Young Turks are interested in Korean culture
Turkey and Korea are geographically far apart, but they are actually culturally very close. The phrase, “blood brothers” can be used to define the relationship of the two countries. Overall, Turks have a strongly positive approach toward Koreans.
The Korean War was a milestone to this brotherhood and became part of the deep historical connection between Central Asia, Gokturk Empire, and Goguryeo. To this day, Turkish people are proud to have sent its military to Korea during the 1950-53 war. Some stories of Turkish soldiers helping the Korean people are still being told throughout Turkey, showing the importance of Korea in Turkey’s modern history.
In 2002, the FIFA World Cup also served as another consolidating factor between the Turkey-Korea brotherhood. This international competition was a reminder of how close the two had become as the Turkish people began to tune-in to Korea again. Soon after the World Cup, Korean dramas such as Dae Jang Geum (Jewel in the Palace) and Hae Shin (Emperor of the Sea) began to appear on Turkish TV channels. More people were exposed to Korean culture and identifying similarities between Korea and Turkey. Even before the Korean Wave (Hallyu) came about, the young generation of Turkey had become fans of their far-away neighbor.
Today, around 100 thousand Korea fans live in Turkey—80 percent being women in the 15-25 age range. It is unofficially known in Turkey that there are around 100 Turkish websites that provide platforms for fans of Korea to discuss Korean dramas, K-pop, and popular destinations in Korea.
Personally, as a Turkish YouTuber now living and working in Seoul, I periodically shoot videos about Korea and the lifestyle of Korean people. A great portion of my followers are women and young people. It is evident that the younger generation is curious about Korean artists, stars, and the general characteristics of Korean people.
In November 2016, I visited several cities in Turkey to meet up with Korea fans and to organize various seminars on Korea. I recall being shocked that each seminar was packed with fans that it became difficult to find any place big enough to hold consecutive seminars. In Konya city, I first planned to gather with the Korea fans in the central mall, but we all had to move to another place because of the huge number of participants. Afterwards, Battalgazi Malatya Youth Foundation provided a big conference hall in Istanbul for us to hold more conferences about Korea.
I have found that Turkish people are mostly curious about the country of Korea and opportunities for education and tourism. I consistently receive questions about such topics in my “Question&Answer” videos. Dramas and music groups are, of course, also key elements of the interest in Korea. EXXO, Shinee, BTS, Infinite and Bigbang are the most popular K-pop groups amongst the Turkish youth and Lee Min-Ho and Park Shin-Hye are the best-known stars of Korean drama. Some have said that many of the Korean dramas that Turkish people like (My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, Dream High, You’re Beautiful, and Princess’ Man) exhibit similarities to Turkey’s deep historical values.
Today, Hallyu is the most recent development in the Turkey-Korea relationship adding to the Gokturk-Goguryeo relations, Korean War, and 2002 FIFA World Cup. People of both nationalities are learning of their common history and cultural values through the technological innovations of this century.