Welcome to the first edition of my “Editor’s Picks” column. The purpose of this column is for me to gather some of my recent top choices and recommendations related to Korean entertainment, the arts, language learning, and whatever else I find! It’s a good excuse for me to share some personal favorites, but also an excuse for me to branch out and find new things to love. I’ll be sharing a mix of throwbacks and new releases, because rediscovery is just as important as discovery. Check out the list below, and let me know your monthly picks below in the comments!
1. Song - “네시” (4 o’clock), by BTS’ RM & V
Released unofficially as part of BTS’ annual anniversary celebration known as “Festa,” “네시” was an obvious choice for me this month. This song was right up my alley, probably because of its theme and the duality I perceive in it. It’s such a simple song, in terms of lyrics and composition, but there’s also a lot of depth to it. It’s beautiful in its sound, words, and delivery, despite that simplicity. The lyrics strike me as poetic, and they reference something in Korean known as 새벽감성. Taken separately, these words mean “dawn” and “sensibility,” but I’ve learned that the phrase refers to the emotions one feels at dawn. It’s a hard feeling to describe in English, especially if you’ve never experienced it. As someone often way too emotional and sentimental, and someone who loves the moon, I adored this song. It’s also great that both Namjoon and Taehyung took part in the lyrics and composition; I think their work together on this song helped make it unique. Taehyung has always been one of my favorite voices in the group, and I think he really suits this song.
Can you believe I picked up my guitar after about six years of inactivity to try and learn the backing track? (Not that I’ve really had the chance to touch my guitar since starting school, but now that I’m done, it’s nice). You can listen to the song on their Soundcloud.
2. YouTube - 실수로 전 남친 인스타에 '좋아요' 눌렀을 때 꿀팁
Rookiest Entertainment is a Korean YouTube channel that uploads short entertaining (mostly comedy) sketches. I stumbled upon them by accident one day and watched quite a few of their 인생꿀팁 videos. The phrase doesn’t directly translate (because it’s made up of the words “life,” “honey,” and “tip”), but an English equivalent would be “life hacks.” The one I’m linking here is called “Life Hacks for When You Accidentally Hit ‘Like’ on Your Ex-Boyfriend’s Instagram.”
Unfortunately there aren’t any English subs, but they can still be entertaining even if you aren’t learning Korean! If you are learning Korean, I recommend watching their videos. This one happens to be my favorite, but they have a lot on their playlists.
3. Beauty - Skinfood Black Sugar Mask
This is a rediscovered favorite for me and a cult favorite among the Korean beauty community! I love this scrub so much—I’m tempted to use it daily, but that’s probably not the best for my skin. It can safely be used 1-2 times a week, and it seriously makes your skin feel so soft. If I’ve been having problems with my skin or noticing that it’s dull, rough, or just so-so, I use this scrub. My makeup applies a lot nicer the day after, and my skin feels amazing! There are tons of scrubs out there, but this one really gets off those dead skin cells and somehow still manages to keep the skin moisturized. You can buy it on Amazon.
4. Book - Nothing to Envy, by Barbara Demick
Nothing to Envy is also a rediscovered favorite of mine. I actually read it a couple of years ago, but it’s still a really relevant book. In my case at least, most people where I live (U.S.) know next to nothing about the real North Korea. They also know nothing of its refugees. For those reasons, this book is a great read for anyone, whether you have a pre-existing interest in North Korea or not.
Barbara Demick tells the stories of six North Korean refugees, relaying how they made their dangerous escape from the regime, arrived in South Korea, and began to adjust to their new lives. It’s a great insight not normally seen in media related to North Korea (at least in English). This book actually came back into my mind because I’m currently working on editing a travel piece I wrote a year ago about visiting the border between the two Koreas. Refugee stories never cease to fascinate me, and this one is especially engaging because it not only tells those refugee stories but gives real information on what it was like to live under such an oppressive government. It’s heartbreaking, and it will make you really thankful for what you have.
You can purchase the book on Amazon.
5. Language Learning - 하나의 하루 (webtoon)
I’m a firm believer that learning should be fun, and what better way to work on your Korean than by reading webtoons? The one I’m recommending today is called “Hana’s Haru.” It’s a cute story about a wolf-boy adopted into a family with a human father and sister. I’m actually only a few installments into this one, but it’s adorable, lighthearted, and fairly easy to read. I’d recommend it for intermediate learners, but you can always use it to learn vocabulary at any stage. You can read it here.