Jasmine Khan, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Rea and Jimmy are International Couple YouTubers based in South Korea. Rea is from Southern California and has been living in South Korea for about three and a half years. She has studied English and Linguistics and is currently an English teacher pursuing her passion for language and culture. Jimmy is from Seoul, South Korea. His real name is Jeong Jae and has been living in South Korea his whole life. Majored in Korean History and Korean Classic Literature, he takes active interest in explaining Korea-related things to people. Both are active on making vlogs together as well as manage their own respective YouTube and Instagram to share about their lives living in South Korea, their love for food and cafes, Historical facts about South Korea and more. Here is an in-depth interview of both where they talk and share about their personal and professional lives in South Korea.
It would be really great if you could share with us how you two met each other?
Rea: We met on a dating app a couple years ago. Jimmy was living in Seoul and I was living quite far from Seoul, but I was visiting a friend there. Since we happened to be in the same city at the time, he saw me on the app and sent me a message. I was actually close to deleting the app after having a lot of disappointing interactions, but I’m so glad I didn’t delete it yet. We started talking and hit it off right away. About 2 months later, we met in person on New Years Eve and he asked me to be his girlfriend. It was an easy “yes” for me 😊
What motivated you both to create a YouTube channel?
Jimmy: I studied Korean history and ever since I was a college student, I have always been happy to share Korean culture and history with others. Food is a big part of culture and it is something that people can enjoy easily. So, I always wanted to share Korean food with people. When I met Rea, she said she liked soy bean paste stew. It was surprising to me that a foreigner liked this food. Later, I was thinking that it would be fun for Rea and I to share Korean food with others. We both love food and we love to share Korean culture, so we decided to start a YouTube channel about food in Korea. So, that’s how we started our Happy Tummy RJ channel.
Rea: I really enjoy Korean cafés, so I also started making café videos for our channel and Jimmy encouraged me to start my own café account. So I started the channel, Cozy Life With Rea. It doesn’t have as many viewers at the moment, but it is a really fun hobby for me.
Please tell us more about your channel, what kind of videos you enjoy to share?
Rea and Jimmy: On our Happy Tummy RJ channel, we make videos about all kinds of food in Korea. We make some videos showing and reviewing different Korean foods and we show you how to eat them. We also make videos where we visit foreign food restaurants in Korea so that people can see what other options there are here in Korea. Recently, we took a break from our food channel because we wanted to change our style of filming and we are re-evaluating it. We have also been spending more time with our other projects during this break. We are still posting in our Instagram account @happytummyrj and we hope to be uploading videos to our YouTube channel again soon!
Rea: On my Cozy Life channel, I make café visit videos where I show you all the pretty details of the café and I try to help people feel like they got to visit the café with me. I try to make these videos really beautiful and relaxing to watch so that they can be a little escape from the stresses of daily life.
You both also handle your respective Instagram accounts as well. Could you please share what kind of content you share there?
Jimmy: In my @Jimmythehistorian account, I share details behind Korean dramas such as Vincenzo. Those details are related to Korean history or culture. I explain them for two reasons. First, it helps people understand the narratives of the dramas. Second, it helps people get accurate information about Korea.
Rea: My @cozylifewithrea Instagram has the same theme as my YouTube channel. It is a place where I share lovely cafes and calming moments in Korea. It is a place to come for all things cozy and lovely.
We saw one video where you tried Halal & Indian restaurant in UIsan. How was your experience tasting Indian food? What did you enjoy the most and which Indian dishes would you like to try in the future?
Rea and Jimmy: We both really love Indian food, so we were excited to try this place. Many of our viewers have requested that we try Halal food in Korea, so we were happy to show them a good place to go. The food there was really delicious and it was an all-you-can-eat buffet, which makes us really happy because we love trying many things.
Rea: My favorite dish there was the chicken curry. It was a bit creamy and had a really good flavor. It was so cozy and paired well with the rice. I could eat it again and again without getting tired of it! I have tried a lot of different Indian dishes back home, but I know there are probably many things I haven’t tried yet. I am open to trying anything.
Jimmy: My favorite dish was the lamb curry. It is rare to find lamb in Korea, so I was happy when I saw it at the restaurant. I really hope to have a chance to eat Samosa in the future.
Has there ever been a moment where work-life balance has been difficult for you both while working/studying and creating content? How do you manage it?
Rea: I am currently working 2 teaching jobs while also helping to keep up our Happy Tummy RJ Instagram account and working on my Cozy Life content. For a while I was feeling really overwhelmed, but I had to allow myself to slow down and take time for my own self-care. No job or project is worth sacrificing my mental and physical health or relationships for so it is a matter of prioritizing. I’ve given a lot of grace to myself and made more manageable goals for my content. I also make sure that I am spending at least a little time each day to just do something I love doing that is not related to my jobs or projects, such as reading, journaling, going for walks, etc. Jimmy and I also make sure we have some relaxing time together each week and just enjoy each other’s company.
Jimmy: I work from 9 to 6 at my office job. So, it is easy to make a plan for my content. Usually, I watch or listen to dramas while I am on the way to work or home. I also watch dramas during my lunch break. When I come back home, I research topics that might be interesting for the dramas’ audience. After researching, I write a script for my drama review content. It is exhausting to do it every day but I am happy when people react to my content! It makes me keep working on it! I make sure that at the end of the day I take some time to just do nothing and let my mind rest. Rea also forces me to have fun on the weekend, so that helps me too.
What kind of videos or content are you planning for in future? Will there be any kind of content for your audience?
Rea: In the future, we are hoping to try and share more restaurants around Korea and show our audience all that Korea has to offer. I am also always looking for more cafes to film and beautiful places to take my viewers to. I really want to help people who want to visit Korea to be able to feel like they are experiencing it and they can have some ideas of where to go when they do have a chance to come.
Jimmy: In the future, I will share more historical & cultural insights of Korean dramas. Now I am working on Crash Landing on You, Itaewon Class, True Beauty and Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo. Those dramas have so many contexts related to Korean history and culture so I will cover them for Korean drama fans.
South Korea is one of the countries that have been effectively managing the COVID-19 pandemic. How has this pandemic changed or affected both your lifestyle personally?
Rea: Being a teacher, things at work changed a lot. I had to adjust to online teaching and when we did transition back to in-person classes, there were a lot more rules to follow. It is a challenge to get the children to follow all the rules. We live in Ulsan, so things have not been as bad for us as they were in other areas like Seoul. We haven’t had full lockdowns, really and we both have been able to keep working, which is a blessing.
These days, we can pretty much go about things in a normal way, except that we have to wear masks everywhere and check in to all the places we go, and we can’t meet in groups bigger than 5 people. Other than that, we are living our lives normally and we feel really thankful and fortunate. We hope that the rest of the world can feel the same thing soon. We are always praying for people to be healthy and happy.
Being an international couple from different nationalities is beautiful and unique on its own. What is one thing about each other’s culture that you like the most? Also, what is one thing about each other’s culture that you find most surprising?
Rea and Jimmy: It is actually a little hard for us to answer this. We both have been exposed to other cultures a lot so there is nothing that is really surprising to us. In our life together, we always try really hard to understand each other as people and I don’t think we really think of it as a matter of culture. We are both pretty easy-going and we really care about each other’s happiness, so that makes our relationship strong.
Usually, any misunderstandings we have stem from the language barrier. We mainly speak in English, so it can be hard sometimes for Jimmy since it is not his native language and he might say something he didn’t actually mean or he might have trouble fully expressing his thoughts. It takes a lot of patience with each other and taking the time to talk things through gently to make sure we understand each other.
Questions about Rea
How long have you been living in South Korea? Was there ever a time you faced any communication related difficulties? Did you have to learn Korean as well to communicate with other people there?
I have been living in South Korea for three and a half years. I lived in a small city called Gumi for my first two years and then moved to Ulsan which is a metropolitan city. I have been in many situations where the other person didn’t know any English at all, so I had to communicate using my broken Korean. Usually if I am in a situation where I know the other person can only understand me if I speak Korean, I surprise myself and realize that I know more than I thought I did. I still get really shy to speak Korean, but I am working on improving my skill so I can be more confident. There are a lot of things that are hard to do here if you don’t speak Korean. I can speak some Korean, but if it is something very complicated, I usually need to ask for help (usually from Jimmy).
How did you learn Korean? How long has it been?
I actually started learning Korean about 3 years before I came to Korea. I studied on my own using talktomeinkorean.com and then I took some Korean classes at my university. After I finished all the Korean classes that my university offered, I took French classes and quickly forgot a lot of the Korean I had learned. I started studying with a teacher using italki.com a little bit before I moved to Korea and that was really useful. My first couple of years living in Korea, I didn’t study a lot but my listening skill improved because I was hearing Korean all around me all the time.
I still struggled to communicate and could only have basic conversations, so I decided to work harder in my studies. Unfortunately, I don’t always have time for it, so it is still a bit hard. I would say I can speak “survival Korean” and I can have a basic understanding of what is being said around me. I hope to keep practicing and keep improving. I love the language and it is really fun to learn it and I think it is so important to learn the language of the place you are living.
As we saw from your videos, you love to explore new cafes and places to enjoy food and drinks. By far, what are your favourite dishes that you will definitely recommend to try in South Korea? Also, which cafe or restaurant is your favourite?
It is really hard to choose favorites because there are so many delicious Korean dishes. I really love dakgalbi, tteokbokki, soybean paste stew, and kimchi stew. There are may others, but those are probably my most favorite. As far as cafes, in Ulsan I have 2 favorite cafes. One is called Skunkworks (I like their branch in Sinjeong most) and the other is called Must Coffee Lab. They both roast their own coffee beans and the coffee is so good. They also have really relaxed but stylish atmospheres.
I have made café visit videos of them, so you can see what they are like in my videos. In Seoul, I really love a café called Terarosa Coffee. They have a few different branches, but I really like the one that is close to Gyeongbokgung Palace. They also make really high-quality coffee and their interior is really cozy. If you ever go to visit the palace, I recommend coming by Terarosa Coffee afterward to rest and sip on some coffee. There are also many nice cafes in Busan that I like. One of my favorites there is called Yuwol Coffee (June Coffee, or June, Your Coffee). They have delicious coffee and baked goods and their atmosphere is so peaceful and calm.
How has your overall experience of living in Korea been so far and what do you enjoy doing the most on your free days? What is your favourite hang-out place in Korea?
It has been really nice to live in Korea because it a lot safer than where I am from. It is also a really beautiful country. There are so many mountains here and lovely rivers. I am happy living in a place where there are so many nice places to walk and spend time outside. Of course, no country is perfect and there are down sides to living in any place, but overall, I enjoy living here. Since the transportation in Korea is so good, it is easy to travel around the country and see many different cities.
In my free time here, I really like going to cafes or gardens or just going for walks and exploring different places. Some of my favorite places to spend time are The Garden of Morning Calm (about an hour out from Seoul in a town called Gapyeong), Jeonpo Café Street in Busan, and the river or beach areas of Ulsan.
Questions about Jimmy
Apart from Food review, we have seen on your personal account, that you love to share historical insights about. What has been your interest/motivation behind sharing these informational content? How do you research it?
I have been interested in Korean history since I was a college student. Lately there is a group of people who like Korean things thanks to Hallyu stars such as BTS and Song Joong-ki. People want to know more about Korea thanks to them. I think if I explain Korean culture & history by using some scenes of Korean dramas that they enjoy, it would be easier for them to learn about Korea.
Also, as a drama fan, it is fun to help people to understand Korean dramas. It would be more fun if you know meanings behind different scenes. So, this is my motivation! I research topics for my content by using Korean culture encyclopedia published by the Korean government. It includes the origins of Korean culture, so it’s the basic step for research. After taking a look at the encyclopedia, I look through other dramas or movies which show similar things with my topics. They show consistency with my research and thoughts.
You usually share hidden meanings or lesser known facts about Korean history citing scenes from K-dramas. We would love to know what kind of K-dramas or Korean movies do you like to watch the most? What’s your favourite?
I would like to recommend Vincenzo and Reply 1988. It is said that dramas mirror society. Vincenzo represents how Koreans think of their society. It is full of corruption, but corrupted people are punished like how Vincenzo did. Reply 1988 is a story about family and friends. The drama includes so many Korean cultural and historical contexts but it has a power beyond borders. People feel like it’s our story. Well, These are my two favorite dramas.
Could you share with us what a regular day in your life as a content creator goes?
I work at my office job from 9 am until 6 pm and then most of the free time I have is spent working on my content. I work on it during my lunch break and after I get home from work. I also take some time to rest and watch videos after working on my content in the evenings.
Here is my process for creating my content: First, I watch dramas. I usually pick dramas that people can watch on Netflix. Second, I research topics in the dramas that might interest people. Third, I write a script for my Instagram content. However, as a content creator, it is important to see what Korean dramas people enjoy and what people think of the dramas. So, I keep looking atInstagram posts about Korean dramas. Sometimes I find a good account that covers Korean dramas in a unique way and share it with people. Basically, my content creator life could be boiled down to writing and communication.
Apart from History and being a Food Critic, what are your other interests or hobbies do you like to spend your time on?
My interests and hobbies are related to cultural products. When I have a free time, I watch movie reviews to learn how to convey a story in a fun and effective way. It is pretty amazing to see people summarize a 2 hour long movie in 15 min. As a storyteller, I want my stories to be enjoyed within people’s attention span so I am interested in effective storytelling.
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We hope you enjoyed reading and knowing about them and their lives in South Korea. Share your thoughts in the comments.