"Humans of Seoul" The true colors of South Korea's capital

Although there are cultural differences between people from different countries, there is always the common human feeling and the pursuit of happiness uniting us. That's what I learned from the moment I started to follow "Humans of New York" (HoNY) and I wasn't the only one, the idea spread all around the world and today there are hundreds of other blogs showing the humans of the world. One of them is "Humans of Seoul" for which I have a special place in my heart since it gives me a glimpse of Korea besides the music, TV dramas and historical books I have in hand, it shows the ordinary people living on the streets of Seoul.

As a big fan that I am, I asked "Humans of Seoul" for a chance to talk about this project and share with all of you, and for this they kindly answered some questions.


Dryka B. : Why did the project "Humans of New York" inspire you?
Humans of Seoul: Humans of New York is such a great idea because it gives readers a glimpse into the unique lives of people who, in a city as large as New York, may otherwise get lost in the crowd. HONY also delivers messages and values which are frequently overlooked in today’s media which far too often focuses on the negative. These are people we can relate to or sympathize with which can make us feel connected no matter where an individual may live. We wanted people of Korea to have the same sort of feeling. In a city of more than 10 million people, it is easy to feel alone or different. This is especially true in Korean society, where an emphasis is placed on group consciousness rather than an individual’s ideas, values, and overall existence.


Dryka B. : What do you think is the main difference between Humans of New York and Humans of Seoul?
Humans of Seoul: It comes down to culture. We post our page in both Korean and English so readers from any country can see the similarities or differences between people from Korea and anywhere else in the world. From a Korean point of view, it is common to initially hide or mask your feelings and thoughts from those around you. We are sincerely curious about what the individuals living in Seoul are like rather than just knowing where they live or what they do for a living. Hopefully Korean readers will feel like they are more a part of a community after following Humans of Seoul. Another difference lies in the focus on the self-recognition of happiness. Seoul, as the capital of the country, has the highest suicide rate and the lowest life satisfaction. Our interviewees often confess their personal views on happiness and look to give advice especially toward the future generation. This implies people’s strong desire for happiness under the harsh pressure of society on individual lives, inspiring the readers to have the better future; it’s a form of sincere humanity from strangers.


Dryka B. : I have this really nice friend whom I usually talk to through Facebook and sometimes it gets funny since Portuguese is my mother language and he’s Korean, so we have to meet half way texting in English, but he’s not so good at it and I sometimes get lost in translation too. I’m trying to learn Korean little by little and all by myself. Have you ever met someone on the streets of Seoul trying to overcome the language barrier ?
Humans of Seoul:
Things must be different when a foreigner lives in Seoul. There are tons of Korean classes. Just being in a Korean city would improve their Korean proficiency. Most expats, except for Korean Americans, didn’t speak Korean well, but their pronunciation of several necessary Korean words (e.g. “Ajumma” and “Gyesan haejuseyo”) was really great. I personally know some expats who can speak Korean well, but never have met such people on the streets yet.


Dryka B. : I have to say, I am someone who came to be interested in Korea because of Korean pop music and Korean dramas, and we always hear about Busan, Jeju, Incheon, Gwangju and therefore we are curious about people leaving outside of the capital too. Do you have any plans on starting another project like this in other Korean cities or at least extend and be ‘Humans of Korea’?
Humans of Seoul: Some page managers contacted us in their initial stages. We always advise them to put humanity first. As in "Humans of New York", "Humans of Seoul" currently aims for humanity and universality not for the regional characteristics; thus, we are not sure what kind of forms an united page of 'Humans of ' project could have in Korea. Maybe it’d be fun to see!

Dryka B. : In my search to know more about Korea, since a lot of aspects about it fascinates me, I came across some not so foreign friendly blogs out there that seriously slows down and discourages cultural exchange between people from different countries. Brazil has a few clichés attached to it and you probably heard about it, and even though it’s not all there is, its indeed part of our culture. Are there a lot of generalizations about Korea and Koreans that are not really part of Korean culture? And how people usually react to them?
Humans of Seoul: We also know the aforementioned issue you raised, but it’s a bit premature for us to give a conclusive answer to your question. We, even including English-Edition-Editor, have lived in Korea for quite a long time; it’s not easy for us to see how Korean culture is viewed in other cultures. What contributes to this problem is that there have been very limited ways to view actual Korean lives as they are. We believe that "Humans of Seoul" makes up for the scares sources.


Dryka B. : As you said before "Humans of Seoul" was inspired by "Humans of New York" initiative, but can you tell us how the idea came about? And a little bit about the team behind it all, like where they came from, ages and future ambitions?
Humans of Seoul: Last summer, I (Editor-in-Chief) was told by my friend that there is an awesome photography project. She simply mentioned the site, giving me the link: humansofnewyork.com. At first, I thought the site would be where the photographer gathered images of strange New Yorkers, but as I read daily entries of HoNY on Faecbook timeline, my perception totally changed. Then, I came to the conclusion that Seoul people need such a project as HoNY. Right after concluding that, I called my partner, Kihun Park (Creative Director), who’s working in the fashion photography industry. After skimming several episodes of HoNY, he coolly said “Yeah, let’s do this”. Later, for precise English translation, we recruited a native English speaker, Christy, who works as an English teacher in Korea and reads Korean at a decent level. We’re not sure about the future of this project, but the first goal for the time being is to enlighten Seoul people about the happiness and humanity, which seem to vanish little by little as Korea develops.

10325286_10152006390392750_7763002987643420785_nHumans of Seoul co-founders

Enjoying a book, going out with friends, following dreams…even if expressed in a different language all around the world, those are all things we can relate to. Accepting the differences, admiring them and embracing the similarities, that's what these projects are about, and this is how the world should be too.

Thank you "Humans of Seoul" for kindly talking to RomanticK and for showing us Korea's true colors.

Show your support by following "Humans of Seoul"! And check it out more of these stories on:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/seoulhumans
Tumblr:  www.humansofseoul.com

And don't forget to check it out the original project "Humans of New York":
Facebook: www.facebook.com/humansofnewyork

*Special thanks to Ingra Braga, who helped to translate and correct the interview!

Bear Hug
Dryka B.


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Dryelli, 24 anos, Maringá, PR