Korean culture is really different from the American culture as learned from social psych. The difference is not particularly noticeable whenever hanging out with Korean-American friends. However, when hanging out with international students from South Korea, there are noticeable differences.
Saturday, September 24, I went out with Anna (Native American), Grace (Somalian), Jeesue (Korean), and Seul Ki (Korean) to the Downtown LA to sight see around Little Tokyo and Koreatown. More importantly, we wanted to go to the Korea Cultural Center to attend this event called "A Live Conversation with Sun Cho Yoon" featuring celebrities Lee Jun Ki and Park Hyo Shin.
We started the day eating in a fast food dim sum place near my house. I could not eat because my lower lip was in pain and breakfast was consumed right before leaving home. Since most of them never had dim sum, they didn't know what was best to eat. I didn't want to make their decisions, but I told them I enjoyed eating the egg tarts, steamed shrimp dumplings, daikon cake, chicken buns, and pineapple buns. Despite my best efforts, they got other things. The weirdest part was that they all got the same foods. Like, they all got the sticky sweet fried rice and siu mai (open topped steamed pork dumpling). I remember learning in Korean culture, everyone ate the same foods, but still, I never thought I'd experience this in first hand! Though, Grace and Anna also got other things in addition to the fried rice and dumplings.
After breakfast, we drove to Little Tokyo. There, we saw many people walking around in cosplay. Apparently the Cherry Blossom Festival was that day. We could not find this festival so the time walking around Little Tokyo was brief since there's nothing really extraordinary around there.
Next, we went to Koreatown to attend Los Angeles Korean Festival because Seul Ki's roommate's boyfriend told her about it (haha, I know, what?). It was pretty interesting to see a lot of Korean booths together in a festival. I am use to seeing huge Chinese festivals around home, but that is because I am Chinese. So, attending to this festival was much outside my comfort zone. A lot of Koreans tried to sell me things such as telling me to go their hair salon--is this a hint?! Also, Koreans soliciting assumed that I was Korean so started selling things to me in Korean. I apologized profusely many times because I did not know Korean. There were a lot of vendors that sold groceries despite the fact that it is a festival. I thought it was super cool to see a hanbok in real life. Also, it nice to see a drum performance by little children. Lastly, seeing Korean folk singers was an amazing experience.
After the festival, we finally went to the Korean Culture Center. It is so odd, there was actually people waiting in line for the event even though we were an hour and a half early! We were sitting in the second row of the auditorium which are pretty good seats since we get to see the celebrities close up. Note: many of the fans consists of Chinese, non-Asians, and not many Koreans. The event began around 5pm and 5 classical musicians came out--3 violinists, 1 violist, 1 pianist. Of course, the audience clapped early during the end of the performance. :/
Then, Representative Yoon Sun Cho of Korea came out that discussed with the audience about the Korean Wave. It was an interesting presentation, getting the chance to understand Korean Culture more. The Korean culture can be described in three words: dynamic, spiritual, and subtle. She showed images of Korean entertainment (K-Pop stars, celebrities, books, movies, dramas, etc), Korean historical images, artifacts and other fascinating things. I guess her presentation went too long so she sped through the historical information about South Korea. It really bummed me out because I don't know much about Korean history.
Later, Lee Jun Ki and Park Hyo Shin came out in their military uniform to represent the Korean Army. The audience went crazy. I was more interested in the conference being over since I didn't know who they were. The questions asked by the audience were rather simple. Well, some of the questions were really deep, but answers seemed forced. There are some questions that requires answers that sound traitorous. But, most of the answers sounded patriotic. Also, Lee Jun Ki answered most of the questions which is a disappointment. I know he is great and all that he understands English, but he barely even spoke it (except when someone was like, "I'm your fan" and he goes, "Thank you. You're beautiful. All my fans are beautiful" which made me laugh so hard! Also, at the end of the Q&A, someone goes, "Do you have a girlfriend?" He didn't hear what she said and said, "Thank you. I love you." hahahaha, that was so hilarious!) Like I mentioned, I was disappointed that the other celebrities did not answer the questions from the audience. I know he is more popular than the other celebrities, but I'd like to know the opinions of the other two guys and that one other pretty girl who is a violinist!
At the end of the conference, fans were waiting outside to get a chance to photograph more of the celebrities. It was pretty chaotic, watching everyone act like paparazzi!
After this, we went to "School Food Blooming Roll" to have dinner. I guess in Korean culture, people shared food and ate together whereas Americans were more individualistic. Well, I am going to assume that most Asian cultures are like this because Chinese people share their foods, too. Anyway, Jeesue and Seul Ki assumed that we were going to share food together which sounded good to me, but Anna and Grace wanted their own items so we all ended up ordering separately. I was disappointed, because I didn't really know what was good. Additionally, that sore in my mouth was really killing me by then--any spicy food would make things worse. There wasn't any porridge, so I got shrimp fried rice which guaranteed no spice. Jeesue and Seul Ki did end up sharing food whereas I had to slowly eat fried rice. :(
We ended the day going to a karaoke place. I didn't want to go there since I had no experience embarrassing myself singing the latest pop songs. Actually, I have no experience going to a karaoke place singing! Ahhh. Jeesue and Seul Ki looked like they had so much fun singing Korean songs. I guess that's because this is what many Koreans do for fun. Oh, Grace and Anna loved singing songs, too! For me, it was pretty awkward. I didn't know what to sing and didn't want others to hear my off-keyed voice. In the end, I did end up having fun singing along (because no one could hear me) and sang one song (Take on Me by A-ha). :)
All in all, the day was pretty fun. I got the chance to learn more about Korean culture. In addition, I stepped out of my comfort zone a little more. Also, I'm pretty excited to go to South Korea next semester.