K-Bloggers pop up all over the interwebs, typing away their thoughts on the land of K-Pop and eyelid surgery, usually writing exclusively about Korean people, events, and places. Soren Nieminen, however, incorporates a little bit of everything into his articulate musings about his life as an ESL teacher, and beyond. The World of Soren is a wonderful source of interesting articles, lectures, cartoons, and commentary. He reviews books and films, sandwiched between stories about misbehaving students and interactions with Korean coworkers. Check out The World of Soren today!

How did you end up in Korea and how long have you been here?

I ended up in Korea through the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at the University of Wisconsin that coordinated recent graduates to positions teaching English in Korea. As of May 1st, I have been in South Korea for 8 months.

Why and when did you create your blog, and how has it transformed since you first arrived?

I created the blog as a chronicle of some of my day-to-day living for friends and family. My blog is titled “The World of Soren” so a large part of encompasses living in South Korea, while also being about my varied interests from books to television to movies to “The New Yorker,” etc. I created the blog right before I left for South Korea in August of 2011. The blog format hasn’t really changed that much, but I like to think (perhaps only in my head), that I’ve strengthened some of my writing and incorporated more cultural aspects of living in South Korea.

What about Korean culture are you most passionate about? Food, language, customs, Seoul, hiking?

Oh, I absolutely love Korean food! It’s really amazing. Kimchi was a love at first bite for me. I haven’t really fallen in love with the language (my proclivity for languages is less than legendary), but I have mastered a few phrases like “Be quiet!” and “Good Job!” and “Sit down!” through teaching. I live in a fairly rural area (a city of about 10 thousand people), so I’m energized by small-town Korea. I get to experience a unique city and people, and some days it is really exciting.

What’s your favorite blog post that you’ve written and why?

I think my favorite post would be my “The Road to Class” one in March. It kind of exudes a Walter Mitty-esque vibe that I find light and airy, but also poignant. It’s basically my journey from my home fort in the English room to one of the kids’ classrooms (foreign territory). It makes me laugh. It’s pretty sad to be laughing at your own writing, but some days I can’t help it.

How has blogging about Korea and ESL changed the way you experience it and teach?

I feel like I am always thinking about experiences in terms of writing about them. It’s a motivator to go outside on an awful raining Saturday, just to see what the world of Korea will bring you. Teaching is a challenge, and I think it’s one of the things that I talk about with gusto in my blog.

What blogs and websites do you read to keep up with happenings in Korea, and around the world?

I usually read some of the local English Korean papers a couple times a week. I’m a big fan of “The New York Times” and “The New Yorker” and “The Economist,” so a good 10-15 hours a week are spent on those alone. And of course, Chincha

Good answer! Now, where do you find your subjects and what do you look for in good blog post topics?

I usually just write about what is happening with me. It’s pretty narcissistic, but I try and put a global perspective on my posts, hopefully with a critical eye for detail and interest. Many of my blog posts center around my school, but I also like to briefly talk about what’s going on in the world, from North Korea to Job Searches to what is Kimchi all about.

If you had to write a mission statement for your blog, what would it sound like?

“This is Soren’s life. It’s about learning, living abroad, reading books, and talking about the world.”

Something you think we should know about Korea that you don’t think most people know!

I’m an American, and so my usual way of calling someone over is to palm up, beckoning him or her to come hither with my fingers. Do not do that in Korea! It’s insulting, kind of akin to calling someone less than human. To call someone over in Korea, you need to make sure your palm is FACING DOWN and you wave your fingers toward your body.

Interview by Julia Bass

Screenshots from The World of Soren