By Park Si-soo
Korea in the eyes of foreign entrants at a Korean-speaking contest was a country full of mouth-watering foods and vigorous yet tenderhearted people.
“If someone asks me my favorite Korean food, I will answer without hesitation: bibimbap,” Novgorodo Vaveronika, a college student from Russia, said in fluent Korean, referring to the popular Korean meal of steamed rice mixed together with assorted ingredients. “It’s a healthy dish, which is colorful, delicious and easy to make.”
Vaveronika said she gained nearly 10 kilograms in 2009 after eating junk food almost every day.
“Back then, Korean food was so spicy that I ate only hamburgers and other fast food,” the Russian said. “One day when I became familiar with Korea, I tried eating bibimbap again and immediately fell in love with it. Now I cannot live without it. Bibimbap is my destiny.”
Vaveronika was among 21 Korean-speaking foreign nationals, including students, embassy staffers and researchers, who advanced to the final round of the 14th Korean language speech contest at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Friday.
The annual event under the themes of “My favorite Korean food” and “Experiences of Korean culture” was co-hosted by the university’s Institute of International Education (IIE) and Yonhap News Agency.
Bangiamer Ali, a high school student from Pakistan, the youngest contender, eulogized about “sundubu” or silky soft tofu often served in a spicy vegetable stew.
“The best sundubu I’ve ever tasted was served at a humble restaurant near my school. I give it two thumbs up,” Ali said. “Sundubu is the perfect food in taste as well as nutrition.”
Bhata Prasad Gaire, a student from Nepal, spoke of his first taste of “kimchi bokeumbap” or fried rice with chopped kimchi, describing it as “the taste of my hometown.”
Some speakers spoke about their view on Koreans and their culture.
“Koreans are always vigorous even when drinking alcohol,” said Leemann Isabelle Celine from Switzerland. “But I believe the attitude caused the ferocious zeal in Koreans for education of their children, which U.S. President Barack Obama has extolled.”
Terris Brown from the U.S. praised the kindness of Koreans based on his experiences with his Korean friends who invited him to their family gatherings during big holidays, with a warm welcome.
“I believe all the contenders will become a precious asset in promoting Korea worldwide,” said Kim Jung-sup, an IIE director.
The contest ended with Leemann Isabelle from Switzerland winning the grand prize. “I want to become a German-Korean translator,” she said.