Interview with Taru Salminen

South Korea based TV-celebrity and entrepreneur, Finnish Taru Salminen visited Helsinki and talked to EARS about what it’s like to work in the field of media in a totally different culture.  

Taru, how did you end up in South Korea?

 By accident! When I was in High School I had many penpals from South Korea as I wanted to improve my English skills. Through those connections I developed an interest towards the Korean language which I ended up studying for some years at the University of Helsinki. During my studies, I did an university exchange to South Korea and fell in love with the country immediately: incredibly nice people, beautiful mountains, ocean, sun, and delicious food! After returning to Finland I knew I had to find a way to move to South Korea for a longer period of time. And so I did! I ended up in a popular Korean conversational TV-show as one of the panelists and started to get more job offers from different fields of media.

How is your life in Seoul?

My life in Seoul is very hectic! I have many ongoing projects all the time, such as radio shows, TV programs, translation projects, my own restaurant and everything else you could imagine. In general people in Korea are very active: working long hours is normal and as in Finland, the working ethics are good.

What kind of cultural differences have you faced as a Finn in South Korea, especially working in media and the cultural field?

In Korea, working in media there are some topics that are absolute tabus. For example, the language that one uses in television is totally different from everyday life. As Korea used to be ruled by Japan many Korean words come from Japanese origin. Those words are banned in media and substituents are created to very commonly used everyday words. I have also understood that being a TV person in Korea is very different from Finland. In South Korea moral codes are really strict: as a reporter you cannot cause a scandal with your personal life and still appear regularly in media. After scandals such as gambling or divorce, people disappear from TV for 5 to 10 years.

What inspires you at the moment?

Different kinds of opportunities. Between Europe and Asia there are plenty of chances to build new collaborations. For example, at the moment I’m helping a new Finnish startup to establish their place in South Korean markets. In addition, I’m translating books and working on different cultural exchange projects. There are a lot of things to get inspiration from. I’d say I’m living a very interesting phase in my life right now.

Taru Salminen will give a keynote speech at EARS on Helsinki, register now to save your seat!

Interview with Kyung-sook Shin and Taru Salminen

The collaboration between South Korea’s award winning author Kyung-sook Shin and the country’s most famous Finn, Taru Salminen, kicked off at Taru’s Seoul-based restaurant. Dialogue over food expanded to a literature collaboration, and there’s more to come.

Please look after mother is the first South Korean book published in Finnish. How did it all come about?

Kyong-sook: The book was first published outside of South Korea in English for the US markets. After success in the States, European agents took interest in the book and slowly but steady the recognizability reached Finland. I’ve only heard positive feedback about the novel from Finnish readers but I actually had no idea that it is the first Korean book translated into Finnish. What a happy surprise!

Our collaboration with Taru started when the president of the Finland- Republic of Korea Association recommended Please take care of mother to the Embassy of Finland in Seoul. He thought it would be great idea to publish the book in Finnish. The embassy contacted Taru, and we kicked off our collaboration at her restaurant in Seoul.

Taru: As the author and the translator, we’ve been in contact throughout the project: in the translation process you have to think about cultural differences. For example, names of South Korean cuisine and some elements of the spiritual life needed to be explained a bit more thoroughly in Finnish. For Koreans, it is natural to think about passing on to the next reality from another, but for Finns existence is more simple.

How do you see the future of literature in South-Korea and Finland?

Kyong-sook: The situation is changing in Asia as it is in Europe also. Traditional books are not selling as much as people are finding easier accesses to written word by new medias. The general interest for literature has not decreased and its status in South Korean culture is still very strong.

The two countries have more in common than one could realize: like Finland, also South Korea has been dominated by other nations and is building up self confidence as a country. South Korean literature is experiencing a new awakening; under the years of dictature writers most important task was to rebel against the current situation in the country. Today authors have different voices and topics are more diverse. Such subjects as spiritual life and death used to be tabus, but I’m very happy about the advancements we’ve seen.

What does Europe-Asia collaboration mean to you?

Kyung-sook: I feel like Asia is seen by many Europeans as a big blur of similar cultures and languages. Many people don’t realise the diversity of Asian countries. On the other hand in Asia people are very interested in Europe and it is easy to specify differences between distinct parts of the continent. I’d like to see Europeans taking the first step towards Asia for a change: showing general interest and proposing collaborations.

Taru: I believe collaboration between Asia and Europe enriches both parties. I hope that through different cooperations people would learn from different ways of thinking, also learn to appreciate our variety as humans. When taking things to a practical level, I would like to see new media collaborations made about dialogue between Asia and Europe.

What are your collaboration plans for the future?

Kyung-sook: We’re very excited about a new project, which involves a new novel I’ve been working on for the past 3 months. I’d like to publish more books in Finnish so I hope that the first one turns out to be a success here so that we can continue the good work. We’ll see – it’s a dialogue between two cultures.

More stories and opportunities for Europe-Asia collaboration in the creative industries at EARS on Helsinki 2015.

Interview with Young Il Park

Young Il Park works as the Senior Researcher at the Policy Research Division, Future Strategy Team of Korean government organization for supporting content industries at Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA). REad on for Park’s insight into the Korean entertainment industry and the Korean government’s support for the country’s content industries. 

Hey, who are you and what do you do?

My name is Yongil Park. I work at Korean Creative Content Agency. KOCCA is a government agency that works for the Korean content business, helping companies that want to enter foreign markets. It also helps develop content business infrastructure and human resources. I work on analyzing the Korean content business and developing future strategies for the sector.

What are currently the big trends in the Korean entertainment industry?

Korean wave and K-pop are the biggest trends. K-pop is now spreading to Asia, Europe and America.

[quote text=”Korean content is most successful in Thailand and Vietnam, but Japan generates the biggest income.”]

How does it differ from China & Japan?

The most interesting research that I have conducted deals with Korean wave in countries like China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam. Interestingly, Korean content was most successful in Thailand and Vietnam, then China and then Japan, but Japan generated the biggest income.

How important is the entertainment industry for the Korean government and how does the government support it?

The Korean government acknowledges its importance and in 2009, the government designated the content business as a future economic engine. They are putting a great deal of effort into promotion in the public sector, as well.

I heard there are academies for pop stars?

Many young people contact entertainment companies with hopes of becoming pop stars. There are many academies that teach the kids the skills they need. There are many audition programs in the media… All of it geared towards finding the next kid with the biggest talent. The most professional training comes from professional business companies such as JYP, SM or YG

How does the system of localizing music and artists for different markets work?

It’s called unit activity. A group works in several units, depending on the needs of a particular area. Celebrities work in areas where their popularity is greatest: TV, movies or music…

[quote text=”K-pop songs are written and produced in co-operation with professionals from around the world”]

Why do you think K-pop has become increasingly popular in the West?

The key success factors are the fact that K-pop stars are highly trained, the music is appealing and they are a very dynamic media presence. K-pop songs are written and produced in co-operation with professionals from around the world.

Do K-pop stars appear in different mediums, like video games and movies, too?

More and more celebrities are appearing in games, because it does tend to attract users. It’s good marketing.

What do you think will be the next big thing in Korean entertainment?

The Korean entertainment business will continue to grow stronger, which will lead to a greater awareness of Korean culture and Korean language all over the world. In the future the international success of Korean content will be broader based, with hits in movies, theater and even literature.

K-pop vs. J-rock: which is bigger?

J-pop has longer history, so it’s hard to compare, but I think K-pop has a great future ahead of it and will spread around the world like J-rock has.

Which artist would you recommend to someone who hasn’t listened to any K-pop before?

Girl groups are a good place to start. It’s a great way to learn about the different genres of K-pop. I’d recommend artists like Girls Generation, Wonder Girls and 21. The more you listen, the more you fall in love with K-pop.