KOFICE 'Korea Joa Project': Hangul Celluloid Travelogue
Final Day: Departure / Emotion / KOFICE Interview

Friday, 9 October 2015:

As each night of the Korea Joa Project drew successively to a close, I was repeatedly torn between a desire for the current day to carry on ad infinitum and an excitement for the events scheduled for the next. However, of course, there was one day I wasn't looking forward to in any respect, and that was the day of my departure from Korea. They say time flies when you're having fun and in the case of the Korea Joa Project never a truer word was spoken. So much so, that on the day of my flight back to the UK it honestly felt like no more than the blink of an eye since I'd landed in Incheon ten days earlier.

As Korea Joa member Freya - from UnitedKpop - was also heading back to the UK on the same flight, we travelled to Incheon airport together, accompanied by KOFICE's Assistant Manager of the Culture Bridge Creation Team, Minju Kwon, and KOFICE interpreter Youjeong Jen Hwang.

I cannot tell you the depth of emotion I felt saying goodbye at Incheon Airport, emotions that continue to well up inside me every time I even think of the farewell. I felt completely at home and utterly content in Korea to the extent that since being back in England I can't escape the feeling each and every day that something's somehow missing.
In my haste to pack and check out of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in plenty of time for my long journey, I accidentally left my house keys behind in Seoul, but in the month since my return to London I've increasingly come to the undeniable realisation that I left my heart in Korea, too.

In the taxi on the way to Incheon airport, Mrs Minju Kwon – Assistant Manager of the KOFICE Culture Bridge Creation Team – graciously agreed to take part in a short interview with Hangul Celluloid about the Korea Joa Project in hindsight. The following text is a transcription of that interview:

Interview with Mrs. Minju Kwon, Assistant Manager of the KOFICE Culture Bridge Creation Team

Minju Kwon:
Hi everyone. My name is Minju Kwon… Kwon Minju… of KOFICE, the Korea Foundation for International Cultural Exchange.

Hangul Celluloid:
On the very first night of the Korea Joa Project, I interviewed the Director General of KOFICE during which time he discussed the creation of the project as well as what his hopes for it ultimately were. Now that Korea Joa has reached its conclusion, what are your thoughts on the project and what it has achieved so far?

Minju Kwon:
From 2003, KOFICE has focused on Hallyu and has held various projects relating to it. The media outlets that participated in the KJ Project are the websites that KOFICE has watched over for some time. Through the websites we were able to see how people abroad think about Hallyu and how international fans use Hallyu contents, and we were also able to see their viewpoints through their reviews. So it is a huge honour for me to finally be able to meet all the operators and workers from the websites that I have watched over for years. The importance of online media has increasingly started to grow and along with that the need to hold our online opinion leader invitation project has also emerged. Thereby, KOFICE and I had tried hard to gather the sponsors to finally hold this project and I am very happy that it finally happened. Especially Hangul Celluloid is a very unique site. Since it is not a common site where it’s all about brief overviews, but you, Paul Quinn, actually wrote detailed and critical reviews of Korean films. That’s why I also kept my eyes on your site and I am so very happy that you were able to participate in our project. Not only Hangul Celluloid but also all the other 15 medias that love Korean drama, music and movies were able to gather for this project, and I hope by this project all the sites were able to gain a better understanding of Korean culture. Actually I can feel it already. By seeing all the SNS posts that all of the media groups have already posted online, I can feel that everyone actually enjoyed this time and learned a lot during the trip.

Hangul Celluloid:
All of the Korea Joa members have been part of an incredibly exciting and busy KJ Project schedule, for the past ten days. They are now all heading back to their homes to have a little rest and then complete their Korea Joa coverage articles and collaborate with other KJ members. While we are writing our KJ coverage articles, what work is left for you to do in relation to the KJ Project?

Minju Kwon:
Although the coverage schedule of KJ has finished, the actual work starts from this point on. First of all, I have to collect and gather all the contents from the 15 media outlets relating to our KJ coverage. After I gather them, KOFICE is planning to translate them and embellish them in the form of a report to make sure it is good enough to be appealing for the policy directors. Especially since this was the very first online opinion invitation project, I believe making a well-made comprehensive report is very crucial. Through this report, we will work hard to gather more sponsorship for this project next year and will support other important international online opinion leaders through the Korea Joa project. Next year, Korea Joa is planning to also invite websites that are based on other languages as well as English spoken websites. Such as inviting Spanish speaking countries like South America to Korea Joa so we can expect Spanish contents. Chinese, French as well, so KJ can be broadened up to various language. As the coordinator, I hope that KJ can be a project that can be applied worldwide.

Hangul Celluloid:
What for you were the most surprising and memorable aspects of the Korea Joa Project?

Minju Kwon:
You know, I actually did this kind of invitation to journalists from all over the world – such as Africa, Iraq, China and the United States – but this group was really lively and you guys talked so much [Minju Kwon laughs] and that was really surprising to me because if you compare the KJ Project members to the Chinese journalists, for example, really followed my directions rigidly. So, when I said “Let’s go”, everybody moved and when I said no to something they did nothing. I’m not saying that this Korea Joa did anything I didn’t want them to but you guys had your own opinions and ideas about things too. I think maybe the Chinese following my directions so completely is probably related to the Chinese culture and social etiquette. This Korea Joa team was so, so lively by comparison and I was even given a thank you letter written by everyone on a SISTAR album. This was the first time anything like that has happened to me, and I was so touched by it. In fact, there was even a thank you video made by Korea Joa member Jae Tan and featuring everyone. It was my first time to receive anything like that, too. I am so proud of this 2015 Korea Joa Project and now I can brag about all of you to my KOFICE co-workers. You guys have all mentioned a future reunion and I want to give that idea my support, too. Hopefully, everybody from this very first Korea Joa will be able to meet again at a wonderful reunion in the future. I know that would be a very emotional event for us all.

The 2015 Korea Joa Project members, KOFICE organisers and staff

Click the links below to access the other Hangul Celluloid Korea Joa Travelogue articles, on a day-by-day basis: