Korean Bloggers: 8 Digital Authors Who Can Teach You Korean Language and Culture
Perhaps you’ve already taken your first steps into the Korean blogosphere.
Now it’s time to meet the bloggers behind your favorite sites.
Still wondering what mix of Korean blogs to read in order to have that ultimate language learning experience? Look to the bloggers to see which sites have the coolest content in store for you.
I’ve scoured the digital space and found for you eight of the most interesting and most informative blogs about Korea, its language, its culture, its people and what those people are thinking.
Collectively, they’ll help you learn the language and give you a totally immersive learning experience.
But you may ask…
How Can Reading Korean Blogs Help Me Learn the Language?
Reading blogs in your target languagehones your reading chops in that language, that seems obvious enough. But how can reading varied blogs about Korean food, culture and entertainment help you acquire more of the grammar, vocabulary, etiquette and cultural details that define the language?
Here’s how. Plunging into many different Korean blogs is actually the very definition of immersion.
If ever you decide to go to Korea for a few months and learn the language through immersion, you won’t be studying Hangul 24/7, living inside your language classroom or sitting face-to-face with your language tutor the whole day. No, your time in the country will be divvied up into an assortment of personal experiences. You’ll be bombarded with authentic encounters, like eating Japchae, watching EXO shows, singing Korean songs and taking in the culture in the busy streets of Seoul.
Reading different blogs does the very same thing—except instead of it being a firsthand experience, you get the cultural insights indirectly by living vicariously through bloggers. So, it’s a more indirect kind of immersion, but a much cheaper alternative to actually booking flights in and out of Incheon.
The more varied your reading fare is, the more knowledge gaps are filled and the clearer the bigger picture becomes. That’s why, for this post, I’ve picked eight amazing bloggers writing on different beats from food and entertainment to socio-political issues. You can say that you’ve got all your bases covered. Plus, the blogs are written in English too, so there’s a little bit of linguistic hand-holding involved especially for the beginner.
You’ll be taking in different kinds of looks into the language and culture, and as a result, you’ll gain a more nuanced and textured understanding of Korean.
Just because they’re not directly related to language learning doesn’t mean they can’t teach you a great many things about language. One can be an unassuming food blog, but the same can also provide a wonderful context and anchor for your Korean. For example, you won’t ever forget that guk means “soup” after reading a colorful account about it in a blog, giving you memorable context for the target language.
And don’t forget, someday you’ll be speaking Korean with natives. When that day comes, you won’t only be confined to the strictest rules of grammar, proper word usage and textbook-friendly topics of discussion. Ultimately, you’ll want to intelligently discuss things with a native speaker on a whole range of issues. (Yes, even about the song “Gangnam Style.”) Reading Korean blogs will give you linguistic and cultural knowledge on a diversity of topics—just what you needed.
That said, here are eight of the most amazing blogs written by some of the most endearing bloggers this side of the DMZ.
8+ Korean Bloggers Whose Blogs You Should Subscribe To Immediately
Hyunwoo (and friends) of Talk To Me In Korean
We’ll start this list with a trio of language learning sites, and what better way to open it than with the team over at Talk To Me In Korean (TTMIK). It’s one of the most popular Korean language learning blogs out there, as well the one with the most content to offer.
They have books, videos, podcasts and a ladderized curriculum for every level of learner.
At first glance, you can readily sense the love for language in the guys and gals behind the TTMIK team. And by “team,” I mean the seven-person crew that includes:
- Hyunwoo Sun — He says he’s learning (or has learned) English, Japanese, French, Chinese and Spanish, and is psyched to learn a few more. You wonder how he still has time to pursue his other loves, which include making videos, taking photos, traveling and b-boying.
- Hyeonjeong Kim — She believes that when people want to learn languages, there should be good materials and good people ready to help them do exactly that. I’d say she’s doing a great job putting that belief into practice at TTMIK.
- Jooyeon Park — If you have a question about Korea or Korean, Jooyeon would absolutely love to be the one to answer that. She likes teaching language very much and finds joy in seeing people improve.
- Kyeong-eun Choi — If you’ve taken one of TTMIK’s courses, then you’ve benefited from the content that Kyeong-eun developed. You can also hear her exuberant voice whenever you need a pick-me-up, as she’s one of the hosts of TTMIK’s podcasts.
- Kyung-hwa Sun — Here we have one amazing teacher who can swat all the bugs in your pronunciation through her show “How Do You Say This in Korean?” She’s a cute, fun-loving gal who makes this website feel like home.
- Seokjin Jin — Besides being a great language teacher, Seokjin just loves to draw cartoons. So in the future, if you see some colorful cartoons popping up in TTMIK’s content and are wondering who created them, he’d be first the suspect.
- Yoona Sun — As a graduate with degrees in visual communication design and digital media design, Yoona has been upping the usability levels of TTMIK’s content and blog. Let’s thank her for that.
Matthew Smith of Korean Self-Study Isn’t Lame
Yeah, this one’s a bit older and hasn’t been updated for quite a while. I included this in the list because of the breadth of material it contains for Korean language learners.
What you have here is the digital remains of a Westerner who went on to tackle the Korean language and succeeded in taming it.
He wrote a digital diary during the process, mainly for personal use and review—and that’s what this site is. Now, you have access to everything he has written and some insights into his linguistic journey.
The dude’s name is Matthew Smith. He’s moved in and out and back again to Korea, joining the Navy and finishing an ESL master’s program in the process. He also loves pedaling bikes and even has a blog where he features the Korean countryside on two wheels, complete with YouTube videos.
The Korean of Ask A Korean
What started out as an homage to ¡Ask a Mexican! became a cultural powerhouse that fields questions ranging from “How do I attract Korean men?” to “Do Koreans eat dogs?”
It was in 2006, while being a third-year law school student, when The Korean answered his first question on the blog. Oh, by the way, the blogger keeps his identity a secret, calling himself TK (for “The Korean”) or TK Park, referring to himself in the third person—because it sounds cool, okay?
He was born in Korea but moved to LA when he was 16. Today, he’s a lawyer in Washington D.C.
You can really get a good flavor of his personality in his “Policies” page. But don’t misinterpret his brash comments or take his writing lightly. Although they have been crafted to be funny and entertaining, the posts are extremely well-researched, thoughtful and reveal plenty of meaty substance. You’ll read a mind who has successfully straddled both the Korean and the Western sides of things to different issues, adeptly explaining Korea to readers from all over the world.
Language learners will get the flavor of Korean culture, its people and their thinking by reading the blog, which has been going strong for almost a decade.
Gemma Wardle of A Fat Girl’s Food Guide
No parade of blogs about Korea will ever be sufficient without including food. Korean food, unlike most national dishes and culinary traditions around the world, is actually healthy—involving heaping doses of veggies.
Lest you think Korean food is boring and unappetizing, I bring you Gemma Wardle and her blog, A Fat Girl’s Food Guide. All food blogs talk about the food, how it tastes and what the ambiance in the restaurant is. But Gemma’s goes to a whole different level. Not just passionate about food, but food being her ultimate obsession, she has that rare knack of vicariously bringing readers into the restaurant, sipping the same tea or slurping the same soup. Reading a post of hers is enough to keep one warm in those dreaded Korean winters.
She came to Korea as an English teacher seven years ago. Then in 2012, she started the blog that resonated with many readers both expats and native speakers. She’s so famous in the food circuit she’s often been invited to be a guest on radio shows and do some Meok-Bang videos.
Looking at her pictures, you may wonder why she called her blog A Fat Girl’s Good Guide when she’s not overweight at all. Well, she used to be, but around 2014 she started working out and eating a little differently—which only shows that you can eat a lot and be healthy at the same time.
Matt Kelly of Discovering Korea
Named Best Travel and Culture Blog by the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), Matt’s blog is what other travel writers and photographers read when they need information on what to do and where to go in Korea.
His pictures are unbeatable and, when he visits a place, Matt combs the area for all the useful information and plasters this on his blog. Reading any of his posts, you get the feeling that not only does Matt know the rich details behind these destinations, but that he’s yet hiding something from the readers. And the very thought eats on your insides, nagging to you make the journey and go to the place and discover for yourself the beauty that’s been reflected in his camera’s lenses.
Language learners not only get to see beautiful places, they get an eyeful of information they can use to make the language stick. You won’t just memorize the names of places and things, or how they’re correctly pronounced. You’ll get to see, from Matt’s awesome pictures, the actual referents of the Korean vocabulary you’re learning. And something tells me that if you see one of Matt’s pictures, you won’t be forgetting it any time soon.
The Seoul Beats Team
When you talk about the “Korean Wave,” you’re actually referring to the flood of entertainment content that the country has been contributing to international pop culture.
In fact, many who have been enticed to learn Korean were actually initially charmed by the torrent of movies, dramas, comedies, songs and pop stars that have taken over Asia and the world.
The Seoul Beats team wants to house everything you’d ever want or need to know about K-Pop—from Korean music idols to TV stars, even the indie scene. It contains the latest and greatest regarding the who and the what of Korean entertainment.
So, for the many, many Korean language learners who love to be reminded why they took to learning Korean in the first place, reading about that favorite Korean solo artist might just be the shot of adrenaline needed. Bookmark this site to stay connected to modern Korean culture and pop references while staying immersed in the language.
James Turnbull of The Grand Narrative
Since I promised to have all your bases covered, we’ll round up this list with a socio-political blog that dares to talk about the edgier side of Korea.
James Turnbull’s The Grand Narrative has been mentioned in publications like TIME, The Washington Post, CNN, The Associated Press and Slate.
He tackles a lot of issues that pertains to sexuality, feminism, pop culture and their place and function in society. He can talk about advertising, media and body image issues without being crass. Although his genre can easily be dry or boring, he has the ability to make the issues approachable, engaging and relatable to a wide variety of readers.
The posts in this blog are well-substantiated and if you want a detailed blow-by-blow account of a music video, for example, James can give you that and more. For language learners, this is a strangely insightful and informative look into the undercurrents of the Korean society. You’ll always come away a little more reasoned and seasoned about the culture of the language you’re interested in.
So, those are the eight bloggers whose blogs you should subscribe to.
What are you waiting for? Hit that “subscribe” button now!
Add them to your staple routine of Korean textbooks, audiobooks and podcasts. They’ll give you different pieces of the puzzle and help you figure out the big picture. Read their posts and you’ll realize that the language itself will be more meaningful and more vivid for you.