I’ve been back from Korea for two years now, and the Korean cultural presence here in London is fuller than ever. We are 5519 miles from Seoul, but we Londoners can’t get enough: the London Korean Language Meetup webpage has 856 members, and the Korean Cultural Centre’s fortnightly film screenings are consistently packed out. So what is it that gets us hooked on Korean culture, and who are London’s Korea fans?
The Hallyu Fanatic
The Korean wave has reached London, and how! You may find Hallyu fanatics at a Kpop night, see them participating in flashmobs in Trafalgar Square (see below) or catch them renting drama DVDs from the KCC. More and more Brits are being exposed to what’s going on in the Korean music, screen and style scenes, and once we (K) pop, we just can’t stop!
The Film Geek
Loads of people I know have been introduced to Korea through their interest in film. Lovers of horror and thriller are those most likely to discover Korean movies and become fascinated with K-culture this way. Having said this, there has been a recent increase in Korean films shown at various venues across London, including Roxy Bar and Screen and Odeon Panton Street (currently screening Lee Chang-Dong’s Poetry). Watch this space for Korean cinema to earn its rightful place in London’s mainstream cinemas.
The Taekwondo Expert
Another huge Korean influence in London comes in the kicking, punching, blocking form of taekwondo. There are 3rd and 4th Dan black belts who live in London and may have never been to Korea, but can count and command in Korean and understand the nature of the culture. Many taekwondo experts’ passion soon extends from the martial art itself to its country of origin. Check out the London Taekwondo Academy if you are a sporty, competitive type, or just want to find a fun way to keep fit.
Nowadays, it’s common for a Brit to take a year or five away from their work or studies. With plenty of open teaching vacancies, a good quality of life and affordable living rates, Korea makes sense. Like myself, many of those who have spent some time in Korea find it hard to break away after leaving. Although you can take the teacher out of Korea, you can’t take the Korea out of the teacher! Similarly, I’ve met lots of people aiming to teach in Korea one day, but who want to familiarise themselves with the language and culture through the London KCC before actually moving there.
The Celeb Addict
Many, many female Londoners have found it hard to resist the allure of Rain and Daniel Henney after seeing them appear in movies or dramas.
And of course the male population have more than enough eye candy of their own, with the likes of Lee Hyori and Song Hye-Gyo becoming popular pin-ups here in the UK.
The glamour, gorgeousness and ‘wow’ factor of these amongst many other Korean celebrities does its fair bit to attract Londoners and convert them into Korea fans. I mean, who could resist?
Obviously, its silly to pigeonhole (after all top London-Korea writer and curator of London Korean Links Philip Gowman found his passion for Korea through his banking work) but it is certainly fun to see which category/ies you fit into. Hint- definitely more than one for me!
All in all, no one can deny that Korea’s pop culture is fresh and exciting, and its history is rich and colourful, which only gives reason for London’s Korean scene to boom even further in the future. Can’t wait!