When I’m not busy going all out on Korean fashion shopping in Edae, makeup browsing in Myeongdong, listening to Kpop music (I’m turning into a diehard BTS ARMY girl!), binge-watching Korean dramas, and swooning over anything cutesy Korean, I’m actually a Ph.D. in economics, and I’m currently teaching undergraduate micro and macroeconomics at Sogang University here in Seoul. As I recently said to the Daejeon taxi driver, who had a hard time believing that I was over 30 and in fact a professor, and not a student: “네, 이래봬도 경제학 교수예요” (I may not look like it, but I’m an econ professor). At least that made him shift from calling me ajummah to gyosunim. I’d rather be called professor than “married woman” – it just sounds cooler! Haha, anyway if you follow my Instagram, you know I had a pretty big speaking engagement this Wednesday.
The chairman of the Korean environment and employment committee and member of parliament, Mr. Hong Young Pyo had invited me to give a special seminar on active labor market policies at the National Assembly. I had prepared for this for a few weeks and ended up with a compromise where I provided my lecture notes in Korean while delivering the official address in English. Afterwards, I took questions in Korean but answered in English as to not compromise my authority as an expert on the subject.
It was by far one of the most nerve wrecking experiences I’ve had in my career, but even though I’m always extremely nervous on the inside, I cannot help but enjoy standing on a stage addressing an audience. I’ve made similar performances for researchers and policymakers in Europe and in the US in the past, so I have plenty of experience, but Korea is still so different in many ways. First of all, Korea is way more formal, and Mr. Hong spent 5 minutes introducing me in very deferential terms to the audience before I went on stage. Then I went up on stage, bowed to the audience and spoke in Korean for about 20 seconds before switching to English. Here’s what I said
안녕하세요 여러분, 저는 덴마크에서 온 소피 브로더슨입니다. 먼저 바쁘신와 중에도 이 자리에 참석하신 여러분들께 진심으로 감사드립니다. 이 자리에서 여러분께 인사하게 되어 너무나 영광입니다. (Welcome everyone, my name is Sofie Brodersen. I’m very thankful that so many of you have shown up today although you must be very busy. It is truly a great honor to be addressing you here today.)
My talk lasted just over an hour and was then followed by a panel discussion, where Mr. Hong and I were sitting on stage answering policy-related questions from the audience. Oh, and as a special Korean feature, which I’m gradually getting used to whenever I speak in public over here, there were several cameramen capturing me from every angle throughout my entire address. The first time this happened to me last year at a research institute in Sejong, it was slightly anxiety-provoking, but this time I managed to keep my cool.
The politicians were extremely interested in my lecture and asked many questions afterward. It was truly a great experience and I’m so thankful that I’m getting all these exciting opportunities while living in Seoul. Now, I’ll celebrate that the weekend is just around the corner and my most demanding task will be grading a couple of hundred econ quizzes. I thought I’d brighten your Friday (or ruin it all together, depending on your K-pop preferences) by sharing the recent release from the girl group “Twice”. I technically really hate this super annoying song, but it’s just so d*** catchy, and they are playing it everywhere in Seoul. Enjoy (…or whatever)! Happy weekend!
(Press the CC button for English subtitles.)