Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
Global Connections

Curious about Korea? Ask the Korean!

From keeping readers updated on the kimchi shortage in Korea to fielding questions about Korean culture, the "Ask a Korean!" blog aims to entertain and provide a cultural resource.
From keeping readers updated on the kimchi shortage in Korea to fielding questions about Korean culture, the "Ask a Korean!" blog aims to entertain and provide a cultural resource.
  • Q&A blog "Ask a Korean!" fields questions about Korean culture
  • The Korean says he was inspired by the satirical "¡Ask a Mexican!" column widely syndicated in the United States
  • The Korean says he isn't claiming to represent all Koreans
  • His posts can be misunderstood, but he says he's trying to provide meaningful cultural input

South Korea is one of the countries we're featuring this week on Global Connections, a segment on CNN's Connect the World that takes very different countries and asks you to find the connections.

(CNN) -- It was originally a small, amusing project.

"I was in my third year of law school -- before the economy went to hell -- and I found people asking why Korea is this way or that," the Korean tells CNN. "I thought I could start a blog for fun."

The Korean, who prefers to remain anonymous, is the man behind "Ask a Korean!" -- a Q and A blog for people curious about North and South Korea and Korean culture.

Now an attorney who lives in the Washington, D.C. area, the Korean was inspired by "¡Ask a Mexican!," Gustavo Arellano's satirical column that's syndicated across the United States. (In the same vein, among others, there's also "Ask a Frenchman!" and "Ask a Russian.")

Since he answered his first question ("Dear Korean: Why are Korean men such awesome pool players?") in 2006, he's fielded thousands of questions from readers.

"It's almost become like a public diary. I guess the content is what makes it interesting," he said.

Often written in a straightforward style that can be peppered with profanity, the Korean has tackled the notorious ("Do Koreans eat dogs?"), the humorous ("About Korean bathrooms") as well as the personal ("What makes a person a Korean?").

The Korean, who moved from Seoul to Los Angeles when he was 16, says his blog is meant to entertain. A welcome change from his day job as an attorney, it allows him to tap into his creative side. "I'm more free and I get to write in a style I like," he says.

But it's also triggered criticism. A response last year to a question about whether Koreans eat dog meat ("Yup, they sure do") was lambasted in an opinion piece posted on the website of the organization Korean Animal Rights Advocates.

"Whenever we talk about race or ethnicity, it's fraught with danger. Every culture has aspects that certain members of that culture might not like to talk about," says Arellano, a.k.a. the Mexican, who's no stranger to criticism.

"I think it's refreshing to talk about taboo issues, but you have to do it in a way that's not denigrating the culture," he told CNN.

I get a lot of questions from people who have never been exposed to any Korean culture.
--The Korean
  • South Korea
  • East Asia
  • Seoul
  • North Korea
  • Asia

The Korean, who also uses the moniker T.K. Park (The Korean Park), says his blog, with its ironic tone, can be misunderstood. (He's taken to explicitly stating whether posts should be taken in jest or in seriousness in some cases.)

He makes it clear that he's no authority, and says he's never claimed to be representative of all Koreans -- "I think that would insult readers' intelligence," he says.

Joking aside, the Korean told CNN that the Q and A format serves as a cultural resource. Sometimes questions are as straightforward as how to read a Korean name or requests for simple translations of Korean words.

"I get a lot of questions from people who have never been exposed to any Korean culture," including many second-generation Korean Americans, he said.

"Some people are appreciative of the resource," he added. Adoptees and adoptive parents, for instance, have told him it's been helpful. The Korean finds providing this cultural input "very rewarding."

The questions come from around the world at a rate of about five to 10 questions a day. The Korean answers some personally and posts public responses to questions that he thinks have a broad application.

He has some sentimental favorites, such as the question his mentor Arellano submitted. ("Why do Koreans repeat 'Annyong Haseo!' when someone greets them with 'Annyong Haseo!' Isn't that redundant?")

The Korean has also tackled more weighty issues, such as the Korean-Japanese relationship. One of the reasons he doesn't reveal his identity is because he writes frequently about sensitive issues that can be misconstrued.

"What's great about the Korean," Arellano said, "is that not only will he answer general questions, but he'll also tackle more politically incorrect questions." And he does so in a way that's informative and funny, he added.

Some responses, such as "Measuring One's Koreanness," the Korean writes in a stream of consciousness. For questions that require research, he tries to do as much as he can via internet and newspaper searches. He also consults a network of friends and family who still live in South Korea.

He takes questions over email at but questioners should note, the Korean is very specific about requests.

Questions that are "off the reservation" aren't likely to yield a response. (He's been asked for the phone number of Korean pop superstar Rain before.) Bad grammar and punctuation are discouraged, as are questions that have already been addressed on the blog.

And note: The Korean doesn't provide relationship advice, so if you're having problems with your Korean significant other, and decide to turn to the Korean, your question could appear on his annual Best of the Worst round-up.

You've been warned.


Most popular Tech stories right now