What do Koreans Expect you to Know about Their Country?

  1. Korea is Asia’s fourth largest economy. (Don’t bother mentioning which countries occupy places 1-3.)
  2. Korean companies are leaders in the production of semi-conductors and cargo ships.(Yes, Koreans are proud of this.)
  3. Korean food and beverages (Name one: bulgogi, kimchi, Korean BBQ, soju- choose one that you like.)
  4. Korean athletes (women’s figure skater “Kim Yuna” and any Korean golfer, note: Anthony Kim and Michelle Wie are Korean American, try again!)
  5. Korean entertainers
  6. Korea performed well in the 2008 Olympics. (Mention a few gold medalist if you can – of course you will have to “Google it” in advance.)
  7. Korea reached the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup (which was hosted by Korea and Japan – but forget that last detail).
  8. Korea is the most wired country in the world.
  9. Korean produced online video games (if that is your cup of tea).
  10. The recent success of Hyundai in the US (because of improved quality of course)

Dont Bother Mentioning

  1. The Korean War (Some Koreans would sooner forget – and it may stir up emotions, especially if you are Turkish or American.)
  2. The 1988 Olympics were held in Seoul. (True, but is that the best you can do? – everyone know that, or at least Koreans believe so.)
  3. Beef Import protests (Or any vaguely negative or controversial issues that you may have heard)
  4. North Korea (They asked you about their country, also a rather controversial issue)
  5. Any disputes between Korea and any other country in the world (I shouldn’t have to tell you this.)

Of course if asked about negative publicity that Korea has received in the world press, then you should certainly acknowledge that you are familiar with the issue but you are best advised to take a neutral stance if any. When pressed to give your opinion you might look toward the oldest or highest ranking member of the group for a cue as most Koreans will tend to follow his or her opinion (Koreans are not accustomed to criticizing their elders’ opinions in public)

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