In the issue XV of Artı 90 Periodical, we are going to introduce you to Woohee from South Korea, who has a very colorful personality. Woohee, who came to our country to pursue a master’s degree with Türkiye Scholarships, shortly set out to discover Turkey. She has already visited Trabzon, Rize, Karabük, Konya, Izmir, Eskişehir, Ankara, Istanbul, Muğla, Nevşehir, and Kırıkkale. Now, she is considering Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep as her next route.
Woohee hasn’t neglected tasting Trabzon’s cornmeal Kuymak, Izmir’s crispy bagel Gevrek and Boyoz pastry, and Ankara’s famous stuffed flatbread and pastry dish Gözleme. One of the things that delights her the most is the love of Turkish people for Koreans. “That is why one of the first words I learned was ‘kardeş’ which means a brother or sister, because Turkish people consider South Korea as their sister country,” says Woohee.
Woohee also points out that Turkey is being portrayed as a dangerous country on TV throughout the world: “As far as I could observe on TV, Turkey was being portrayed as a dangerous and bad country. That is why my family disliked the idea of me coming here. Also, while I was in Korea, I had never met a Muslim before. The only information we could acquire about Muslims was what we saw on TV. When I got here, everything I thought I knew about Muslims changed.”
Can you introduce yourself?
Hi, my name is Woohee. I am from South Korea. I am 25 years old. I was born in South Korean city of Busan where I lived with my family who still live there. The coast of Busan looks very much like the coast of Izmir. If you come to Busan, you can eat fresh seafood.
Woohee, can you tell us what impelled you to opt for coming to Turkey?
While I was studying Business Administration in South Korea, I did a project for International Marketing course. I thought it would be interesting to choose Turkish market for my project, since I had attended a summer school in Turkey. Also, I saw Turkey as a country with a high potential in the area of Internet and mobile applications. However, I had difficulty obtaining information as there were not many people who could mediate between two cultures. This experience had some effect on my choice to pursue a master’s degree in Turkey. Currently, I am working with a team of my Turkish friends on developing a new mobile application.
What were your impressions when you first came to Turkey?
When I first came here, I didn’t speak any Turkish. That is why I had very hard time communicating with people. But even though they didn’t speak English either, people always tried to help me and they would address me as ‘sister’. Turkish people are very friendly. Apart from this, their family culture, solidarity and hospitality are what makes them very much like Koreans. Turkish people get angry very quickly, but they immediately calm down and start asking friendly questions such as “What’s up buddy?”. They also offer tea on the streets very often. They like Koreans very much, and say that Korea is their sister country. That is why one of the first words I learned in Turkish was ‘kardeş’ which means a brother or sister.
Turkish people are very friendly. Apart from this, their family culture, solidarity and hospitality are what makes them very much like Koreans.
Your Turkish is very good. What were the biggest challenges you faced while learning Turkish?
My Turkish has improved a lot, as I studied it at Hacettepe University’s TÖMER (Turkish Language Learning Center). I can read books in Turkish. I can even teach Korean to my Turkish friends. And most importantly, I can bargain when I go shopping in the market. But there are still many difficulties I have to deal with. Once, I addressed a security guard as ‘güvercin bey’ (Mr. Pigeon) instead of ‘güvenlik’ (security). When he said “I am not a bird”, I realized I’d made a mistake. There are many similar words in Turkish, so I make mistakes like this. For instance, words such as pencere-tencere (window-pot), köpek-ipek (dog-silk), teneffüs-telaffuz (respiration/break-pronunciation), kaplumbağa-tulumba (turtle-pump) are very much alike.
Once, I addressed a security guard as ‘güvercin bey’ (Mr. Pigeon) instead of ‘güvenlik’ (security). When he said “I am not a bird”, I realized I’d made a mistake.
What can you tell us about your educational life, university environment, friends and professors?
I have made a lot of friends in Turkey, and they are all very kind and sincere towards me. My friends from different cities tell me about their cultures specific to the regions they come from. When they invite me to their hometowns to experience their culture, I visit them. Currently, I share a room with a Turkish friend. She is a ‘dadaş’ from Erzurum (a word for youth used in Eastern Anatolia). I couldn’t speak any Turkish, but my professors taught me both Turkish language and culture. I visited one of my professors who taught me how to make biber dolması (stuffed peppers). Before stuffing the peppers, I thought they would burst, but they didn’t, and the meal turned out to be excellent. Now, I can prepare a few Turkish dishes, and for this, I am grateful to my professor.
I think that Turkish people are very amusing. I especially like people from the Black Sea region. They are very funny and warm. They are very similar to the people in my hometown.
What do you want to do after you finish your education in Turkey?
I plan to become a ‘special bridge’ between Turkey and Korea, just like the Bosphorus Bridge which connects European and Asian continents. After the Free Trade Agreement, Turkey’s trading with Korea expanded; however, there are not enough people who can speak both languages and who are familiar with both cultures, so certain problems can arise. For this reason, I want to contribute to strengthening of the relations between Korea and Turkey.
How do you describe Turkey to your friends and family in South Korea?
As far as I could observe on TV, Turkey was being portrayed as a dangerous and bad country. That is why my family disliked the idea of me coming here. Also, while I was in Korea, I had never met a Muslim before. The only information we could acquire about Muslims was what we saw on TV. When I got here, everything I thought I knew about Muslims changed. Contrary to what people say, I observed that they are very emotional and supportive. In order to understand them better, I lived like them for two days during the month of Ramadan; I covered my hair and fasted. I asked them why they were doing these things, and they explained to me that they fast so that they could understand those in need. After this experience, I was able to grasp Islam better, and I thought that this was a very emotional religion. When I go back to Korea, I want to tell about my experiences here to my friends.
Which Turkish cities have you visited? Which one did you like the most?
In Turkey, I visited Trabzon, Rize, Karabük, Konya, Izmir, Eskişehir, Ankara, Istanbul, Muğla, Nevşehir, and Kırıkkale. Since Turkey is a very big country, cities and regions differ from each other a lot. That is why I like traveling through Turkey very much. I like Trabzon a lot, because I find the people of Trabzon to be very sincere and their breakfast culture very rich and natural. I also like Izmir, because I associate it with my hometown. I tasted Izmir’s crispy bagel Gevrek and Boyoz pastry. Sitting on the seashore in the evening and eating sunflower seeds and mussels in Izmir is exceptionally beautiful. Mussels are cheaper than in Ankara. I recommend doing this to those who go to visit Izmir.
We would like to hear about Ankara from you. Living in Ankara, what are the things you enjoy the most?
Breathing fresh air while riding a bike along Eymir Lake makes me very happy. Since Gölbaşı is quite close, I love going there after my bike rides to barbecue with my friends. I go there very often just for the barbecue. Every Thursday an open market is set up in Sıhhiye; I go there to eat various foods. Ladies there make amazing gözleme (stuffed flatbread and pastry dish). I love that place too.
“While trying to taste Turkish cuisine, I gained weight.”
I am very fond of Turkish food, and I love talking about it. Even now, just talking about it makes me hungry. My biggest problem after I came to Turkey was gaining 6 kg of weight. Turkish cuisine is very rich, and I wanted to taste everything. Maybe that is why I gained so much weight. My favorite dishes are çiğköfte (a raw meatball dish) and Adana Kebab. I like eating spicy food. Therefore, I want to visit Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep. There spicy dishes are very famous. I want to taste really spicy food. As for the desserts, I love künefe (a cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup) and irmik helvası (semolina pudding). There is a lady at the Sıhhiye open market who sells künefe. I simply love it. She is from Hatay and she makes the real künefe. I also like Maraş ice cream. Those two go together perfectly. Hot and cold desserts are eaten together. It was in Turkey that I tasted it for the first time, and it is delicious. I had some foreign friends who wouldn’t eat any. But when they tried it, they asked for more.