[From August Issue 2015]
KIM Won Kyoung
“Back in middle school, I was really inspired by the movie ‘Love Letter’ directed by IWAI Shunji,” says KIM Won Kyoung from South Korea, explaining how she first became interested in Japan. “Even though the scenery of the towns and the language were completely different to South Korea, the characters experienced exactly the same kind of highs and lows as Koreans do. That was an eye-opener for me as I had assumed up until then that all foreigners were different from us.
Kim came to Japan in April 2012. She searched for a job while trying to brush up her Japanese skills in the Business Shushoku (Job Hunting) Class at the Akamonkai Japanese Language School. She currently works for Human Power Co., Ltd., an employment agency that specializes in non-Japanese talent. “It’s my second job in Japan. Just like me when I first came to Japan, there are many foreigners wanting to work in Japan and realize their dreams here, so I’m doing my best to help them achieve their goals.”
Kim started learning Japanese in college. “Without taking it too seriously, I thought that if I majored in Japanese, at least I would be able to understand my favorite Japanese music and television shows without needing the translated lyrics or subtitles.”
However, even though Kim was familiar with Japanese through songs and TV dramas, she soon found classes boring. That’s when the idea occurred to her to turn play into study. She went out and bought a magazine featuring one of her favorite singers and read it while thumbing through a dictionary. Furthermore, she made Japanese friends and even corresponded with them via e-mail.
“In the beginning it would take me over an hour to translate one page of a magazine, but gradually I began to understand the sentence structures. I was also able to learn about Japanese culture and customs. I learned about things such as ‘when tea stalks float, it’s an auspicious sign,’” she laughs. Kim’s Japanese friends were surprised at how quickly her Japanese improved in just one year.
Kim says that learning polite Japanese is definitely a struggle for her. “Recently I used the phrase ‘sasete itadaku’ hoping to get a favor out of somebody and I broke out in a cold sweat. But courteous language is also an interesting part of learning Japanese. Mastering it is difficult, but when I’m trying to use the language correctly, I become self-aware and find that my actions as well as my words become more polite. That’s a great way to make a good impression on people.”
On her days off she likes to walk around an unfamiliar area that she picks depending on her mood that day. Kim says. “I’ll open up a train map of the city and decide on a station I haven’t been to before. Then, without any particular goal in mind, I’ll just wander around the district and enjoy my own little adventure. By doing this my mood changes and the stress that’s built up inside me is alleviated, my batteries are recharged so that I can give my all to another day in this country.”