Amongst the wave of Pan-Asian hyper-consumerism and subsequent racial stereotyping we goons in the West have thrown upon the kind and diverse people of that region, Koreans seem to have been tagged as the ugly stepchild to the Japanese. Perhaps it’s a lack of self-promotion on their part; more likely it’s because this creep is lurking about 40 minutes north of their capital city.
Either way, I’m here to set the record straight after a recent visit to Seoul to promote a little project. I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily cooler or more prescient when it comes to fashion trends than the Japanese, but at least the Koreans that I hung out with make up for it in spades with a rabid enthusiasm for pretty much everything to do with fashion.
This frenetic energy was infectious, and I found myself happily agreeing to things I never would, for example:
I don't do makeup. Yet here I am, at what couldn’t have been two hours after I hopped off a monster red eye from L.A., having some sort of white goop applied to my face in preparation for a photo shoot. On my right is Yunho - a.k.a. U-Know - who is like a Korean Backstreet Boy (which is a good thing there) and a pretty alright guy all around. They brought out some cookies for us to munch on while we waited for the first shot to be set up:
Not too promising. Let’s see.
Eh, a little stale. This brings me to the second quality I came to appreciate about my Korean brethren: their insistence on directness. They don’t want to hear that you love the cookie, they don’t want you to bow to them in thanks for the cookie, they just want to know if it sucks or not.
This refreshing lack of ceremony was further illustrated at lunch. There was a mysterious black button in the middle of our dining table, which my hosts explained was meant to call the waitress to avoid unnecessary waiting and insure an efficient lunch. I decided to perform an experiment to see just how effective this little bugger was:
I hereby move for every single restaurant in the entire world to have this on every table.
The rest of the day was spent in an endless stream of interviews and photo shoots, where I was accompanied by Shinyee-Lee, a.k.a., Olive Oil:
I instinctually granted her that nickname upon our first meeting; there’s just no mistaking that Korean Shelly Duvall vibe. Olive Oil was in charge of my schedule while I was there, and while she has nothing to do with cookies, I thought she deserved an honorable mention for her sweet smile and smart secretary looks.
During my last evening, I headed out on the town with my new friends from Vogue Korea to check out some traditional Korean street fare, when I noticed this:
Cookie? Well, something like it. I think. We’ll let this cat explain:
I still have no clue what he said, but if the “frenetic energy” part of the post didn’t come through clearly before, let this serve as exhibit A.