The content of each post is solely written by that contributor and only expresses the contributor's personal views. Each post does not represent the views of all the contributors or Women of Color Living Abroad as an organization. Each contributor is speaking from their own person experiences and/or perspective.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Novelty of Being a Waygookin (Foreigner) in Korea

 By Nicole Brewer

I’ve managed to have many first in Korea after living here for over three years.  The first time I road a horse was on Jeju island; my first time staying in a temple; my first time attending an international World Championship match.  Well I recently added a new first to my ever-extending list: my first time playing a role in a music video! Yeah, you read that right. I’m now a video chick, nonetheless a classy one as I played a jazzy type singer singing the chorus to a Korean rapper’s song entitled Rain by Masstige. 

So I know you’re wondering, how did that come about? I’m apart of a really cool group here in Korea called the Brothers and Sisters of South Korea. Brothers and Sisters of South Korea (BSSK) is a resourceful group on facebook for those looking to network with other minorities or learn about the experience of living in Korea.  One day while at work killing time in between classes I scrolled through the newsfeed of BSSK to find a posting by a Korean film student looking for a Black lady to cast in the video of a Korean rapper that lived in Busan, my Korean hometown.  As a hip hop head I was intrigued.  

On the set of Korean rapper Masstige video for a song entitled "Rain."

The only prerequisite was to be a Black woman. No dancing, singing or Korean skills applied. He thought that a Black woman would fit perfectly for the cinematography of the video. I shoot him an email displaying my interest and the rest is history. I had fun chatting it up with some of the others on the set of Club Fabric (who will be hosting the “Attack on Busan” hip hop invasion night soon) in Busan. One Korean actor asked me if I spoke Korean. I said chocum which means a little in Korean. I asked, do you speak English and he waved his hands feverishly saying no, no. However, he managed to tell me who his favorite hip hop artist are such as DMX, Tupac and Biggie. We managed to discuss the universal language of music.

Now there was some debate and speculation amongst some of the group members of BSSK.  Why is he looking for a Black women? What’s up with this strange request, etc were some of the things I heard.  Well, me being the curious bee that I am followed up, nothing lost right.  Ironically enough many group members had an e-debate on a thread recently about the lack of representation of Black women in big K-pop stars videos, especially considering how many of them are influenced by Black or African American artist. My love Rain (Bi), in all of his ninja assassin glory, admitted that Usher is his idol. We don’t hear too many of those admissions here in Korea. 

In my time in Korea I am often approached by random Koreans with interesting, slightly strange request at times.  I don’t know if I just have an open, approachable face or not but I think it’s the waygook effect.  A couple of weeks ago while sitting in the café on the University campus where the high school I work at is located, I was approached by two Korean college students.  They wanted to film me while they did a magic trick. In his broken English, he said “we need to use foreigner”.  It was their lucky day to come across me while I took in my rich café mocha latte.  I went ahead with their request, why not? Nothing lost again right it was enjoyable to be entertained. 

Not all of my experiences as a foreigner in Korea are pleasurable.  You will come across the random stares (esp. in my case as a 5’10 African American women not too many of us tall beauties walking around), snarls and more especially from some of the older Koreans that are stuck in their train of thought of keeping Korea a “one blood” nation.  It is still quite a homogenous society but I like to think with some of these small feats that I’m managing to help change this mentality. 

Picture courtesy of Mannam International Volunteer association.
Another interesting experience I had while walking on the glorious beauty of Haeundae beach was being approached by a few Koreans that were interested in talking to me.  They were apart of a volunteer group called Mannam that actively recruits foreigners in Korea to partake in activities such as free Korean classes, sports teams, marathons for charity and more. She really peaked my interest at the mention of a cooking class as I’ve had the desire to learn how to cook Korean food. 

I’ll be attending a meet and greet at a dinner in the near future with the chef for the class. I shall “move with caution” as my Korean co-teacher said when I mentioned it to her. Her first thought was oh no, they may be a religious group that will try to convert you ha.  My advice to those that are in Korea or any other foreign land is to really allow yourself to immerse into the culture.  I’m a firm believer that you get back to you the energy that you put out. Therefore keep it light hearted, fun and enjoyable and you will get this back to you. 


  1. Wonderful post! You'll have to post a link to video so we can see the final product.

  2. Supa Dope...!!! Love it!!!!

  3. Now that's cool. I'd love to see the finished product.

  4. Very nice article..