South Korea in the Perspective of a Filipino Expatriate

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Loving Korea More Together With "LOVING KOREA"

There are a lot of reasons why a lot of people around the globe love Korea. There’s the Hallyu wave or Korean wave that entices the world with the kpop music, drama and movies. There’s Korean food that gained the interest of the gastronomic because it is unique and deeply rooted to the culture of Korea. And of course, there’s the culture that every culture vulture aspire to delve into. For these reasons and more, Korea is a country that you would really love to LOVE, and a newly founded community called LOVING KOREA capitalizes on this idea.

LOVING KOREA is a travel group founded and administered by three Korean wanderlusts. The goal of the group is to reveal the hidden treasures of Korea, and by hidden treasures they mean some valuable aspects of Korea that the locals and the foreigners must know.

SaranghaeKorea meets LovingKorea
(c) LOVINGKOREA

Out of the several trips that Loving Korea had organized, I was able to attend two. The first was the Korean Traditional Medicine Tour and the Second was the Korean War Memorial Tour. I can say that what this group can offer is different from the others because I can feel the sincerity from them as tour guides. The first time I attended a tour, I felt like I was connected with the group because LOVING KOREA is just a direct translation of the name of my blog “SARANGHAE KOREA”. It was a coincidence; nevertheless, it’s a string that attached us. So I decided to meet up with Jun Seok, Jaemin and Young Jin to know more about LOVING Korea. In this interview, we will know about the people behind LOVING KOREA and the story behind this.

One of the many activities organized by Loving Korea last summer
(c) LovingKorea


HOW DID IT START?

The concept of LOVING KOREA started when a young Korean guy named Jun Seok Jung posted his idea of organizing such group on Couchsurfing. The idea came to him after his travel experience in Latin America.

Jun Seok: “While I was travelling in Latin America, I was thinking that to see local things is really nice for the foreigners”

So when he arrived in Korea after his Latin America trip, he posted on Couchsurfing about the idea and Jaemin Song, another Korean guy, saw the post and commented that he was interested to help materialize the idea. Jaemin’s decision to join Jun Seok in organizing a travel group was influenced by what he discovered during his 6 months trip in Europe.

 Jaemin: “Some locals don’t know about their place, and I was shocked. I was thinking about myself too if I know more about Seoul”

Jaemin talked about how people in Korea, both the tourists and the locals, always go to the same famous tourists spots. He wants to show that aside from the mainstream places, there are a lot to see in Korea. As he and Jun Seok were both looking on the same page after that brief conversation on couchsurfing, they immidiately arranged a meeting and prepared to organize the tour.

Jun Seok: “We first decided to research about Seongbokdung, visited the place, see the best route, etc.”

Another member of the team, Young Jin joined Jaemin and Junseok because he was inspired by Jaemin’s travelogue. He believed in the advocacy of the two guys to introduce Korea to the people and make people love Korea even more.

Young Jin:  “I want to really make good image about Korea, that’s why I started to join. I want to erase the bad image that Koreans made when I lived in Texas”


Why did you choose the name LOVING KOREA?

LOVING KOREA is a name coined by Jun Seok since he was the one started the idea. It’s just a simple name of the group, but for Jun Seok, he chose this for a reason.

Jun Seok: “While I was in Latin America and other countries, other people asked me about Korea but I couldn’t answer because I don’t know about Korea. So I said maybe I need to start this project to make people love Korea including myself, so I named it LOVING KOREA”

When Young Jin joined the group, he was not comfortable with the name.

Young Jin: “At first I thought the name is boring, but after joining and doing a lot of activities, it’s ok”

The aim of the group is to make other people and the locals to love Korea, and the Koreans.


What are the challenges you encountered so far in organizing the trips and tours?

At first, the three guys thought that the plan was easy. They realized that organizing a tour requires a lot of time and effort to make it successful. After the brainstorming, they were able to come up with the idea of organizing four walking tours just within the Seoul area.

Jaemin explained that they decided to introduce the Seongbokgung first, it’s a village in Seoul that shows the old Korea. Second, they organized a Medicine tour together with the folk museum tour, this kind of tour is all about Korean traditional medicine and academic. Third, a war museum tour, to introduce about Korean war and its effect nowadays especially the military duty. And last, the Core Korea which is all about the language, character and religion. For the Core Korea, they organized trip to Jongnyo Shrine, Hangeul Museum and even in Chinatown in Incheon.

The challenge of organizing the tour did not end at deciding for the theme and the places to visit. For them, there are a lot of struggles and difficulties that they encountered and conquered.

Young Jin: “It’s really tough for me actually because I am not really interested about the traditional Korea. Whenever I remember it, I couldn’t memorize, that’s why I couldn’t guide well. I can’t explain about the things because I don’t have many knowledge”

Jaemin: “We met a lot of obstacles, first is money, we meet several times to have meeting. We meet more than 30 hours per week on vacation. Since we have no funding, we spend our own money.  Second problem is with discovering local places for the foreigners. It’s hard to distinguish what is hidden that people want to know and hidden but people don’t want to know. Some culture is very deep but nobody knows because nobody wants to know. It’s hard to think in a foreigner’s view.”

Jun Seok: “The challenge for me was to learn new things. “

Junseok has to learn how to do video editing after his friend quitted Loving Korea. He learned it by himself. For him, everything was a first time including Video editing, photoshop and blog and managing facebook page.


What’s your most memorable trip with LOVING KOREA?

Jaemin explaining about Korean alphabet
(c) LovingKorea


Young Jin: “I think Core Korea. I think the Hangeul was very good because Jaemin was very good at it. A lot of people were moved by the way he guided."



Visiting an old village as part of Time Machine tour
(c) LovingKorea


Jaemin: “My most memorable tour is Time machine to Korea. It was my first tour. We invited people by Facebook and it was our first try to guide and everybody loved it. I still remember we kept checking the route and what kind of explanation we have to edit.”

Summer Activities at Ganghwado
(c) LovingKorea



Jun Seok:” I visited Ganghwado. I watched a TV show about Ganghwado and they show about one hidden place and they were making local things. They have program on how to make flower pancake. I visited the place with my parents. Then I decided to make a tour with Loving Korea. We first visited, then made a tent at 33 degrees, then the next day we visited again. We visited several times. It was interesting because it was our first time to build a tent under the heat of the sun.”


What do you think Loving Korea could offer that other travel groups couldn’t?

Jaemin: “The biggest point is we show them different places like Medicine museum. In our tour we edit our opinion, it’s not fact but our opinion and even more interesting.”

Young Jin: “ Our identity is to find hidden aspects to Korea for the people. We make a course, what place is good and attractive. We usually check all information and a lot of story and we want to make them lasts. We always search interesting story and not just boring information. We always make them comfortable, we have dinner together and just hang out.”

Jun Seok: “From the starting point up to now, there are many changes and obstacles that we didn’t expect. We are doing things as a guide and events. The most important thing is that we are Koreans, we say our opinions. I cannot know what you really want to do. I show first something as a Korean. Then second thing, we just didn’t tell a story, we share the story just like a friend with our own opinion.”


What are your standards in selecting places to visit?

Jaemin: “Guiding has to have a theme. If we don’t have a theme, it’s not like a tour, it’s just like walking. First we go to the places, sit and see what’s common things we could see from there. That’s how we make travel plans.”

Jun Seok: “The first point is that, it should be interesting. I visited many cities and Insadong many times, but if I will try to look at things in different, then it looks different.”

Young Jin: “Like what Jaemin mentioned, we have a theme. Since we are Koreans, we have some complaints about Korean things, or we can tell story which is interesting. If we feel it’s interesting, then it could be interesting to them. If we feel it’s an attractive topic, then we choose that.”
Jun Seok: “we first decide a topic, we search and then we visit. “


What impression would you like to leave to the people?

Jaemin:” I will tell people that Korea is not Seoul. I want to tell like some small parts, I want to make people realize about different Korea. I want to tell people that what you can see in the touristy place is not everything. “

Hiking and picnic
(c) LovingKorea


Young Jin: “In my case, to give a really good image about Korea. I think I want to have an image from them that I can be a friend with people very easily.”

Jun Seok: “Two Things. 1. That they enjoy it. 2. I want them to see that at least they see something different.”

For anyone interested to join future trips of LOVING KOREA, you can like the facebook page or subscribe on their YOUTUBE channel. For more information about this, please refer to the links below:

FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/lovingkorea2016/
YOUTUBE CHANNEL: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd-wof0ucwBOKR9vNSIrurA

I believe that this travel group is not just a group for the travelers, it’s also for the people who want to know more about Korea. In so doing, knowing more about Korea will also make you love this country even more. With that, I say that LOVING KOREA is not just a travel group, it’s an advocacy to introduce Korea to anyone interested. It’s like a book open for everybody who wants to read it. The group is now operating for one year, and for what it is now, I think that this is a promising project and will continue to be more successful in the future.

11 comments:

  1. I'm curious to see how Saranghae Korea grows! It's definitely a necessary addition to the Korean tour industry, as so many other operators focus on the top tourist attractions and never really get off the beaten path.

    I enjoyed the candor of the interview as well. Starting something like this with hardly any experience and limited funds was almost guaranteed to be a difficult slog, and it was interesting to read how the three founders made things work. Good interview!

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    1. Thanks Nathan, but I guess you are referring your curiosity to Loving Korea. I am not sure if they're acknowledged by the Korea Tourism Organization, but I believe in this advocacy, whether recognized or not, this team is doing something for the benefit of the country's tourism industry

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  2. It's funny when he said some locals don't know their own town or city. Some of my friends who were born and raised in Seoul had never even been to Gyungbokgung. It's also a good idea to get people out of the city. Seoul certainly isn't everything Korea has to offer.

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    1. I'm guilty of that because as a Filipino, I don't know my country too well. It hurts but it's the truth

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  3. What a great thing the guys behind Loving Korea are doing! They're in essence ambassadors of their country, which is so great. I've been on a few organized tours in Daegu, where I live, and have been thoroughly impressed.

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  4. I love the idea of this - and it's great to see people with so much passion and love for their own country. I like how the leaders are trying to take people off the beaten track and to see places a little different to the usual tourist spots.

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  5. Good luck. There are many travel groups out there but of course there's always room for more especially for a country as interesting as Korea. And it's great to know that you are friends with them. I saw your video, by the way.

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  6. It's so nice to see locals taking an interest in promoting tourism in their towns and cities. It's always a welcome change to have a tour available that is not mainstream and overpopulated. Do these guys charge for their tours?

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  7. Loving Korea looks like a great tour company. I love finding businesses who are actually passionate about places rather than the ones who just shove loads of people in a tour bus to make money. I used to hate taking tours but I have changed my tune recently. Loving Korea looks like a great company!

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  8. Working in the tourism industry myself, I see a lot of truth in what they shared. First of all, its so true that locals sometimes really don't know the lay of the land! I'm just a very curious creature myself so I think getting acquainted to one's surroundings is imperative but when I was younger, seeing things "local" was not really all that important to me. And reconnecting to the traditional is something I observed Korean people had a hard time with! But its amazing that these three are really trying to bridge the gap between locals and foreigners with this initiative. Thanks for the great interview!

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  9. I wish they were already there while I was still living in Korea! I also agree that we often visit the more "touristy" places, but those places have already been made up just to suit foreigners and visitors! I also like how these guys plan to share their opinions about some places and not just facts, which is something we travelers like to hear I think. Great post! This group is great for backpack travelers especially! :)

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