Following the footsteps of BYJ to discover the Beauty of Korea
My first visit to Korea was in December 1972.
Seoul looked interesting although a bit rural compared to Tokyo and Osaka; the people were rather friendly; and it was a pleasant surprise to see so many Chinese characters in building and attraction names and shop signs. However, other than these, my first sojourn to Korea did not really seem to have left much impression so much so that I had not returned for three decades.
But all these changed dramatically after I became a member of the BYJ “family” in 2003. That November, with much curiosity and without any knowledge of what to expect, I went on an expedition to Gwangju with 16 other ladies, none I had met before, and most could hardly speak a word of Hangul or had ever been to the Country of Morning Calm.
The purpose of our trip was to meet our idol, to shake his hand and to have a photo taken with him after getting his precious autograph. Little did I realize that this was the start of my 30 plus trips to follow my idol’s footsteps in discovering the beauty of Korea!
The following winter, I took no time to visit Yongpyong Ski Resort, Namiseom, and Chuncheon, so as to experience the natural beauty of Gangwondo, and relive “Gyeoul Yeonga” through the many anecdotes and traces of my idol.
Then it was a non stop series of visits to all the unique locations I have seen in my idol’s TV dramas and movies - the Korea JoongAng Senior High School in Seoul, Jukseoru near Samcheok, the beach and rocks at Chuam, the light tower at Donghae, the fish market in Busan, the Oedo-Botania, the Ocean Castle on Anmyeondo, the eight scenic views of Danyang, even the Manjanggul Cave in Jeju. I slowly evolved to a true admirer of Korea off the beaten track.
Through all these journeys, I became more and more interested in the culture and tradition of this amazing country and its people, not to mention its breathtaking landscape.
Hangul’s close resemblance to the Chinese language intrigues me. The influence of Confucianism in the daily life and human relationship is also beyond my imagination.I have many a time been deeply touched by the close family ties and filial piety seen through tear jerking scenes in Korean drama, something probably long lost and forgotten in our modernized and westernized society.
What inspired me most is the patriotism of my idol and many of his fellow countrymen. BYJ is probably the first artist to write a book on his profound love for his country’s culture and heritage. He spent months to visit the places, meet the people, take photos to record his journeys, and write with great respect and passion on what he has encountered.
It is therefore not difficult to understand why there are ladies ( yes, mostly ladies ) from as diverse places as Egypt, France, Hawaii, Canada, and Australia that have frequented “BYJ land”, to be joined by thousands of Japanese and ethnic Chinese from Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. We go to Korea, not only because we want to catch a glimpse of our idol, but to learn more about his country.
I know of “senior” ladies in the BYJ Gajok ( family ) making special efforts to study Korean, learn to use the computer so that they can get onto the internet to follow the latest news of our idol, and some even go to the extent of taking lessons on “Photoshop” and film editing in order to share beautiful images of our idol and Korean scenery with fellow “family” members.
For those bureaucrats who often doubt the effectiveness of using celebrities as spokespersons for Korea, and those who think the Hallyu ( Korean Wave ) is but a short lived phenomenon, I wish to say, they are wrong. The impact of Hallyu is immense, although a little challenging to be correctly measurable, but certainly is much longer lasting than most people thought. All these enthusiasm for Korea and its glittering personalities may require careful management, but Hallyu is here to stay.
In April, I went with my rather jealous but kind-hearted husband to Jeongdongjin and stayed at the Sun Cruise Resort. Why because that was where my idol and his screen lover remade the happy ending of the animation version of their famous work on television.
My next trip to the Country of Morning Calm? Well, I guess I must dutifully continue to follow the footsteps of Bae Yong Joon, my idol. May be this time, to the Hahoe Village and Andong in Gyeongsangbuk-do to see how traditional Korean jang is made.
Smells good, and tastes even better.
Gamsa hamnida, Korea and Bae Yong Joon ssi, for being so inspiring!