“I just turned 30 then and realized I hadn’t seen much of the world, so I decided to try South Korea.” Barry had originally been working in the finance sector in the UK.
He started teaching English at a middle school, before moving on to a professor’s position at a university in Seoul. Although he didn’t expect to stay in the country for more than a year, he now feels that South Korea is his second home. He also happens to run one of the most successful cultural platforms in the country since 2011, the Seoul Book and Culture Club.
“After falling in love with South Korean literature I decided to establish a book club to discuss South Korean literature with other book lovers in South Korea.”
Taking a more ‘communicative’ approach to understand literature, the club has hosted famous South Korean writers who are interested in coming because the audiences are eager to learn South Korean culture and ask questions. Barry still finds it difficult to believe what the book club has turned out to be: “At the first meeting only 6 people came. To my amazement, twenty people came to the second meeting and the number jumped to 60 at the third gathering. And now the club regularly attracts up to 200 people.”
The audiences’ level of Korean proficiency doesn’t matter in Barry’s book club either, thanks to a skillful simultaneous Korean-English translator at every event.
“I love the interactions between the author and audience because I believe that’s when the two cultures really meet. After each meeting, I can feel that the audiences’ level of understanding of Korean culture deepens, as well as their love for it.”