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Title A correspondent’s Experience with Egyptian Media Outlets’ Interest in Korea
No 97 Inquiry 3041 Date 2018.11.01


One day, I received a phone call from a writer at DMC, an Egyptian broadcast station. They wanted me to appear on a program called El Safira Aziza (' عزیزة السفرة ') the following week and talk about Korean food, and what life is like in Egypt as a Korean. Initially, I felt uncomfortable at the request, as I barely had a week to prepare, and the prospect of being on TV itself made me feel pressured. But in the end, I said yes, thinking that this was an opportunity to spread awareness about Korea to the Egyptian public, especially since DMC and its shows are well-known amongst Egyptians.


Talk show El Safira Aziza (' عزیزة السفرة ') (Source: https://dmc.com.eg/el-safira-aziza/)


The show took place in an indoor studio in a media complex located in 6th of October City. The official name of the complex is Egypt Media Production City (EMPC). The site is about 3 million square meters, and contains both indoor and outdoor sets, where all kinds of programs such as news and sports shows, talk shows, dramas, and movies can be produced. The government, which aims to make the complex the “Hollywood of the Middle East,” has given strong support for its operations, exempting imported equipment from taxes.


Most people are not allowed to enter EMPC freely. I was only able to enter through the entrance after a copy of my passport and passport information—which I had sent to the writer before—was checked. Inside the site, there were many similarly-shaped buildings, all spaced closely together, which turned out to be the indoor studios for various TV stations. I found the DMC studio and entered. Upon my arrival, the staff in the open kitchen started moving about in a frenzy as they began preparing the ingredients for bibimbap. Because this was their first time making the dish, they kept a careful eye on a bibimbap bowl that was all finished as they prepared the vegetables. When I was first asked to be a guest, I thought we would talk for a while about other topics before introducing the bibimbap, but judging by the atmosphere, it seemed that I would mostly be speaking about the dish.


“Every country has a traditional culture. Today, we will travel to Korea and introduce a guest who will be speaking about its culture and food.” Our segment kicked off with the host’s introduction. The interview proceeded as we made the food, so we couldn’t have any in-depth conversations, but we could touch on a variety of topics for short bits of time. The following dialogue is an excerpt from our conversation.


What will we be making today?
Today we will be making bibimbap. I chose this dish because it is good for your health and it is easy to get the ingredients locally and to make the dish. Also, the ingredients go especially well together.


How did you come to Egypt?
Egypt’s nickname is “the mother of civilization.” So I was always curious about the country as a child, and a friend who had come here first said it was a good place, and full of opportunities. So that’s how I got to come here.


Koreans mostly use chopsticks, but we can use them too. (Host shows herself using chopsticks)
Yes. We use chopsticks to grab side dishes, and we eat rice with spoons.


How is Korean food different from Egyptian food? I heard it’s cooked in a way that’s better for you than Egyptian food.
We don’t use a lot of oil, and we use less salt compared to Egyptian food. Egyptians use a type of butter called samna, but I’ve never seen it used in Korean households.


Afterwards, the conversation flowed pleasantly onto cooking techniques, and whether I personally knew about and liked Egyptian food. The fact that both men and women can cook, unlike in Middle Eastern culture, and work together on preparing dishes was received well. I also received many questions about my understanding of Egyptian culture and food, although we were in a segment on Korean food.

The segment ended after about 15 minutes of conversation on bibimbap. Even seven to eight years ago, Egyptians were not familiar with or interested in Korean food. But I was happy to see that a major broadcasting station had taken interest in introducing Korean-related content to the public, and that the Hallyu wave wasn’t contained to just a minority. After the broadcast, I received texts from local friends who said they would try making bibimbap for dinner, and I felt proud.

However, there was one part of the segment that I felt wasn’t done perfectly: There are traditional Korean expressions (the closest meanings are “very spicy” and “refreshing”) that precisely catch the nuanced flavors of Korean food, but it is difficult to translate them into a foreign language. Also, although I did want to introduce other Korean dishes, it is hard to acquire many of their ingredients. Finally, I was asked multiple times about the difference between Chinese and Korean food, even before this interview. I wish I had been able to give a concise explanation of those differences, had I had a better understanding of Korean history and culture.


Son Eun-ok (Correspondent of KOFICE in Egypt)