By Daisy Jemutai
Have you heard about the Hallyu wave? You have probably heard of BTS and the gamut of Kpop stars that are sweeping the world with their moving music and dazzling dance performances. They make the assemblage of Korea’s cultural diplomacy; a form of soft diplomacy that has won the hearts of people the world over, literally flowing across nations, earning the moniker, ‘hallyu’ which loosely translates to the ‘flow of Korea’. The wave comprises of food, fashion, Korean dramas, and pop music. In Kenya, the fan base is slowly building up. Kenyans are listening to K-pop. Other than BTS, people are listening to EXO, NCT, Twice, and Red Velvet. But not that many though. Just a select group of fans within Nairobi.
In June 2018, a meet up to discuss and catch up on the latest K-dramas and K-pop music happened at Sushi Soo restaurant in Nairobi. Many, a group of young enthusiastic fans, met. Another meet up followed in August. Curious to find more about this amusing group, I caught up with its founder Ms. Siham Abdikadir, the proprietor of ‘koreanenthusiast.com,’ a blog that celebrates and promotes Korean culture in Kenya. We met and had the following conversation.
Please introduce yourself
My name is Siham Abdikadir . I am the founder of the Korea Enthusiast blog. I am a Software Developer by profession and I blog about Korean Culture in Kenya on the side.
You started your blog and then started meet-ups for Korean enthusiasts in Kenya. Tell us more.
First of all, creating a website for that blog was a big achievement. It took me 6 to 7 months of coding and creating it into what it is today. It is a platform that has allowed me to share my passion and interest in Korean Culture. Another achievement came in organizing the Korean enthusiasts’ meet-ups. My goal was to bring together all Korean enthusiasts in Kenya and offer a space to share and learn more about Korea. The ones we’ve had so far have had that ‘KCON feeling’. We got to sell a lot of K-pop merchandise and played lots of games. We also had K-pop dance sessions. The events were successful and made me realize that there are actually many Kenyan people interested in Korean culture.
What has inspired you to continue with what you are doing?
Well… my motivation comes from people. You can learn something from anyone around you. Look, if Sam Okyere can be the youth cultural diplomat for Ghana in Korea, why can’t I represent Korea in Kenya?
Having formed your blog and organized these K-cultural events, what are your goals and objectives going forward?
I would like to build on both of my technology and Korean culture blogging skills over the next several years. Focusing on materials that will benefit both Kenya and Korea like apps and books, to help those intending to venture into Korean culture research. I want to immerse myself in understanding Korean culture and help keep Korea and Kenya’s culture as close as possible.
Have you encountered any challenges?
Yes, I have.
- First, convincing my parents (devout Muslims) on what I am doing and bringing my passion of two contrasting cultures together – my ethnic Somali and Korean.
- Explaining to Kenyans about Korean culture, language, food and tradition. I received a cold reception at first.
- Discouragements from friends and colleagues because they felt I am not benefiting from this. And teaching a foreign culture yet I am Somali.
- It is very difficult to practice Korean language outside Korea. I did some studies to improve my proficiency and practiced a little at Mahanaim College Nairobi but I cannot speak that well.
What are your thoughts about the K-pop reception in Kenya and what it means for the Cultural Exchange between Korea and Kenya?
Kenyans interested in K-pop are on the rise. Some are even participating in activities that other International fans are in, such as holding birthday projects for their favorite k-pop band members and visiting children homes to help out with money collected from fan bases. We look forward to having our K-CON East Africa. With such events, there will be more cultural exchanges between Korea and Kenya.
What is the future for the Korea Enthusiast?
Through continued blogging on Korean culture and holding cultural forums, I hope to contribute to the growth of Korea-Kenya cultural relations. This will help to promote Korean culture in Kenya and help Kenyans to efficiently cooperate with Koreans in other different sectors.
Photos: Courtesy of Siham Abdul