www.groovekorea.com / August 2014 86 K won Young-hun was just an aver- age Korean student looking for an adventure. So he set off for Aus- tralia, not realizing how much the experience would change his life. It was his first time leaving Korea and he could barely string an English sentence together, so he memorized some essential phrases like “Sorry,” “Excuse me” and “Can you exchange money?” to get by. Upon his arrival Down Un- der, he joined a variety of groups to improve his language skills and meet new people. “I learned English as quickly as possible so I could make some friends,” he says. “Actually, I found the best way to learn English was by having (Australian) friends.” After returning to Korea, Kwon noticed there had been an influx of expats since he’d left, and he empathized with the difficulties they faced. He says there was limited information in English for the expat community online, so he launched a website to help. He later expanded the site into a group called Community Korea that kicked off in March 2012. It has since become a large network of people who share cultural experi- ences. The group is open to all nationalities and sees itself as bringing Europeans, North Americans, Asians and many other groups to- gether to exchange languages and share their thoughts about the world. Kwon says he also wanted to bring some of the friendliness and openness he had wit- nessed in Australia back to Korea. “Australians always say hello to strangers on the street and make eye contact,” says Kwon. “But Korean people don’t do that. I liked it be- cause it was easier to make friends.” He started things off with a language ex- change, so he could meet expats and figure out some of the problems they were having in Korea. He then moved on to giving personal tours to foreigners who had just arrived, in an effort to make them feel more at home. Kwon also accompanied expats on shopping trips to help them purchase certain items, such as cellphones, which can be difficult to buy with- out Korean language abilities. His friendly approach ha s eased the way for numerous people new to the country. As Tori Palmer from Kansas City explains, “Community Korea was my first true commu- nity in Seoul. I met a lot of great friends, peo- ple to laugh with and people who were always willing to help me out with whatever I needed.” The group isn’t just for expats. Koreans are hugely important to the organization, too. Lee Young-gun, originally from Daegu, says, “At (the) language exchange, I made a lot of for- eign friends from many different countries. It helped me to improve my English and learn about cultural differences.” Edited by Jenny Na (jenny@groovekorea.com) COmmuNITy At home in KoreA Story by Emilee Jennings / Photo by Kim Da-un Community Korea welcomes expats with a language exchange and built-in social network MorE INFo j Community Korea hosts language exchange evenings every Thursday in Gangnam. The main languages of the group are Korean, English and Chinese. Website communitykorea.com, fb.com/communitykorea