Have you ever watched a Korean drama wishing you didn’t need subtitles?
Thankfully, enough online streaming websites now provide not only English but multi-language subtitles. Even then, it’d be nice to learn the language and all the cultural nuances so that you don’t ever have to miss a joke, right? Well, there is hope! Meet these 10 people from all around the world who are absolutely astonishingly fluent in Korean and let them inspire you.
Some speak better Korean than Koreans themselves! (Turn on subtitles)
Robert Holley, aka Ha-il
Born: Utah, USA
Born in 1958, Holley moved to Korea in 1978 and started out as a lawyer. He led numerous Korean TV shows and performed in Korean sitcoms in the 90s, rising to his stardom in the early 2000s. He’s known for his Busan dialect!
Born: Paris, France
Now a Professor of French Language and Culture at Sookmyung Women’s University of Korea, Ida Daussy rose to stardom around the same time as Ha-il. These two are almost the OG non-Korean TV personalities who paved a way for future non-Korean generations in the Korean entertainment-scape!
Yoon Mi-rae, or Tasha
Born: in Texas, USA to a Korean mother and an African-American father
If you’re at least a little interested in kpop, chance is you probably already know her, or you’re maybe even a fan of hers. Yes we all know that she grew up in Korea and is basically Korean (although she faced a lot of discrimination because of her mixed heritage like Insooni), but I found it necessary to include her because she really revolutionized the Korean hiphop scene as a non-typical female Korean.
Born: Quebec, Canada
Has anyone ever seen Misuda? It was a show that featured a panel of foreign women living in Korea in 2006-2010, and it was a major hit. Dominique was one of the panels.
Born: in the USA to a Korean father and an American mother of Lithuanian descent
Currently serving as the artistic director of Kyyk Musical Studio, Kolleen Park is one of the most influential people in the Korean Broadway Daehangno scene. She became famous to the public when she directed a choir on a variety show Qualifications of Men in 2010.
Born: Wellington, New Zealand
This New Zealand-born Australian appeared in numerous TV shows in Australia before making a debut in Korea, and started his Korean broadcasting career in 2002 as a reporter in a special Korea vs Japan World Cup program aired on SBS. He has been active in the Korean entertainment scene since.
Lucky Abishek Gupta
Born: New Delhi, India
Lucky is probably one of the most beloved panels in the variety show Non-Summit Meeting. He is incredibly smart and can lead a debate better than many Koreans can!
Born: Accra, Ghana
He started his Korean broadcasting career after appearing in a popular TV show with a friend in 2013. His initial reason for moving to Korea? A Korean Government Scholarship Program that his father recommended to him for his studies. Since his debut he appeared on famous star shows like Running Man and Law of the Jungle.
Born: Vermont, USA
Tyler’s the absolute ace of Non-Summit Meeting, and you’ll instantly know why when you hear him talk.
Born: Ohio, USA
Have you seen him on Facebook? Because that’s where his video went viral! Joseph is often seen on popular streets of Korea, singing praise songs in Korean and striking up conversations with people. He appeared in one Korean variety show after he went viral on Facebook.
Obviously there are so many more, and I can’t possibly list all of them. And to think of all the others probably out there that you don’t get to see on TV? It’s amazing that even in a monoethnic society like in Korea, diversity is becoming increasingly noticeable. In the past it was extremely unusual and odd to see someone with different eye and skin colors, and it’s still very difficult to fit in with this giant lump of a race if you’re a foreigner. But we’ve definitely come a long way.
And when Koreans see foreigners speaking remotely decent Korean? Jaw. Dropped! Thanks to recent social and entertainment movements that have been chipping away at the great invisible wall between Koreans and non-Koreans (because for a lot of Koreans it’s “we” against “they”), and MAJOR thanks to kpop, Korea as a country and society is becoming a little more inclusive and accepting. Extra thanks to these people for their online & TV presence in Korea, making “different” a new norm.
By Hyeyoung Jung · Contributor