JEDDAH: You can stumble upon a K-pop video somewhere on the Internet because it’s taken the world by storm, and for good reason: K-pop is fun!
The hype is no longer a trend and many are looking toward learning the Korean language in larger numbers than ever before.
The phenomenon has reached the shores of the region, and teens and tweens are flocking to the Internet to learn more, not only about K-pop, but Korean culture as well. This series will cover mini-stories of young ladies who have not only expressed their interest in Korean pop culture, but have taken the extra step to learn the language, perfect it and dream big.
Twenty-one-year-old Samira, a fresh graduate from a Saudi private University has had a love for Korean pop culture since her years in middle school. She explains how in 2010, she accidentally found a TV show online as she was searching the Internet; she stumbled across a Korean drama called “Playful Kiss.” She fell in love with the show from the very first episode and spread the news among her friends, who also recommended other TV shows. She got hooked and called upon her sister to join her and share the love. The friends told other friends and a circle of appreciation grew larger; they had all been watching as well but never told one another.
It started off with dubbed TV shows such as “Jewel of the Palace” or “Dae Jang Geum,” of which she proudly says watched 8 times, and then she grew to love music and more. Of the most famous K-pop singing groups, BTS is her favorite. “They’re international, they have many English lyrics in their songs and that’s very relatable to the international audience. The band is more real than anything. Their music talks about real life issues such as struggles in school which I can relate to immediately,” said Samira.
Samira has since made an effort to learn more. “The first Korean word I learned was ‘dream’ or ‘kkum’ in Korean. I go to learn Korean every week at the Korean International School in Jeddah and I have a dream to go there one day and experience life in Korea. Their values are more prominent than anything else; the level of respect they have for one another and their culture are what drove me to love everything about Korea,” she explained.
Eighteen-year-old Shaima, a freshman at a Saudi private University, was drawn into the world of Korean culture by her elder sister, Samira. The first Korean television show she saw was “Super Junior,” and she hasn’t looked back since.
Unlike Turkish television dramas with the 100+ episodes per season, Korean dramas have significantly fewer. According to Shaima, they are easier to watch and you don’t get bored. She checks specific websites on a daily basis to catch up on what’s new on the Korean drama scene. “After checking for the show I’m interested in at the moment, I can either watch them in their original form or subtitled, depending on the drama, of course,” said Shaima. Of course!
“The dramas are different from what others watch; there’s a different sense to them and you feel like they’re not mastered to be fake. No offense to other international dramas, but Koreans do drama as if they were telling their own life stories— raw and authentic,” exclaimed Shaima.
Just like her sister, Shaima also attends weekly language lessons at the Korean International School in Jeddah, and with the Internet nowadays connecting people far and wide, her lessons served her well. “I have many friends from all over the world and I speak to them in Korean. On our last trip to Paris, I was able to meet up with some of my online friends there and I can’t explain how polite they are. It’s one of the aspects of their society that drew me to them.”
Her love for Korean pop artists has no limits. It was by sheer coincidence that on one of her visits to Paris, a popular K-pop band was performing in the city. With the help of friends back in the Kingdom, the sisters were able to obtain tickets and attend the concert, calling it one of their wildest dreams come true. “It was raining heavily but we didn’t care; we shared a wonderful experience with concert goers from all over the world. Everyone loves Korean bands and that concert did not disappoint one bit!”
Having been exposed to K-pop and Korean dramas from the age of 13, Shaima has fallen in love with everything that is Korean. Her dream and ambition is not only to go and visit, she also strives to live there in the near future.
Big dreams from such a young woman; dream big, kid, you’ll get there one day.
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