting comments that westerners make while criticizing the same comments I make. So my Japanese and Chinese colleagues are more cautious when making comments on Korean culture and people", said Sagawa.

"When you come from Montreal, it is so multicultural that from the time you are young you are taught to accept everybody. But here its so different that people always stare at me and say weigukin (foreigner)", said Noel who came to Korea five months ago but can speak fluently in Korean already.

There were hard times personally, due to their different backgrounds and looks.

"I had the experience of my boyfriend's parents getting worried about our relationship because I am a foreigner. It seems that they felt relieved that I am not blond and look Asian but after they found out that my mother is Japanese, there were not happy about it", said Popiel.

"I'm scared of that. Korean parents might be worried about because I am white, it is worse because white girls don't have the best reputation because of Hollywood movies. Who wouldn't be worried if the girl looks so North Amercian and sexually liberated. They need to know that not all Western girls are like that", said Noel.

"I hope that (both Koreans and foreigners) come to understand each other through the show", she added.

By Cho Chung-un

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