This blog, Ask a Korean! was born October 21, 2006. (Here is my very first post, and my very first question answered.) The decade mark of the blog last year should have been a significant occasion. But because of the circumstances in my life (which I will share in due time,) I was not able to give this blog a proper celebration.
So here it is to open the new year: a belated 10 year celebration, through a series of reflections about different topics--on blogging, Korea, and myself. Yes, this is going to get a bit self-indulgent. If you have a problem with that, go read The Most Important Policy of this blog one more time.
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I began this blog as a way to kill time during the slowness of third year in law school. The direct inspiration for the blog, reflected in its name, is ¡Ask a Mexican! by Gustavo Arellano, who ran (and still runs) his syndicated column in OC Weekly. The blog was somewhat of a joke to myself--in fact, that is still the case in my head to this day. I gave myself a ridiculous pen name, The Korean, and wrote in a ridiculous style, referring to myself in third person. The joke was: you are really not supposed to take me very seriously. I'm just a random guy on the internet with a blog.
As many of my jokes go, this one failed. For reasons unknown to me, people kept reading the blog. Publications like the New York Times took me seriously enough to send a reporter to interview me. Although media appearances now have become a regular feature of the blog, I still don't really understand why they keep reading my stuff. In my mind, it means the journalists are not doing their jobs; if they knew what they were talking about, they wouldn't read this internet rando's blog.
I can't get over this point partially because I cannot get over what blogging was like ten years ago. Back then, having a blog was a mild embarrassment, like online dating was back in the day. Calling yourself a "blogger" meant you could not manage to get a job. Blogging was not real writing; it could never be serious.
In the past ten years, I saw this change in different ways. First came the boom times. Starting around 2009, blogging became mainstream to a point that every company was essentially required to have a blog on its website, just as much as it needs to have a Facebook page and a Twitter account today. On the particular subjects I covered--Korea and Asian America--there was a thriving network of blogs like Marmot's Hole, Roboseyo, Brian in Jeollanam-do and Korea Beat. It helped that this period was also the peak of English speakers visiting Korea to teach English, which led to more bloggers and blog readers.
Another turn came around 2013. Blogging became so successful that it turned into something else entirely. Big name blogs, written by serious people discussing serious stuff (like Marginal Revolution or Volokh Conspiracy,) were absorbed into the framework of mainstream media (in their cases, to the Washington Post) and simply became "media." For people who simply wanted to chronicle their daily lives (or minutely or secondly lives, as it turned out,) first came Tumblr, then Twitter, where they could vomit their thoughts in real time.
This larger trend was visible in Korea bloggers also. One by one, lights started going out. Some wrote much less frequently; some shuttered their blog entirely. The list titled "Korea" in my RSS feed became shorter and shorter. I could not help but notice that as bloggers got older and more involved with their family or career, their writing slowed down. After all, blogging was just a hobby. Time to move on from childish things.
The latest turn affected this blog also. I went from being a graduate student to an attorney who has been practicing law for nine years, and recently, father of a newborn girl. At its peak, AAK! used to have an update nearly every day. Now, my short impressions have migrated entirely to the blog's Facebook page and Twitter. The blog became the place for a more involved writing, requiring more research and reflection.
All of this leaves me in a bind. My blog never got big enough to be a money-making venture. Not that I would want it to be so--that would drain all the fun out of writing. But this does mean that my blog remains a hobby, a very time consuming, expensive one. (Remember, I am in a profession that charges by the hour.) What is more, the cost of engaging in this hobby is rising every day. Being a more senior attorney means more demand on your time. I have been a father for exactly 12 days, and I cannot see the task getting any easier in the next decade.
Ironically, the blog's success also constrains. I would have never, ever guessed that Ask a Korean! would become what it is today. I would have never, ever guessed that the blog would have more than 15 million pageviews, or one of my posts would get more than a million pageviews. I would have never, ever guessed that having a blog would allow me to connect with people who shape the world we live in. The attention the blog has received compelled me to become a better writer and more rigorous thinker--a happy result.
But it also made me more cynical and calculating in the topics I choose to write about, especially because each post now requires so much work. I always enjoyed writing about random trivia about Korea. One of the big moments for this blog was when I translated Prince Fielder's neck tattoo, which made this blog the top Google search result when anyone searched for tattoo in Korean. Can I enjoy trivialities with the blog anymore, when the time I spend to write becomes more and more precious? Can I continue to afford this hobby? Really, who blogs any more, except those who are paid to do?
I sense that soon, I will have to make some type of decision about what to do with this blog. But I don't even know what that decision will be.
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at email@example.com.