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NO.408 07.02.2018

Foreigners Who Know Korea Better than Koreans

“In Korean language, expressions such as ‘adeul babo (son’s idiot)’ and ‘ddal babo (daughter’s idiot),’ allude to the depth of love that parents have toward their children. I would like to share with the world the love and affection that underlie the dirty words used in Korean expressions.”


On Tuesday, May 15, Student Ohata Rimi (School of Tourism) of Japan spoke thusly in the Crown Concert Hall of the Seoul campus, who was among the finalists at the ‘21st Global Korean Speech Contest for Foreigners (jointly sponsored by Kyung Hee Institute of International Education and Yonhap News Agency).’ She first encountered Korean culture in Japan, when she met Korean neighbors in the same apartment building. That is when she decided to study in Korea.

“When I return to Japan, I would like to evangelize ‘jeong: Korean affection’
During this contest, 1,195 individuals, ranging from students and office workers, to women who immigrated through marriage, gathered from 55 countries, united by their love for Korean language and culture. A total of 16 candidates from 12 countries made it to the finals beating the odds of a 75 to 1. In the Crown Concert Hall, where the final round was staged, more than 1,200 people from countries around the world filled the room and passionately cheered for the finalists.


The topics of the contest were ‘Status of Korea in the World’ and ‘Hidden Charms of Korea.’ Each participant took to the stage, one by one, to recite their impressions of Korea. Many focused on the particular spiritual conscience of Korea. As a culture that emphasizes ‘quickness’ and the collective ‘we,’ Koreans came together as one, mobilizing their spirit of volunteerism, to revive the coast of Taean from the massive oil spill. The warm culture of ‘jeong’ characterizes the lasting affection found in Koreans. ‘Perseverance’ and ‘passion’ identify the spirit that is quintessentially Korean, as evidenced during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.

Laujiching (office employee), a Malaysian who spoke about Korean ‘jeong’ shared an anecdote. “When I first came to Korea, I suffered severe skin problems due to the dry weather. The only Korean I knew at the time was my Korean teacher, who held tightly to my hands and took me to the hospital. There, he helped me to comprehend the diagnosis and to get the prescribed medication for treatment. When I return to my country, I will make sure to share with my friends and family the charm of ‘Korean jeong.’

Following presentations covered areas where Korea excels. For instance, Korea is a country with many global-scale businesses. It is considered the safest country to travel in. It provides fast internet service and has a high credit card usage rate. In addition, Korea prides in its culture, such as the pop culture (KPOP) that is being exported throughout the world, and its outstanding technology and advanced infrastructure.


“I find a sense of stability in the Korean respect for a hierarchical system”
The Grand Prize, which is the Minister of Culture and Sports Award, went to Leila Bar (France), who made a speech regarding ‘Hierarchical order that provides a sense of emotional stability.’ The winner shared her feelings about the hierarchical culture in Korea. “In France, regardless of job level, everyone speaks comfortably to each other. But I was unsure about how to behave in such situations, and felt very uncomfortable. On the other hand, I feel a sense of stability in the Korean hierarchical order.” She added, “With the money won at this contest, I intend to register at the Kyung Hee Institute of International Education.”

The ‘Global Korean Speech Contest for Foreigners’ began in 1998 to commemorate the 600-year anniversary (1997) of King Sejong’s birth. Each subsequent year added more participants, surpassing the 1000 contestants mark in 2009. This year, the event attracted not only speech contestants, but also performances by GLEE, the university choir of Kyung Hee, and the cheering squad, not to mention the Bongsan masked dance, a pansori recital, and a wide variety of other performances, making the contest a true festival for global participants.

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