I had the pleasure of speaking to Eunsan Huh of mykoreanchildhood. See our interview below! Her illustrations on Instagram make learning Hangul (the Korean alphabet) look approachable and fun and make me want to eat Korean food non-stop.
Looking at your Instagram posts, I’m admittedly a bit green re: your undeniable talents. You’re clearly at least a linguist/writer, illustrator and cook. Are you trained in these areas or just a natural?
I have no formal training in illustration or writing but both are things I’ve enjoyed ever since I was a child. I had piles of notebooks full of drawings and also had an illustrated diary at one point. I learned English and Korean growing up and when I was in Canada I learned French in high school. I never liked language classes much as an adolescent but I came around after I became an adult. I started learning Icelandic on a whim, and a few years after that I learned Dutch also for no reason except for fun. At some point it became natural to combine my interest in drawing and my interest in languages and I started drawing Icelandic and later Korean!
I’ve always liked the Korean tradition of having babies chose a symbolic object out of a line of objects to predict their future career. Did you get subjected to this and if so, what object did you pick?
I picked the pencil. The traditional interpretation is that you’ll excel in academics but I don’t have much of a head for the classic subjects like math or science. I do enjoy drawing though so I think maybe that could be a new age way of interpreting the pencil!
My friend went to Mali after college on a fellowship to study music with a family who were all Kora players. I love the idea of a family who is uniformly talented in one area. I’m wondering if you come from a line of Korean creatives or if you are a lone wolf?
Growing up, my mom took all sorts of interesting classes like ribbon (hair band) making, sewing, gift wrapping, baking and cooking, while I was at school. She even took a semester of architecture school when we lived in Australia, and I remember being in awe of her tiny models of offices and buildings. While I’m the only one in the family who is expressing my creativity through illustration, I take after my mom a lot. I enjoy handicrafts like embroidery, miniature making, and ceramics, and I’m always on the hunt for interesting craft classes!
Mom sounds like like a bohemian dream! How about an inter-generational Zoom craft-making club! Me, you, your mom and all your Instagram followers? Please consider.
Supposedly a host of Korean words were added this year to the Miriam Webster dictionary. Any surprises? I looked up which words were added and were honestly surprised by some of the additions. Dongchimi (radish water kimchi) is not one I saw coming! I think they did a good job of adding recognizable words like banchan, kimbap, and daebak.
What is your favorite Korean expression, if you can pick one?티끌모아 태산 is one of my favorite expressions (I illustrated it a while back). I like the idea that it’s the little efforts that pile up to accomplish something great. This was especially relevant to me when learning new languages – it’s better to study in short intervals frequently rather than trying to cram hours and hours of studying in one day after not doing any review for weeks – but it applies to healthy habits and other hobbies as well. One up-side of having my Instagram account is that it gives me a sort of accountability for making illustrations regularly.
Horay! Glad you brought up one maybe under-appreciated positive of social media–the accountability/motivation it offers creative people. As someone trying to squeeze creativity into my life and who loses my focus, I am fascinated by those like you create steadily. Do you have creativity blocks and if so, what’s the cure?
I cycle between periods of extreme laziness and manic productivity. Sometimes I force myself to work on something even when I’m not feeling all that inspired but ultimately I don’t enjoy myself and the hobby ends up feeling more like a chore. I’m still learning how to be kinder to myself and let these lulls pass, and remind myself that in a few week’s time, I’ll feel a renewed energy and creativity.
Self flagellation is the worst! I hope you are kind to yourself in 2022. It seems like a particularly good time to be proud of being Korean. I just read that Sesame Street added a new puppet who is Korean-American. Delightful! Do you think there any negatives to the Hallyu wave and the fact that we Koreans are everywhere right now or is this just a moment to celebrate? I grew up in a part of Canada with a big Asian population and Korean dramas were very popular among my friends and their families from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. But no one outside of the Asian circle really appreciated them or watched them. Fast forward some 15 years later, I’m sitting in a car in New York City and Sour Candy by Lady Gaga and Blackpink comes on the radio. There’s a part of the song that’s sung in Korean and it was so wild hearing that on mainstream American radio! This never would have happened if not for the Hallyu wave. It’s exciting to be living in a time when Korean culture – not just K-pop and K-dramas but also Korean food and K-beauty, fashion, and film – is being embraced by people all over the world. And as someone who needs Korean food on the regular, it’s pretty incredible to visit foreign cities and still be able to eat my favorite dishes. A few months ago I went to Senegal and had budaejjigae in Dakar! What a wonderful world.
Your favorite things about being Korean: I love the look of hangeul – how it’s made up of many different parts and shapes, like circles and squares and triangles. My handwriting is awful but I do love writing hangeul by hand.
Least favorite, if any: Korean spelling (맞춤법) is hard.
What Korean traditions/holidays, if any, did your family celebrate and if you had to pick one favorite, what would it be?
New Year’s Day because you get 세뱃돈! (New Year cash)
Favorite Korean dramas: I watch more reality shows than Korean dramas (other than the occasional series on Netflix). There’s a show called Street Woman Fighter that aired this fall that everyone was obsessed with in Korea. It’s a show that features all-female dance groups and it was so inspiring to watch. They just aired a spin-off special galled Street Girl Fighter that’s a similar format, but it’s with teenage dance groups competing against each other. Highly recommend!
Favorite off-the-beaten-track Korean dish?
찹쌀구이. It’s thinly sliced beef coated with rice flour and then pan fried. You use the crispy beef to roll up shredded perilla leaves and sliced onions, and eat it dipped in a vinegary soy sauce. I’ve never seen this on a menu in a restaurant, but it’s one of my favourite dishes so my mom makes it for me every time I go home to Vancouver.
I’m planning a big 50th birthday in two years in Korea. Can you recommend some must see areas/places to visit?
I love costumes and playing dress up so I recommend everyone to go to Gyeongbokgung dressed in hanbok. There are so many little studios where you can rent hanbok near the palace, and many of them have fun little photoshoot set ups. I’m planning on going to Jeju Island on my next trip to Korea (hopefully next year!). I havent been there in over two decades so I don’t have any specific recommendations other than just go 😛
What’s next for you? I’d like to work on a recipe book with my mom. I’ve been cooking a lot more since the pandemic started and would love to have a record of all the delicious dishes my mom makes for me.
Regarding my middle aged efforts to be more Korean and expose my kids to Korean culture, have any tips? Any must do’s?
I’d recommend finding something that you and your kids enjoy about Korean culture – maybe it’s K-pop or comics, or it could be Korean cinema or food. For me, I knew it was important to watch Korean TV because it’s the best way to get exposure to spoken Korean. I tried to get into Korean dramas but it wasn’t for me. Instead, I found reality shows that were more in line with my tastes (My Little Old Boy, I Live Alone, Produce 101/48, etc). The key to making any lasting habit or hobby is to find something that you enjoy sincerely, and also one that can easily fit into your life!
May 2022 be a year of creativity and self-love/kindness to yourself! Thank you for responding to me–a stranger to you with a lil’ blog. It must be the Canadian in you!