By Daisy Jemutai
Ever heard about the Hallyu wave? It literally translates to the ‘flow of Korea’; referring to the ever increasing global popularity of Korean culture. The wave encompasses everything from food, dressing, Korean drama and music. It has found its way in Kenya. Kenyans are listening to K-pop. Some are part of the fandoms of EXO, BTS, NCT, Twice, Red Velvet, just to mention but a few.
In June 2018, a K-drama and K-pop fan base meet up happened at ‘Food train’ by Sushi Soo restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya. It was the first of its kind. I attended and was blown away by the number of people that showed up. Soon after, a second meet-up was held in August. This took place because of one Ms. Siham Abdikadir, the founder of ‘koreanenthusiast.com,’ a blog that celebrates and promotes Korean culture in Kenya. We met and sat down for a chat.
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 blog about Korean Culture in Kenya on the side.
You started your blog on Korean culture and went ahead to start meet-ups for Korean enthusiasts in Kenya? Tell us about that.
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 one was creating and 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. They had a ‘KCON feeling’ and 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 it made me realize 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 founded your blog and organized these Korean cultural events, what are your goals and objectives going forward?
I would like to build on both my technology and my 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 self-studies to improve my proficiency and practiced a little at Mahanaim College Nairobi but still I cannot speak 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 exchange 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 on different sectors.
Photos: Courtesy of Siham Abdul