K-Pop has made its impact around the world, working the Hallyu wave in even the smallest parts of a country. Among the influence, many have stories to tell about their experience with the culture. Brought to you by Sweet Sweet Kpop, we were able to arrange an interview with the k-pop enthusiast, Debora Marzec also known as the KPOP Jacket Lady. Starting with just one white jacket, this k-pop fan has put a new meaning to the appreciation of Korean culture.
Q: Can you tell us the story behind what started the KPOP Jacket Lady blog?
A: I first found K-pop, and Big Bang, in 2009. After watching an episode of Family Outing Season 1 in which Daesung was a regular cast member and GD was a guest, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about so I tracked down their MV’s on YouTube and got hooked. 2009 was a great year to get into K-pop, with songs such as SHINee’s Ring Ding Dong, Super Junior’s Sorry Sorry, and Brown Eyed Girls’ Abracadabra, plus a whole lot more.
By 2013, my daughter realized K-pop wasn’t a passing fad and decided I should have a K-pop Christmas, with all the presents K-pop related. One gift was a jacket with a machine embroidered Big Bang patch on the front. Once I started going to concerts, B.A.P 2014 in Dallas, I decided the jacket should have more patches. Finding them was near impossible so I started hand embroidering my own, and I haven’t stopped since.
People started recognizing me at events because of the jacket and not knowing what else to call me, started calling me Kpopjacketlady. In April 2016, my daughter helped me start my blog and I’ve had so much fun with it since then.
So in some ways, my not really K-pop daughter who has seen over 25 K-pop groups live because I’ve dragged her with me, was the one who got me started on the jacket and the blog.
Q: You’ve had quite the share of experiences visiting South Korea and exploring the culture firsthand. Do you have a particular memorable experience that you’d like to share?
A: There are so many fantastic stories to share it is hard to pick just one. The late night bonding in a ‘pojangmacha’ (aka soju tent) with newly made Korean friends, or having tea in a cafe on the side of Hallasan Mountain watching a storm roll in from the ocean, the clouds rolling upwards towards us like waves on the shore.
Maybe all the street food experiences where, seeing our interest, the ladies would start from scratch to show us how something was made, and take our camera from us to get the best photos for us.
Q: You also got to try out a lot different types of food over there in South Korea. Of all the things you tasted, what was your favorite food?
A: Another tough question. In many ways in Korea, food is tied into their culture to an extent not usually seen in America. So although the food should taste good, it is more the people, the atmosphere, and the experience of eating together that holds importance.
So having Chicken and Beer with friends, eating unknown sea creatures in the ‘pojangmacha’, and of course anytime sharing a meal with others all ranked high for me.
Never having been a fan of cold soups, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed various types of cold noodle soups while I was there. I also loved the huge variety of street food that was available pretty much everywhere. Eating street food is relatively cheap and allowed us to try lots of different things. Many times eating at the food stands involved interaction with locals as they helped us with the correct things to add to the food and how to eat it. Yes we got laughed at a lot, but in a friendly way, as we all struggled with the language barrier.
Hotteok is my favorite sweet street food and the best was in Insadong, although the variety they make in Busan, which is slightly different, was really good too.
We also ate things that had no name, in that we tried some local restaurants where there were photos on the wall with numbers and you chose the food by number. We had some very tasty dishes that way.
One hint is that in quite a few restaurants you are meant to go get your own glass and water so subtly watch what other people do and then copy them.
Q: For newcomers visiting South Korea, do you have any recommendations for what type of food to try out and what places to visit?
A: Try all the food, no really, there is so much variety and choices it would be a shame to travel to somewhere as far away as Korea and not really experience it. No I didn’t eat the live octopus, and don’t expect anyone do so unless they want to, but I did eat some things in Korea that I have never eaten before and I enjoyed most of them. So be adventurous, even if it is just with the street food or snacks.
Visiting EMart or a grocery store can also be a lot of fun and if you time it right you can try lots of free samples, plus you can stack up on snacks and cans of all types of unusual flavored drinks.
Korea is a beautiful country with an amazing amount of things to see and do. Home to many UNESCO World Heritage sites and intangible cultural assets Korea offers some great opportunities to enjoy their culture. So a short list would be that at the very least you should see a palace, temple, gate, fortress, or city wall, a market, plus a night market or fish market, a traditional restaurant where you sit on the floor, a museum, an art gallery, etc. Try and take a class, make kimchi, watch an expert show how things were made in the olden days, or dress up in a Hanbok. Do things. Make friends.
Actually even my short list would include a lot more. Do and see all the things.
We enjoyed the Seoul Zoo, breathtaking in springtime with the cherry blossoms in bloom, the Han River parks, and Seoul Forest, partially because we always try to do some of the things that the local people do, not just what tourists do. So do the tourist things and then find a day to get off the beaten path, have a picnic, rent a bike, or just hang out in a city park.
I know for most Kpop fans they want to go to the entertainment companies, do lots of shopping, and try to get to one of the music shows or a concert, and we did too. But remember that idols are a product of their country and culture and I’m sure they would want you to also experience the environment that they were born from. They are proud of their country and no doubt want you to see and do as much as possible.
Q: What are a couple tips you can give for those wanting to visit South Korea?
A: Always say a greeting when you enter somewhere, and a farewell when you leave. Subway trains are often fairly quiet and passengers have rules on where to stand etc. So don’t huddle in a group chatting and talking and being loud, it is disrespectful. There are special seats for the old, the infirm and pregnant moms, don’t sit there. If you are sat somewhere else and you see an old person you can chose to stand up and give the seat to them or not. My daughter always stood in this circumstance and got lots of smiles for doing so.
Follow rules. Seoul is a mega-city which means it is huge. In order for things to work everyone follows a basic set of rules (there are always exceptions in any country) which helps things work more smoothly. It is not like there’s a lot but just try and fit in, rather than standing out.
Too much cleavage showing is not always a good thing, you might be asked if you are “Russian” aka a prostitute.
Show respect to older people, even if they push you out of the way. (This sometimes happens if you are too slow walking around a market when they are trying to get on with their shopping.)
Your social and cultural norms are not always normal somewhere else, learn to appreciate the differences. Watch what the locals do and act in a similar way.
Q: Last time I checked, you had filled up your first jacket with patches and started working on a new one. What is your progress as of right now?
A: I loved my first jacket and was sad when I had no more room to add more patches. It went on one last trip to Korea before it was deconstructed and a new jacket was bought in Korea. The new jacket is a much larger ‘canvas’ and was made in Korea of a natural fiber so is better in many ways, but I don’t yet have the feelings for it that I had for my first one.
The second one is filling up fast, and who knows what I’ll do then.
Q: What concerts/fanmeets/events have you attended in the past four months? Of those recent events, which one was most notable to you?
A: I guess CL’s Hello Bi+ches Tour might be just more than 4 months ago, but I went to that one, then HyunA’s, and SHINee’s recent concerts.
I also attended Kpop Night Out @ SXSW which was probably the most notable for multiple reasons. Firstly, the wait time plus the concert added up to 14 hours total so we were all totally exhausted by the time the concert ended.
Secondly, I was able to attend the Industry Party beforehand so got to have free drinks and food while hanging out with some of the artists and staff. I met some really cool people and the jacket received a fair bit of attention as different groups wanted to find their patch on it.
Hoody also showed up and gave a live performance just for those of us at the party. Thirdly, the concert/showcase was amazing. It started off with Big Phony, followed by No Brain and then Galaxy Express. The highlight for me was the next act which was MFBTY who were amazing. They sang lots of great songs including Sweet Dreams which is one of my favorites. Then came Hyolyn, with the final act being Red Velvet. What a night.
Q: Are there any concerts/fanmeets/events you plan on attending soon?
A: K.A.R.D is having a fanmeet soon so I’m hoping to go to that. I’m still not decided on KCON. For about the same amount of money I can go on another trip to Korea, so that’s a tough choice.
Looks like we’ll be seeing the KPOP Jacket Lady again soon! We hope this valuable info will help you start your own story from experiencing not only K-pop, but also the Korean culture as well.
Check out the KPOP Jacket Lady‘s blog for updates on her visits, food reviews and recipes, concert reviews, and more!