"I didn't write the book because I knew Korea well. I wanted to introduce Korea as seen through the eyes of a foreigner who was unfamiliar with it to my fellow Germans," says Vera Hohleiter.
Hohleiter found herself in the middle of unwanted controversy after publishing her book "Sleepless Nights in Seoul" in Germany. The Korean translation was recently published here.
The book based on her experiences of living in Korea was published in Germany in July, and excerpts translated into Korean soon spread over the Internet. Some Koreans were offended, especially by passages where Hohleiter describes rudeness on bustling subway trains and general lack of consideration for vegetarians and foreigners in Korea.
Hohleiter says the humor was lost in translation. "German readers did not interpret it as criticism, and in fact I got a lot of feedback that the book boosted interest in Korea among Germans," she says, "I wrote of my experiences in Korea. I wanted to describe Korea from the perspective of a foreigner who does not know much about Korean culture, language and has no relation to the country. I didn't intentionally write only bad things about Korea. It's an undistorted record of personal experience, which I think is experienced by many other foreigners living in Seoul, such as visa issues, finding housing and jobs, and dealing with misunderstandings arising from linguistic and cultural differences."
She says of course the Seoul she experienced would not be the same for the other 11 million people living in Seoul. "People go through different things although they live in the same place, don't they?"
Hohleiter talks about how she became interested in Korea from the first place, and how she ended up as a regular panelist on the KBS talk show "Global Talk Show: Talk with Beauties," and her experiences of living in the country.