The South African Girl Who Captured Korea

      September 14, 2007 09:46

      Bronwyn Mullen

      With her clumsy Korean and bubbly personality, a 23-year-old women from the southern tip of Africa has become the darling of Korea.

      Bronwyn Mullen is the offbeat beauty on KBS' "Global Talk Show: Talk with Beauties" and one of the main reasons why so many viewers tune in. She came to Korea two years ago as an exchange student from the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa, where she majors in media studies.

      Asked why, she exclaims, "So many Koreans ask me that question! I had to choose between Malaysia, Japan and Korea. I'd already been to Malaysia, I'd already studied Japanese, but I hadn't been to Korea. I wanted to come to Korea." Curiosity, then.

      She traveled halfway around the world, and the early days were tough. Mullen had a cold throughout the winter. "It snows a lot in Korea. It hardly snows in my country. Korea is very cold. I have asthma and I got sick here." The polluted air in Seoul seems to have made her asthma worse. Even now she takes her drugs every day to get by.

      Still, every day is an adventure. "Korean food is so different, and I meet new people every day. I feel like I'm a baby all over again." She has of course visited tourist spots like Gyeongju and Busan, and went to Gangwon Province just for fun. At one time, she drank soju -- Korea's traditional liquor -- with her friends almost every day. After one semester, she put on almost 8 kg. "I had a lot of instant noodles, soju and samgyeopsal or Korean-style bacon. I got chubby. My belly got big. So I only ate dwenjang jjigye or Korean miso soup and vegetables. Then I got slim again," she says, pointing at her thin waist.

      Even for outgoing Bronwyn, going on TV was not an easy decision. "My Korean is stupid, though I'm not. But I'm on TV, so I worried." While she prevaricated, her friends at school submitted the application for her, and in the end she decided to go. Why? "It's a part-time job. I feel bad for my mom, you know." She has been feeling sorry for her parents because of the costly tuition so she decided to appear on the show. "Korea is very expensive," Mullen sighs.

      There have been some awkward moments while she was on the show. As the talk show moved its airing time further into the night, panelists were sometimes thrown by intimate questions like asking about the quality of sanitary napkins. "I don't say anything when such topics come up. I just don't know what to say," she admits. Korea's office workers, men in particular, are another object of fascination for her. "They drink too much. They sing too much. Their wives, sons and daughters suffer. Why don't they go home?"

      Does Bronwyn have a boyfriend? Suddenly blushing, she rolls her eyes, saying she needs some time to answer that question. Finally she says, "Yes. I do. He is Korean." "Love is private," Mullen adds, smiling shyly. After the interview, she asked one last favor. "I have dark circles around my eyes, but you don't know that because I have make-up on. So please be careful when you take my picture!"

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