Home Interview Arab culture is the key to understanding human history – Korean Journalist and Traveler

Arab culture is the key to understanding human history – Korean Journalist and Traveler

Arab culture is the key to understanding human history – Korean Journalist and Traveler

For almost 24 years, Korean journalist, traveler and writer Cherry (Lee Yeon-Sil) has been communicating with friends and citizens in more than 200 countries around the world. In this interview with Ashraf Aboul-Yazid she gives us the full story:

It is obvious that your work has been in touch with other nations, cultures and societies, when and why did this spark start?

I have lived only in Korea until I was 35 years old. I was a frog in a well. My life has changed completely since I went to Singapore in early 2000. I had a huge cultural shock from the first day I arrived in Singapore. Since then, I have met people from more than 200 countries around the world for 24 years.

You spent four years in Singapore, tell us about your experience there.

In condominium neighbors; who lived on Singapore’s Dover Road, parents of international students, local churches without Koreans were active in having international friends. Even after returning home, I was always with multinational foreigners. International students, civil servants who came to Korea for training abroad, multinational officers, foreign workers, marriage immigrants, global travelers who also visited Korea…

Korean TravelerDo you get help from guides or translators, tell us more about that.

I was able to learn English from them. As a person who is very interested in human history and culture, it was exciting to communicate with foreigners every day. I have never slept for more than four hours in 24 years.

How did it go in Singapore?

After living in Singapore for more than four years, I returned home. I sent my family members, younger brothers and nephews to Singapore. They have lived in Singapore for more than 15 years and frequently visited Korea. Singapore is my second homeland and enabled me to look at the world in a balanced way. It was an experience that opened my eyes to foreign cultures and various lives. When I lived in Singapore, I met foreigners at least three times a day, up to seven times a day. Looking back, I lived an interesting life like a novel.

Korean Traveler-1How many countries did you visit before and after Singapore?

I’ve been to many countries. Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Southwest Asia, Middle East, Africa, Europe… I haven’t been to America. But I met many people from North and South America. I met some descendants from American Indians. I enjoyed talking with foreigners living in Singapore or Korea.

How long is the average time of your travels?

I usually spend a week to 10 days.

What about the communication with locals?

I can communicate in Basic English. In particular, I am adventurous and solve problems by myself. When I go abroad on a business trip, I speak English with locals. I only know a few words of Arabic. When I had four interviews in Egypt, I needed an Arabic translation.

Korean Traveler-2Have you documented your travels in books?

I usually write. There is a book that I wrote jointly with an American professor Immanuel. I also published a collection of poems jointly with Korean writers. I particularly cherish “Holding the Heart of the Planet.” The story of Russia is contained in the first table of contents of my article. The amount of posts I posted on Facebook is equal to 40 books. Besides that, I write articles in newspapers and magazines here and there.

I’m not a celebrity. And I’m not famous person. So my books are not well known. And they didn’t sell much. There are regular readers who are interested in my writing. I consider books to be a record of my life.

Do you keep friendships with some people you met in your travels?

Of course. There are people from more than 200 countries where I have met or talked with people in person in my life. I have met people from all over the world at least once. I have experienced every country and culture. Including those who asked me for directions, I have met more than 20,000 foreigners. Among them, there are quite a few foreign friends who are especially close or have friendships.

Korean Traveler-3Do you keep your travels in photos, or you also have videos?

There are photos and some videos. When I replaced my phone someday, I accidentally lost a lot of my photos. Especially, all the photos from Nepal, Hong Kong and Macau disappeared.

How did citizens of other countries think of Korea and Korean culture?

There are many Korean wave fans among young people abroad. They are aware of dramas and K-pop music. They generally like Korean food, too. However, there are also foreigners who are concerned about South Korea. Surprisingly, there are many people who are concerned about South Korea’s national security, including the North’s nuclear issue. They also point out Korea’s excessive liberalization of sex, excessive drinking, poor English, and high prices as problems or struggle.

Korean Traveler-5You co-authored a book, more than a year ago. Give us more details and if you like to repeat it in another project.

I published a book with Professor Immanuel.

Prof. Immanuel studied Korea as a Foreigner, “A foreign country that Koreans saw”. There are also plans to publish a book by collecting articles posted in newspapers, magazines, or Facebook. I have written more than 2,000 poems, and I think I will publish an independent collection of poetry in 2024.

Korean Traveler-4You wrote about Arab culture, I enjoyed many of your rich varied articles, once there was an article about Iraqi cuisine. What about other world kitchens?

Arab culture is the key to understanding human history. The Arab world has been at the center of the world for a long time. If somebody doesn’t know Arab culture, this mean he or she doesn’t know half of human history. Arab culture and history have developed humanity. This happened not only in all science and technology aspects, but also in food culture that has had a huge impact on the global community. I am also very interested in Iraqi cuisine. Korean food such as soju, beer, and bread are all food cultures that were born in Iraq. Arab food is especially halal. It is a clean, healthy and safe food that God allows.

Korean journalist and traveler cherry : I love Arab culture

What is your word for our Arab readers?

Arab people should be proud of their history and culture. They are very smart and very handsome. One thing that is unfamiliar to Koreans is Arab. I have rarely visited Arab cultures or have Arab friends. I don’t even know Arabic. So there are misunderstandings and prejudices about Arab countries. Some people think of Arab as nothing but deserts, camels, or oil.

The more you know about the Arab world, the more amazing it is. There are so many special things about Arab countries, which are about 20 countries. Look at the Mesopotamian or Egyptian civilizations! How amazing and high-quality are they? Before the Korean Wave in the 20th century, in the past, there was a long Arab craze in human history. I hope that the descendants of these two civilizations will become more and more extraordinary like the Phoenix of the desert. I love Arab culture.

Read interview also in Arabic: 

الصحفية والرحالة الكورية شيري: أعشق الثقافة العربية


Ashraf Aboul-YazidAshraf Aboul-Yazid is a renowned Egyptian poet, journalist, novelist, travelogue writer and translator. He is author of around three dozen books and Editor-in-Chief of Silk Road Literature Series.

Read interview, also in Arabic


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