You might not expect a career diplomat with 28 years of experience would be such a devoted fan of Korea’s popular culture, but it’s true! Richard Mann, New Zealand’s outgoing Ambassador to the Republic of Korea is leaving his post this month after three years of service. According to the embassy’s website, Ambassador Mann’s diplomatic career has focused on the Asia Pacific region, with postings in Chile, Fiji and Thailand.
Prior to coming to Seoul he was Director Human Resources in New Zealand’s Foreign Ministry. Despite his busy schedule during his last weeks in Korea, Ambassador Mann was kind enough to share with Korea.com his thoughts about how the “Korean Wave” had touched him.
Q> Korea.com hears that you are a great fan of Korean “dramas.” Tell us how you were first
exposed to Korean dramas.
– I heard about the success of Winter Sonata when I arrived in Korea, so I first watched that drama,
and then the historical drama Dae Jang Geum. That was the start, and three years later I have watched
over 30 Korean dramas.
Q> Do you have a favorite “drama”? If so, what is special about that drama?
– My favourite is Queen Seondeok, which tells the dramatic life story of the real queen of the Shilla dynasty,
plus other historical figures of that era such as General Kim Yu-shin, Mi-shil and Lord Bidam. It is a drama
full of emotion, excellent acting and an exciting story. It also has a great soundtrack. Another great
historical drama is Chuno. Iris is an exciting action drama, and there are many great romantic comedies
such as City Hall and Coffee Prince. I have so many favourites!
Q> Do you have favorite actor or actress? What gives their acting skills “global” appeal?
– My favourite actresses are Kong Hyo Jin and Ha Ji Won. I watched Kong Hyo Jin in Pasta and recently in
The Greatest Love, among others. She is great at expressing the emotions of her characters, and she is
also very funny in the comedies. And I really enjoyed Ha Ji Won, who has been wonderful in promoting New
Zealand in Korea as our cultural ambassador, in Secret Garden.
Q> Would you recommend historical dramas as being a good way to learn about Korean history
and traditional culture?
– Absolutely. Queen Seondeok taught me a lot about the Shilla dynasty, and Dae Jang Geum, Dongyi and Chuno about aspects of life during the Joseon dynasty. The settings and costumes of these historical dramas are always very authentic. When I have toured the world heritage historical park in Gyeongju, I can imagine how it was over one thousand years ago under Queen Seondeok.
Q> Do you have specific suggestions for New Zealanders who might not be familiar with Korean
dramas? What should they watch first?
– I would start with the classics – Dae Jang Geum and Winter Sonata, as these were the dramas that
achieved surprising success not only in Korea but in other Asian countries and around the world.
Q> Finally, if you were a producer, what Korean drama would you like to see made?
– I would make a romantic comedy with a story that focuses on contemporary Korea such as its increasingly
multicultural society, for example a Korean-New Zealand love story. I like to see happy endings.