This one has been a long time coming! Last year when I went to Korea I had the pleasure of sitting down with Youtube duo BapMokja and Haeppy. Since then they have reworked their YouTube channel to not only being K-Pop MV Reaction focused but also providing a comprehensive insight into life in Korea as foreigners. Since their channel has garnered a lot of interest following the format change, now’s the time to share what we talked about way back when!
Thanks for taking time out to meet with JaK guys! How about a quick introduction to you both?
Haeppy: My name is Haeppy, I from Canada and my parents are from Hong Kong (So no, I am not Korean) – So what are we doing here? We make videos, not only Youtube but also our own kind of production thing that we want to grow. We do actually do video production work making commercials and a music video with someone very soon. Video production is how we make our money, its our job – where as Youtube is our passion.
BapMokja: I’m BapMokja! I am from Bath in the UK. I spent my years in university in Greenwich, London where I worked towards being able to make special effects for TV commercials. However over time I got introduced to K-Pop through friends and I grew to love it! Over time I learnt more about Korea in general to the point where I eventually quit my job there and moved here.
So how did this interest in K-Pop and Korean culture all start with you then?
Haeppy: Basically, I learned about K-pop in my first years of university in California through a friend of a friend. From there I began researching and looking at videos on YouTube and it grew from there. For me though it wasn’t solely about the music; my interest ventured into the language itself which I felt was such a beautiful one and then that crossed over to food, culture and so on. From there I knew I was going to have to come to Korea no matter wha, so I thought I would come over as an exchange student to test it out. Of course, I ended up loving it and I came back to work and now I’m here to stay. People only stay for 1 – 2 years because they don’t know what to expect and then they get a massive culture shock or get homesick. Research is the key – a huge motivation for many who come here initially is K-Pop but there is so much more to Korea than that
BapMokja: I got introduced to K-Pop via my friends. The morning after going out for a party and getting really drunk, whilst hungover my friend decided to put a playlist of Girls Generation MVs on repeat – at first it was just noise but after the third playthrough I started getting into it and was even picking out favourite members. I later found out about the Music Bank concert in Paris so I got tickets for it and when I was wandering around the city being a tourist I got to meet T-ara at the Eiffel Tower. I was lucky enough to get some pictures with them and autographs and posted about it on Twitter. The very next day I woke up and I have around 1000 retweets and endless likes. That’s when I realised how big the K-pop scene really was so I decided to find out more about the scene and started doing language exchange from Gumtree. I eventually came to Korea and fell in love with the 24 hour lifestyle with the food, drinks and clubs and when I returned to England I didn’t feel the same about ‘home’ as I did before I went. I realized coming to Korea would be faster as a teacher, and that’s what I did and that is how I got here!
As foreigners living in Seoul, how do you feel the general public perceive you?
BapMokja: [laughs] Sometimes we would play a game on public transport where we see who stares at us first and make bets! I mean, we have been here for a few years now and we get the stares still. I remember when we were doing a film when we were riding the subway carriage and we got no end of stares. It was uncomfortable at first but now we are used to it and are more understanding. It’s more curiousity then negativity these days.
Haeppy: It’s funny sometimes because the Koreans don’t treat me any different until I open my mouth and put on the really strong foreigner accent on purpose. As a standard, and as bad as it is, when it comes to foreigners East Asia in general would be more cautious to someone who is any other colour that isn’t White.
So life in Korea as a whole… what are the best things and what is there that is not so great?
Haeppy: The main pluses are that, lifestyle wise, on the whole everything is cheaper – the dollar goes a lot further here. Assuming that you earn the same amount as you do back home, or even if you are visiting Korea for a holiday, you can be assured that your dollar or pound would get you a lot more than you normally would back home. If you go for normal stuff and eat normal things, your money will stretch further. Also, pro for foreigners (but not really beneficial to Koreans themselves) is that job opportunities are always just around the corner. There are certain jobs reserved for foreigners with free housing, healthcare and pension; which as you know isn’t available in many European countries. However jobs outside of teaching English is very hard as you need a special visa. For the bad – definitely the weather! Korea essentially only has two seasons – Summer and Winter. When it is hot it is extremely hot but then in Winter it is bone-chillingly cold!
BapMokja: Korea, and Seoul in particular, has a 24 hour lifestyle. You can do pretty much anything and go anywhere and a lot of places would still be open. I would say that it is not really much of a benefit if you’re not into drinking or staying up all night but if you do there are night clubs and bars that are like open from 3pm and close at 9am the next morning! The 24 hour food delivery service is amazing too – you can get food delivered to the river bank and back alleys if you really want to! Also Korea is a nation of stunningly beautiful people; both male and female! And there the Korean’s are beautiful people. Bad things? I agree with Haeppy about the weather, winters are awful here! Also if you ever hope to buy a house here, forget it as it’s almost impossible… but you can rent instead!
This was an uber long interview – to the point where I have to split it in half! Keep an eye out for the next part where we talk more about their Youtube work, their dos and don’ts of living in Korea as a foreigner and also their favourite K-Pop songs and MVs from last year!