For The Love Of Korean Culture With My Korean Friends

After I graduated my college degree in Computer Engineering, taking it for 6 years (because I am not that smart in Mathematics, but I still challenged myself), I venture to a new life here in Cebu City. My parents met here, got married, my elder sister and brother were born here, and I considered this city my second home. General Santos City is my hometown.

When I arrived here in 2006, I never expected that this city is so diverse with many foreign cultures, considering that Cebu City is already a diverse place in terms of local tradition and lifestyle. Of course, the first thing I have noticed: there are lots of Koreans staying here for the reasons I didn’t know that time.

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The South Korean flag [Photo credit: lecolededesign.com]

They say that the first thing you need to do if you want to get into a new culture is to learn their language. And yes, I did. And I am still doing it now. So, to help myself learn the Korean language, I bought myself some self-learning references like phrase books and dictionaries. It all started in 2007 when I got my first job.

They [books] are quite pricey, I tell you. But learning the language is so much fun.

In learning the language, I started studying the alphabets and the writing system. By the way, Korean alphabets are called Han-geul (한글). I familiarized the basics within two (2) weeks. Isn’t it fast for a beginner?

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My collection of Korean books. The upper-left one is the most expensive among the rest: it includes 2-disc audio guide. Price is around P/1000+

Since then, I started ‘vandalizing‘ (in a good way) my notebooks and lecture papers at work with Korean alphabets. I also started loving Korean dramas and movies. And of course, KPOP. But the culture as a whole made me push myself to keep on learning the language. Even going to South Korea for a vacation is on my bucket list.

Speaking about Korean dramas, I got hooked with this series years before. It’s called, “The King and the four gods” (태왕사신기) or The Legend. Korean actor Bae Yong-Joon is the star of the lead role.

The Legend is a story about a king who is battling for his rightful throne, with a mixed of conflict among the nation, gods, betrayal of family and friends, and forbidden love.

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Bae Yong-Joon as Prince Damdeok [Photo credit: english.visitkorea.or.kr]

After three (3) years of continuous self-teaching, and watching a lot of Korean movies and dramas, and listening to KPOP and Korean ballad, November of 2010 changed my views about the Korean culture.

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One of my favorite Korean ballad singers, Bobby Kim (Photo credit: tiffanykimchiland.blogspot.com]

I started to gain Korean friends on social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook.

They are friendly and humble, in the sense that they excuse themselves of not being fluent in English or they are still in the process of learning English. They ask you “Have you eaten?” or “Did you have a good night rest?” which is very friendly and kind.

When they told me that they will visit Cebu City to meet me, I am more than comfortable to meet them in person, too. But of course, there are things that made me even more curious about my Korean friends (and I don’t get it why… for some):

1) They love Jollibee (a lot), especially the N2 meal.

Wait! What the heck is N2 again?

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This is N2: Spaghetti and Yumburger with soft drinks [Photo credit: kalelmosaiah.com]

If Jinyoung Chung and Yongwoong Cho can read this, probably they would laugh their hearts out or they would think I am mad I don’t know what N2 is and Jollibee is my country’s famous fast food chain.

So sorry! I don’t know what N2 is!

2) They really love it here in the Philippines because of the tropical weather.
3) They love San Mig Light than Red Horse (because they think Red Horse is too strong for them. Now look who’s talking. Soju could kill.)
4) They love the beach.

On their second day here in Cebu City last February 2011, we went straight to Bantayan Island.

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Jinyoung and Yongwoong snorkeling at Bantayan Island, Cebu [Photo credit: Jinyoung on Facebook]

What else that made me curious?

5) They love Starbucks’ iced coffee Americano. They just do.

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Starbucks’ iced coffee Americano [Photo credit: huffingtonpost.com]

But why?! Come on, man! Can we just have the Mocha Frappuccino instead? Please? The iced coffee is bitter. (Sorry guys.)

When teaching Koreans the English language

You would be tempted to try and teach them the language. Not that they needed it so you can understand them, or they need it in the future for work, it’s their enthusiasm to learn and their patience mastering it. When my friends came here on my side of town, I was able to teach them the basics. I find it easy because of one good reason: I studied their own language and I know where can they have difficulties in the English language.

It’s quite a long story to tell but because I studied the Korean language, it’s easy for me to teach them English.

Now, Jinyoung and Yongwoong are now in South Korea, busy with work and other stuff. But we still communicate with each other. It’s either on Facebook or the messaging app, KakaoTalk.

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KakaoTalk is a mobile messaging app from Korea [Photo credit: iTunes AppStore]

Download Kakaotalk from the Appstore, here.

And lastly, let’s talk about Korean food, shall we?

Korean food or they call it Han-shik (한식) is new to Filipino taste buds. But since Korean-inspired and authentic restaurants are growing fast here in Cebu City, it became one of the many cuisines that became common to Cebuano palette.

The spicy, sour, sweet, salty and bitter mixture makes Korean cooking easy for Cebuano, but sometimes, others cannot take in the new style of dining probably because of its unusual taste or smell. What I’m trying to say is, kimchi is not that easy for others. But not for me. It’s an acquired taste, though.

Samgyeopsal (삼겹살) is grilled pork belly or uncured bacon strips, which are best eaten with good friends.

Miyeokguk (미역국) is a hearty seaweed soup.

Kimchi (김치) is Korea’s #1 food! I love it very much. It’s spicy, sour, yet, good to eat. And it is healthy, too.

Bibimbap (비빔밥) is a rice meal with mixed vegetables, meat, and fried egg.

Korean men are required to attend mandatory military training

I don’t know if everyone is aware, but South Korea has mandatory military service of 21 months. Hard as it sounds, some of my friends were sent to attend military training months after I’ve met them online. And due to that, we have limited time to communicate (unless they were granted a short vacation) before finishing it.

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Required military training to legal-aged Korean men [Photo credit: yonhapnews.co.kr]

I met Hyung-su Park on social media months before he will be attending military training. For me, it’s a mixed emotion of both thrilled and scared. We also have a 4-semester ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) during college here in the Philippines, which I have attended. It was abolished last 2002. I feel both lucky and disappointed.

But, South Korea’s mandatory military training is much more tremendous than ours. They will stay in military camps, away from their family for so long. Compared to us, it’s only during Saturdays and Sundays (if military tactical inspection is near).

In Korea, exemptions are only granted to Korean male citizens with physical disabilities or whose mental status is unstable or questionable. Every Korean male is labeled into one of four different grades. Grades 1-3: normal, Grade 4: special service; which is given to individuals that fulfill their military duties as a civil worker amongst civilians.

What’s threatening for my opinion, if you failed to join the training without exemption, you’ll be imprisoned.

On the bright side of things, I am planning to visit South Korea very soon. Hopefully, I can have my passport and visa ready before then. And lots of money so I can bring lots of stuff back home.

I miss my brothers from another mothers. Here they are before their departure at the Mactan Cebu International Airport.

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Oh, look at us. And yes, I used to have long hair (and thank god I’m 5’9″. Look at those two!)

There we go. Are you hooked with the Korean culture, too? Do you have friends whom you communicate in Korean? Did you teach them English? What is your favorite Korean food?

Hope you would share by commenting below.

If you happen to like this, see other stories on my Facebook Page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

Thank you! 감사합니다.

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Philip Andrew Mayol
Philip Andrew Mayol
I'm a blogger, a crazy kid, and a happy piece of a blob. My star sign is on the cusp of the Crab and the Lion. I am a Julian.

I am not paraskevidekatriaphobic but something wicked this way comes; not autophobic, not cibophobic, not kakorrhaphiophobic, earth-kinetophobic, not metrophobic, muriphobic, not oneirophobic.

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