Thursday, OCt 2, 2014
It all started with her love of Korean boyband Shinhwa. She went on to pick up the Korean language and learn about the country's culture.
Now, thanks to her wealth of knowledge about all things Korean, Singaporean April Tan, 34, is US$10,000 (S$12,700) richer. She beat 20 international contestants in Seoul last month in a televised contest, Quiz On Korea
Organised by South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Korean TV station KBS, the quiz show is in its third year and was aired worldwide last Tuesday.
A Singapore representative participated for the first time.
Ms Tan had fallen in love with Shinhwa in 2006. "I started watching variety shows and dramas that featured Shinhwa members, and wanted to understand what they were saying without relying on subtitles," says Ms Tan, an executive place manager at the Urban Redevelopment Authority who mans the use of public spaces.
"Once you start learning a language, you will come into contact with the culture and history, and I became interested in Korea's history and culture."
She flew to Seoul last month for a four-day sponsored trip for the filming of the finals. The contestants also visited a Korean folk village and tried their hand at making kimchi.
Ms Tan earned her place in the finals after beating 100 hopefuls in the preliminary round held in Singapore in June.
In Seoul, she and 20 other contestants from countries such as Germany and the United States were quizzed on facts relating to Korean history, culture, arts and general knowledge.
She made it to the final three, along with the Mongolian and Iranian contestants.
"Everyone expected the Mongolian contestant to win. He was fluent in Korean and spoke like a native," she says.
It was a very close fight between the Mongolian and her. The person who answered the last question correctly first would be the winner.
They were asked to name the French neighbourhood in Seoul (Seorae Maeul) and Ms Tan got it right. It was a nugget of information she had picked up from her multiple trips to South Korea.
"I've visited the place before on my previous trips. For some of the questions, you'll know the answer if you've been to Korea often enough," says Ms Tan, who took time off work for a four-month language course at Seoul's Sogang University in 2009 and later signed up for lessons at the Singapore Korean International School in 2012.
"The reality of my win didn't sink in till much later. I felt happy and lucky, and treated my fellow contestants to a noraebang (karaoke in Korean) session," she says.
So, with her windfall, is she planning another trip to South Korea?
Ms Tan, who is married to a fund manager but does not have children, says with a laugh: "I was telling everybody that the prize money would probably cover the expenses of all my previous trips."