The Korean Enthusiast

By Daisy Jemutai

The Korean enthusiasts at one of the meet-ups

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.

Ms. Siham Abdikadir

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE EMBASSY OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA IN SEOUL HOSTS JAMHURI DAY CELEBRATIONS

His Excellency Ambassador Mohamed Gello hosted a celebratory reception to commemorate 55 years of independence of the Republic of Kenya on 11th December, 2018 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seoul. The celebrations served to amplify Kenya’s prestige in the Republic of Korea and provided an opportunity to celebrate Kenya’s remarkable attainments at home, regionally and internationally since independence in 1963.

In attendance were about 350 guests comprising officials from the Government of the Republic of Korea, Ambassadors and other representatives from the diplomatic corps, associate agencies including the International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), Korea Trade and Investment Authority (KOTRA), Importers Association (KOIMA), Chamber of Commerce (KCCI) and the Korea Trade Association (KITA). The Kenyan fraternity in Korea also came in their numbers in a show of solidarity under the auspices of the Association of Kenyans in Korea (KCK).

In his remarks, Ambassador Gello indicated that Jamhuri Day was a reminder of our hard won freedoms and a call of duty for all Kenyans to safeguard the fruits of our hard work as a nation. He highlighted the remarkable economic milestones and the blue print for future progress captured in the Presidential Legacy dubbed the Big Four Agenda. He pointed out Kenya’s growing influence in international affairs following the successful conclusion of the high level blue economy conference that was held in Nairobi on 26th-28th November, 2018 and in this respect, he expressed appreciation for the support and participation by Korea. In addition, Ambassador Gello lauded the vibrant pace that characterizes relations between Kenya and Korea underpinned by the various high level exchanges including the visits of the Korean Prime Minister Mr. Lee Nak-Yeon to Kenya in July as well as Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Amb, Monica Juma to Korea in October, 2018. He also hailed Korea’s stewardship in the ongoing effort to establish peace in the Korean Peninsula.

The Guest of Honour, Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister, Amb. Joong Wo-You, in his statement recognized that Kenya was the first African country in which Korea established diplomatic presence thus providing great impetus for the current strong ties between the two countries. He recognized Kenya’s strategic significance in regional and continental affairs and reiterated Korea’s commitment to enhance bilateral cooperation. Representing the Korean National Assembly at the occasion was the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and President of the National Assembly’s Forum for Africa’s New Era Ambassador Lee Ju-young who emphasized Kenya’s unlimited potential as a regional hub for ICTs, commerce and industry. He called for the optimization of bilateral engagement in areas of mutual interest including energy, infrastructure, health, education and agriculture.

The colourful occasion featured a Kenya Corner which served delicious Kenyan cuisine such as Mukimo, chapati, ugali, managu, samosas, bhajia and kachumbari that proved popular with both Kenyans and Koreans. A beverage point was also set up to provide a taste of premium Kenyan AA coffee which has to date found resonance with many Koreans.

Friends of Kenya including KOICA, Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Daewoo Engineering and Construction, Korea Tea Board, Paradise Group, Kenya Airways, Korea Federation of Textile Industries (KOFOTI), Goldrock Korea, LG Corp, Korea-Kenya Economic Forum KKEF, KEB Hana Bank (Itaewon) and Yooshin Engineering Company sent elaborate flower arrangements in recognition of this momentous landmark in our nation’s history. The profusion of beautiful colour was testament to Kenya’s influence and outreach in Korea as well the goodwill of our interlocutors and cordial relations nurtured over the years.

By Lorraine A. Owele

 Chairing the Korea Community in Kenya

Mr. Kang on the left

We speak to the Chairperson of the Korea Community Association in Kenya.

Kindly introduce yourself.

My name is Mr. Kang SoonKyu and I am the current Chairperson of the Korea Community in Kenya. I came to Kenya with my family in 1994 after 2 years of working in Cameroon. Arriving in Kenya, I was quite surprised at what I observed. The climate, the development of cities and the well-built infrastructure were good compared to West Africa.

My company is Hankang Enterprises LTD. We deal with importation of Korean car parts.

I have served as the chairman of Korean community in Kenya for the last two years and will continue to serve for two more years.

Tell us a little about Korean Community in Kenya. When was it formed, and what are some of its key responsibilities.

Korean community in Kenya was founded in 1985. The purpose is to promote the development and welfare of Korean society through the ties and unity of Koreans in Kenya and also contribute to the development and friendship between Korea and Kenya.

How are you able to maintain that sense of togetherness as a community of Koreans? Do you have events where you meet or activities that you do together?

For the last two years, we have had singing and athletics contests for Koreans. We have also made a Korean address & telephone book to help us contact each other and interact more easily.

Sometime back, we help a photography contest and the winning picture was published in our calendars. A calligraphy contest was organized by the King Sejong institute at Kenyatta University that we had sponsored. Apart from interacting amongst ourselves in Kenya we also believe in giving back to the community we live in. For that reason we have sponsored the medical treatment of six disabled Kenyans are glad that we brought back some hope and joy into their lives.

What kind of work are most Koreans in Kenya doing?

There are about 1,300 Korean residents in Kenya, 60% of which work with missionaries & NGO’s. The rest are working in companies such as LG electronics, Samsung electronics, Sana industries (wigs), Solpia Kenya (wigs), other trading companies as well as travel agencies, restaurants, and construction companies. The missionaries and NGO’s are active in education, health care, agriculture, orphans care and many other fields.

What do you love about Kenya, and by large, what do you think most Koreans love about Kenya?

If you ask Koreans what they like about Kenya, the first answer would be the climate. The atmosphere is comfortable and relaxed unlike Korea where everyone is always in a hurry. The mix of different cultures also makes it a great environment for their children to study in. This allows them to not only master foreign languages but to also live with people from other cultures and different traditions, making them all rounded.

Do you enjoy taking Kenyan food?

I mainly eat Korean food but I indulge in Kenyan food from time to time. I usually eat ugali, managu, githeri but my favorite is nyama choma with kachumbari.

As a group, how do you relate with the Korean Embassy in Kenya. Have they been supportive?

The Korean embassy in Kenya is cooperative and we have had good relations. They work hard to make things more safe and convenient for us. The Korean Ambassador to Kenya Hon. Kwon Young Dae also takes part in various activities with our community, aside from his diplomatic duties.

What is your dream of the Korea Community in Kenya? Also, what do you hope for the future of Korea-Kenya relations?

Korea and Kenya are steadily developing a strong relationship in diplomacy, economics and culture which I believe will continue to grow in future. To accelerate the growth, we hope to restart the direct flights that had been stopped between Korea and Kenya. I hope Koreans will settle here and contribute to the development of Kenya and Korea.

By Bhavisha Patel

 

Living in S. Korea

By Beatrice Okech

I came here in the month of August 2010 for graduate school at the Academy of Korean Studies. This was eight months after graduating from the University of Nairobi. My plan was to go back to Kenya after two years of graduate school but Korea got me. I now live in Seoul and work at the Kenyan Embassy.

Experience with food, culture, people, technology and general life.

I love Korean food. In my early years every meal was an adventure. Mention the endless days of sugared meats, raw meat, live octopus, spicy cucumber and cabbage and sticky rice. There was so much to try!

Into daily life, I was struck by culture shock. First thing was bowing to seniors and sitting on floors. My knees got a beating. Second, was the endless use of swiping cards and the ‘smart life.’ There is little to no carrying of cash here. It drove me crazy at first but I got the hang of it. Suffice to say, automation, efficiency and convenience is the order of the day.

But life has been fun. Korean people are generous and courteous, with many willing to reach out. Although there are stark differences in our approach to life all is possible because we’ve tried to understand each other.

Highlights & Challenges

Korean winter is biting cold and one needs to prepare mentally. That, and buying winter clothes. The culture is very interesting. Having interacted a lot with locals, I have learnt much from Koreans that I will live to apply in life. We have a lot in common such as respect for strangers and elders. I am now a stickler for order and punctuality thanks to them. There is also a serious level of courtesy and hospitality, and the will to work hard in all things. Koreans like to develop themselves and the government supports and facilitates this through various forms of infrastructure and public facilities.

However, Koreans are very competitive. I am moderately competitive and leaning towards being a collaborator. This became a challenge in certain areas but I got used to it. Once you internalize their culture and environment, you understand their ways and how to work around them.

Working at the Embassy.

I love my job. Working for Kenya and Kenyans is richly satisfying. I speak Korean language and get to interact with Koreans daily, where I tell them all about Kenya. When I attend a cultural exhibition or tourism festival, it fills me with great joy to introduce Koreans to my wonderful country. It is indeed my pleasure since this is part of what brought me here; to try be Korea’s eye to Kenya and Kenya’s eye to Korea. Koreans look for ways to connect with Kenyans for diverse reasons and I am always happy to be part. From time to time, the Embassy hosts cultural events where we hold cultural programs for students. I have come across people who do not know anything or have misconstrued perceptions about Kenya and taken it as an opportunity to shine a light.

The Kenya Community in Korea(KCK) has kept me grounded over the years. As much as Korea is an exciting place to be, sometimes there are long and challenging days. Only people like you can relate and KCK has been that for me. We occasionally get together for some serious Kenyan-style hangouts; where we share Kenyan food, listen to Kenyan music, talk politics and share experiences.

Word of advice to those intending to come live/study in Korea.

Know how long you are going to stay. Be conscious about this over your entire stay. Learn the language. Life will be much more convenient and you will not miss out on opportunities. Be moderate to highly social. It is a pathway to money, family, careers and good mental health. Then, develop an open mind. An open mind is a good shock absorber and a good remedy for home sickness. It also makes you grow. You will find things you have never come across but have to live with.

Bring items that help you connect with the motherland; curio, music, maize flour, Royco, and Kenyan-wear. Being abroad has unique opportunities, but your connection to homeland keeps you grounded. Subscribe to health insurance as soon as you get here. Finally, let someone that matters know you are here. Register with the Kenya Embassy and the Kenyan Community in Korea.

 

We Love Korea

We meet two ladies who are passionate about Korea. Let’s see what they have to say.

 Ms. SANJANA BHANSALI

Tell us about yourself?

My name is Sanjana Bhansali. I am a Psychology graduate from the University of Nairobi. I have been learning Korean language and culture for the last three years. I indulge in photography and happen to be a board game fanatic.

When were you first drawn to Korean culture. How did you come to love Korean dramas and K-Pop?

My first encounter was in high school when a friend pointed me to ‘‘Boys over Flowers,’ a then popular Korean drama. I noticed a lot of similarities with the Indian culture and therefore did not suffer culture shock. It was to be the beginning of a journey of endless K-dramas and as today I have watched 72.

Who are some of your favorite K-Pop stars and K-Dramas.

That’s tough! Just like any other fan I have an endless list of favorites. However, I’ll mention a few who have caused goosebumps! First, my dream man is EXO’s Kai. He is quite the heartthrob. Other than Kai, there are many other Kpop stars who have left their mark; Miss A’s SUZY, GOT7’S, Mark AND Jinyoung, MONSTA X’s leader SHOWNU and RED VELVET’S Seoulgi. The list goes on.

I binge watch K-dramas. The most outstanding to date are,’Boys over flowers,’ ‘the Heirs,’ ‘Kill me Heal me,’ and ‘Wang’s Family.’

How can you compare Korean culture to Indian culture. Care mention any similarities. And differences.

The relationship between India and Korea dates back many years. There is respect for culture and a trace of similar religion(Buddhism) in both societies. There are other similarities such as language, where the commonality of words as chai (tea), mother (omma/amma),father(appa/appa) are surprisingly similar.

You’ve done your Test of Proficiency in Korean language (TOPIK) and attained level 3. How has the journey been like? And what advice do you have for students or anyone willing to reach that level, or go beyond.

Achieving TOPIK level 3 was very hard and I obviously did not achieve it on my first attempt. Although I have not moved beyond level 3, I take pride in where I have reached. This is despite not having been to Korea even once. The journey was quite difficult with several hurdles. I used to practice past examinations and sample papers every day.

Well, when one experiences the language and culture in the real sense, the individual develops their grasp. I tried to use several methods to reach that level. The first thing I thought necessary was to identify my weaknesses in the exam. Upon realizing my weakness, especially in the exam’s writing segment, I resolved to put in the extra efforts. Nonetheless, I equally gave importance to other segments and at minimum did one paper every day.

I also tried to broaden my language grasp by reading Korean news articles and watching the K-dramas without subtitles. It allowed me to measure my improvement process. I also kept a separate diary and kept filling it with Korean vocabulary. I still add new words to date.

What’s next; what do you hope to use with your TOPIK 3? Do you plan to go study in S.Korea?

I am planning to apply for a scholarship to go study in S. Korea. Upon completion of studies, I also hope to settle there. The culture, the people and the national values that the country espouses, do attract me.

Ms. SEHRISH NADEEM

Tell us about yourself?
My name is Sehrish Nadeem. I specialized in counselling psychology at the University of Nairobi. I have a great interest in Korea language and Korean culture.

When were you first drawn to Korean culture. How did you come to love Korean dramas and K-Pop? 
I was introduced to Korean in my first year of studies and was immediately drawn towards it. My teacher Prof. Park would always encourage me. My speaking skills improved and  I eventually became fond of Korean dramas and the Korean culture.

Who are some of your favorite K-Pop stars and K-Dramas. And why?
My K-pop favorites are EXO, GOT7 and MONSTAX. They are extremely talented and passionate about music and their vast music styles never fail to impress me. My favorite K-drama is Goblin which has an amazing storyline and a line of brilliant actors.

How do you compare Korean culture to Pakistani culture. Care mention any similarities and differences?
Both cultures are similar when it comes to respect towards elders and superiors. The TV dramas in both cultures are very interesting. Pakistan does not have group singers however just like Korea solo singers are very famous internationally.

You’ve done your Test of Proficiency in Korean language (TOPIK) and achieved level 3. How has the journey been like? And what advice can you give students or anyone willing to reach that level, or go beyond?
The journey has been hard but it has taught me a lot. Reaching level 3 requires patience because while you are still studying you don’t know if you will succeed. Practicing for at least 2 hours a day and learning new grammars and vocabulary daily has helped me a lot. It is time consuming but practice makes perfect so it is important to take small steps daily to achieve a greater goal.

6. What’s next; what do you hope to use with your TOPIK 3? Do you plan to go study in S. Korea?
I plan to pursue my masters in clinical and counselling psychology in South Korea and I wish to achieve a higher level in TOPIK and hope to do so by studying much harder.

 Understanding Cinema. Appreciating Film

By George Kinuthia

Image Credits: https://alchetron.com

Often, we do not give much thought to the role of cinema in our lives and society in general. Not generalizing but I’d say most of us start out by watching movies that we think we will enjoy, or those that we already know are popular. That is sort of how our taste in movies begins. Eventually, we choose to stick to preferred genres – the familiarity is sure to set us into that movie mode. Occasionally though, we may venture into unfamiliar territory; and surprisingly get to enjoy. Either that or watching becomes as much a challenge as trying to understand the story embedded in the movie.

Films have an astonishing power to induce emotion by portraying our experiences, vulnerabilities, hopes, fantasies, dreams and aspirations while at the same time entertaining, educating and transmitting culture. Every country has stories to tell, about their past, their culture now, and views of what the future will look like through their eyes. You know those scenes with students, sassy girls, ghosts, soldiers, clowns, politicians, vagrants, artistes e.t.c – all form a part of social and cultural identity. Movies may as well be the most effective way to understand a society. Good films may leave us scared for ourselves and more respectful towards things we hold dear. That is therapy right there.

Movies have the ability to create controversy, and tell difficult stories. They create conversation. Pick a simple yet magnificent film like The King and the Clown. The film subtly addresses homosexuality in the conservative Korean society, while at the same time exposing such issues as political tension, corruption and other vices that the society faced at that particular time setting. Amidst all these, there is humor through satire, and values of courage, love, loyalty, commitment, and a beautiful sense of music still prevail. The same can be said about 18 Hours. In this 2017 film, a pedestrian is involved in a hit-and-run that leaves him with serious head injuries. What follows is an insight into the plight of Kenya’s healthcare system – precisely the sorry state of emergency care services. Still, there is love, resilience, and a unique sense of beauty in the story.

If you want to appreciate cinema in a different way, and from a different perspective, then the best way would be to plunge into those movies that you are not familiar with. In the spirit of the magazine – and if you haven’t tried it already – why not bridge to a movie from Korea, if you are Kenyan; a Kenyan one, if you’re Korean; or both, if you are neither?

 

 

 

 

Korean Studies at the University of Nairobi

From the year 2010, the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS) supported a networking project that was run by the Faculty of Arts in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) at the University of Nairobi (UoN). Three years later, it gave way to the establishment of Korean Studies at UoN. Housed in the Department of Linguistics and Languages, Korean Studies admitted its first students in September 2013.

This course majorly entails teaching Korean language, literature, culture, philosophy, economics and history. There are two programmes on offer: a Certificate in Korean Language, Literature and Culture; and a Bachelor of Arts in Korean Studies. Most of the core courses are taught by Prof. Yuhjin Park, the Korea Foundation (KF) Visiting Professor to UoN. The certificate course covers only eight months and admits students from any field of study. It therefore has a huge student enrollment. There have been four classes so far, and the numbers have steadily been going up.

On the other hand, the BA course covers four academic years. In each of the eight semesters, students take at least two core units on Korean Studies. The first cohort of students will graduate on December 15, 2017. They will be the first to graduate with a BA in Korean Studies from an African University. The numbers admitted to the BA course have also been rising with time, as Korean Studies gains popularity each day.

This popularity is in part the result of the many extracurricular activities students of Korean Studies take part in. There exists a vibrant students association, the Korean Studies Students Association (KSSA). Students taking any programme in Korean Studies can register as members of KSSA. The association is student led, but has the KF Visiting Professor as the patron. KSSA members take part in at least one activity in a semester.

The Korean Studies students

From July through December 2016, the association had Korea in Our Village, an activity funded by the AKS. During this six month’s project, Korean Studies students interacted with the Korean community in Kenya, shared Korean language and culture experiences with pupils and students of different institutions in Nairobi, and learned a thing or two by visiting Korean companies and institutions in Nairobi and Limuru. Experiences from Korea in Our Village are published on a YouTube channel (Korea in Our Village) and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Koreainourvillage/.

Korea Quarterly Magazine is another KSSA project as members collect news on matters relating to Kenya and Korea. This magazine will run for at least one year, and is also funded by AKS. Such activities as this have solidly improved the state of Korean Studies in the university. They have also become avenues of marketing Korean Studies at UoN both to students and to the public community. As students like to study courses that are fun as well as promising, Korean Studies continues to become an option every year.

The main stakeholders of Korean Studies at the University of Nairobi are AKS, KF, and the Korean Embassy in Kenya. While AKS kick started the project, KF provides a Korean Language teacher among other academic support. The Korean Embassy, on the other hand, has always supported both academic and extracurricular activities in Korean Studies at the university. There have been three speech competitions and one Quiz on Korea, all organised and closely supported by the Korean Embassy in Kenya. Winners of these competitions walked away with huge prizes, including chances to visit Korea.

In recent times, a Korea Corner has been established at UoN. This is a Korean culture experience room prepared by the Embassy. It has provided the perfect place for other students and staff of the university to come in contact with Korean culture, hence boosting the image of Korean Studies. We have also had the support of Korean Companies in Kenya, like Samsung and LG which have opened up chances for students to work and learn more about Korea. KOICA has also given students a chance to go to Korea for a period of up to four months, in which they engage in an intense language programme.

 

University of Nairobi’s Korea Corner

Korean Corner is a room for Korean cultural experience established by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea to Kenya at the University of Nairobi back in 2016. Initially, the plan was driven by the dream to put up a teleconferencing room where E-classes for Korean Studies could be held. The sponsor, Korean Foundation, had in mind a room where students could enjoy Korean cultural exchange at its visual best. It is also meant to display the history of South Korea; as well as allow university staff and students of the Korean language to have a preview of the richness that Korean culture embodies. The corner hosts beautiful framed photos, ceramics, a humongous LG TV screen and masks that elaborately showcase the history and culture of the Korean people. Its establishment marked a milestone in bringing Korean culture to Kenya.

Upon entering the room, one is met by wall pictorials, each of which embodies the myriad aspects of Korean culture. At the entrance one is met by the hands of a lady strumming ‘Gayageum’, one of the most popular Korean traditional musical instruments. At the opposite is a bride in ‘Hollyebok’ resplendent ‘Hanbok’(한복), a display of the Korean traditional wedding gown. The attire’s multiple colours do echo the vibrant ceremonies the Koreans practice to today. Among the other framed photos is the ‘Four Seasons of Korea.’ What is captivating about this picture is the way each season is shown through its colours, giving the viewer a vivid imagination of how warm and sunny summer is; how fiery autumn can be; how beautiful and white snowy winter is; as well as the flowery splendour that is spring. Another highlight is the Hanok (traditional Korean house) painting that gives  much insight into the kind of housing that is native to Korea.

Koreans can use the room to display cultural items. There are different ceramic pieces themed ‘Inspiration from the soil’ exhibited in the room. They are in display courtesy of the collaboration between the University of Nairobi and Prof. Kim Sung-jin, a ceramist. Walled masks and miniature hanboks are also found in the room. All the pieces of art are a sight to behold. Korean Corner truly stands as a room for cultural exchange for all who visit.

Korean Studies Resource Center

A visit to the Korean office allows us to come across a rich library of books, journals, magazines, movies and music albums; each of which affirms the nature of Korean culture. Books range from history collections, poetry, cooking, food, politics, among other genres. If you’re preparing for a TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean), you’ll find books here. For anyone who wants to indulge in the onset and future of K-Pop and Hallyu wave, well, this resource centre has got a lot to offer. Needless to say, students and staff alike interested in any Korean culture can find a lot of material here.

The student handbooks are written in English and Korean to enable the student to study without having an instructor around. They come with audio CDs to give guidance for improved listening and speaking. Being a lover of K-Pop music, I find the growing in-size collection of K-Pop albums an attraction. EXO, TWICE, Block B, Beenzino, Crush, San E, Sam Kim, Wheesung, Urban Zakapa, Lee Hi among others can be found on the shelves. If these do not tickle your fancy, well; there is Korean traditional music and classical music to entertain. The library may be small in size but it has profound information that caters to the whims and needs of everyone.

Story By Eva Wanjiru

Photography by Joshua Nyantika

 

Korean Film Festival

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Cultural Exchange

For three years running the Embassy of the Republic of Korea has run an annual film festival in Nairobi. This is a four day event focused on screening Korean Movies to the Kenyan public to help promote Korean culture.This year the event took place at Alliance Francaise Nairobi from the 6th of June 2017 to 9th. On 6th at around 5.00 p.m. , a throng of movie goers and film enthusiasts gathered in droves to witness the launch. They were treated to snacks and drinks. Of these decadent treats a number were of Korean origin. Alongside dining, hugs, handshakes and bows took over as people from all walks of life introduced each other.

Some minutes into this we headed into the theatre. The first Secretary of the Embassy got on stage and gave an acknowledgement for the continued growth of Korea and Kenya relations. She then invited the Ambassador Hon. Kwon Young Dae to give his speech and launch the festival officially. He would later come on stage, emphasize the importance of cultural exchange and how pleased they were as an Embassy to share their culture with the Kenyan people.

Fast forward, the festival started with a Zombie blockbuster, the famous ‘Train to Busan’ and followed with ‘Love 911′ before closing the day. The second day (June 7th) we were ushered into comedy and family melodrama in the movie ‘Miracle in Cell no 7’. The day ended with ‘The World of Us’. The third day (June 8th) we started with the survival drama ‘The Tunnel’ and then switched to ‘Terror Live.’ The final day begun with a romantic comedy named ‘My Sister, the Pig lady’ that left many ribs aching because of  laughter. The curtains were closed after the screening of ‘A violent Prosecutor.’

Gathering views from those that had the chance to attend, the four day experience was great. The movies did justice to depict the daily Korean life and culture from its basics to the sophisticate. From bows that came in form of greetings, the language that was interpreted by use of sub-titles, the old Joseon structures and the mystical cultural garbs, all this was portrayed. In the end the Embassy managed to draw a number of Kenyans to Korean culture.

“The Embassy hopes to promote closeness between Korean and Kenyan people,” echoed the Political & Research officer at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea Mr. Andronicus Sikula. The event, a form of cultural diplomacy commenced in 2015. To expand the outreach the Embassy extended the screening to two more cities. Last year, the festival was also run in Mombasa and Kisumu. The decision to expand the outreach was triggered by Korea ex- premier’s visit to Kenya, whose presence made the Kenyan people a tad more curious about Korea.

To boost the level of cultural diplomacy, the Embassy runs other events as well. They include the Korean food festival, the Taekwondo festival and the Korean foundation day, which are spread across the year. With the teaching of Korean culture and language in local institutions such as the University of Nairobi, Mahanaim College and Kenyatta University, Korea hopes to widen the learning scope of Korean culture and language to the Kenyan people.

The Korean corner at the University of Nairobi, a cultural auditorium launched last year by the Korean Embassy, is another area open to people who would want to know more about Korean culture.

A SEMESTER IN JEJU

By Sophie Wambua.

It is the dream of most, if not all students who study Korean language to visit South Korea and get  to experience the country’s  unique and authentic heritage, an experience that speaks to the mind and soul of those who study it. I was lucky enough to get a TOPIK scholarship to study for one semester at Jeju National University located in the beautiful Island of Jeju. This was a dream come true. I prepared all my travel documents and when the 25th of February 2017 got by, I bid my country farewell and left for S.korea. The flight was long and exhausting but I finally got to Jeju Island. The director of the Foreign Students’ department picked me up from the airport and gave me a well organized schedule with all the program requirements.

My first night was a blacked-out blur due to the exhaustion. After I was well rested, my roommate showed me around campus. I was immediately captured by the beauty of the place.  The architecture of the buildings was majestic and the standard of hygiene was rather high. Our hostels looked like some ‘5 star hotels.’ Well, everything surpassed my expectations.

I have to admit that it was not easy for me at first. This is because I am not really good at meeting new people or making friends. My Korean by then was not so good and so the thought enhanced the hibbie jibbies . I could only speak little Korean despite having studied it in UoN. All in all the Korean people that I came across  were so impressed that even people from Africa are aware of their language let alone speak it.

With no time to waste, we were set to sit for a level test at the beginning of the week to determine our  level of proficiency in the Korean language. Thereafter I began my language course. Our class was oozing with diversity; two students from Japan, two from Mexico, one from Colombia, one from Brazil, one from Russia, one from France, ten from China and  I from Kenya. Before we started learning, the teacher taught us a fun game that helped us to know each other’s names, nationality, favorite food and hobbies.  Suffice it to say, I had already made friends by the end of the first class. Our classes were conducted in a very organized manner. The teacher was very kind and patient with all of us. She taught at a perfect pace that enabled us to grasp the language even better. We managed to polish our conversational skills, which  made it easier for us to communicate with other students in the campus and Korean people at large. Occasionally, the teacher could bring us treats like sweets, cookies and nuts, and this went way to  lift our spirits.

From the schedule that I was given, we had three cultural trips that  were organized and funded by the school. They provided an opportunity for foreign students to tour the Island and get a feel of what Korean culture entails. For the first trip we were given a tour of Yakchusa temple stay located on Daepo-dong, Seogipo-si in Jeju. It is the largest temple in  East Asia.  The view was breathtaking. The rocks and the surrounding wild growing tangerine trees created a beautiful and a peaceful scenery. The temple was very ancient yet it looked maintained. It consisted of high ceilings, beautiful decorative Chinese and Korean characters, and a big golden like statue of Buddha that rested in the middle of the room.  We all gathered  and a  Buddhist monk gave us a brief description of the temple. For lunch we ate temple food, then went ahead and learned more about Buddhism, and later made Buddhist bracelets.

Come the second trip (a different day), we visited Jeju Stone Park and watched a newly released movie “fast and furious”. For the last cultural trip we visited Udo island. To get there, we boarded a ship. Udo island is located on the north eastern of Seongsan-ni, 3.5 km off the coast of Jeju. Udo, literally ‘cow island” in Chinese, has the name because it looks like a cow lying down. Udo is famously known for its delicious ice creams. I tried and  confidently  testified it to be  the best Ice cream that I had ever tasted. Over the weekend I got to travel the island and visited other well known tourist attractions like the Hallasan, Loveland, Jeongbang waterfall, the hots prings of Seowgipo, a human maze park, the teddy bear museum and Manjangull cave. The island was very  beautiful and its black sandy  beaches were a sight to behold.

I can’t fail to talk about the food, my favourite part in the entire trip. I got a chance to try out all the Korean cuisines I had  dreamt  about.  The most bizarre food that I ate was raw octopus,sannakji. It was  unexpectedly delicious . I also tried Beongdegi which is steamed silkworm larvae(complete with the juices that come out during steaming process), soondae-blood sausages, and  jjajangmyeum.

To mark the beginning of spring, the school invited some well known Kpop musicians like Crush, Dynamic duo and girlfriends  to perform at our campus. It was so much fun as we got to groove along  our favorite jams. The blooming of the cherry blossom flowers is one of most the beautiful scenery I have ever seen.

Life in Korea is extremely convenient and comfortable. The developed infrastructure  and elaborate transport made it easier for us foreigners to navigate the area. The Korean people were warm hearted, kind and more than willing to help in any way that they could. Every time, the locals wanted to interact with me and would often stop in the streets just to say hi. All in all the experience was an eye opener. It made me appreciate my African heritage because it was shocking to realize how other people admired it.