In May 2023, the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Seattle hosted the “Quiz on Korea” at the University of Washington. Korea Program MA student Hannah Wampler won first place in the quiz. Her prize? An invitation to final contest in Seoul in September 2023! Hannah wrote a brief report on her experience for CKS. Although she didn’t win the final quiz, the experience and friends Hannah made along the way were prizes all their own.
My name is Hannah Wampler. I am a second-year M.A. student in the Jackson School’s Korean Studies program. I am currently working on research for my M.A. paper on the depiction of mother-daughter relationships in Korean television dramas, and taking fourth-year Korean class with a FLAS award.
The story of how I came to participate in KBS’s (Korean Broadcasting System) 2023 Quiz on Korea really comes down to chance. The Seattle Consulate General of the Republic of Korea was holding the USA preliminary round this year, and I decided to participate for fun, and did not expect to win at all. But I ended up winning and was told I was going to be sent to South Korea to participate in the final round in Korean on television. I was extremely nervous at the time for several reasons. The most significant was my Korean language ability at the time. I had only completed through third-year Korean, which is only intermediate level, so I was concerned I would not be able to go through an entire quiz show in Korean. My other concern was the potential quiz questions. The preliminary round in Seattle was conducted in English and had fairly simple questions about Korean pop culture or other easy topics, while the final quiz can cover topics from premodern history to UNESCO sites to traditional food, some of which I knew a little about here and there, but not enough for a whole trivia quiz. My program also mainly focuses on political science, modern history, and economics, none of which are covered in the quiz, which, from watching multiple past episodes, usually includes lighter topics like culture and arts. I knew I needed to do a lot of preparation over the summer before I left for Korea in September, and thankfully the Consulate helped me by offering language learning and speaking practice assistance while also teaching me trivia on various potential quiz topics. It was really difficult to try to prepare for the quiz, since we are not allowed to know the questions in advance, but we were told the theme for this year would be “Korean vacation,” meaning famous travel spots, foods, and other fun facts about places to visit around Korea, which helped narrow down the topics I studied.
The entire trip was paid for by KBS as well, which I was extremely grateful for. When I arrived in Korea, KBS staff were waiting for me at the airport and provided transportation to our hotel. We had a week full of meetings and traveling scheduled by KBS. On our first travel day we went to Wonju, a city just southeast of Seoul, where we hiked a mountain and visited a local museum. The next day we went to Buyeo, which is south of Seoul in Chungcheongnam Province, and has historical significance as the location of the former capital of the Baekje Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms Period. We visited a museum where we learned some history of Baekje, took a boat ride on Baekmagang (Baekma River), and visited Baekje Cultural Land. The next day we had a Seoul trip, visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace and Namsan Tower. All of these trips weren’t just for fun; everything they told us and everything we learned could potentially have been on the quiz, so while we were enjoying ourselves we were also taking notes.
Finally, the day of the quiz came, we had our outfits ready, hair and makeup done, and the show began. All of the contestants could have friends and family join the audience, and I am grateful to have had some friends from my study abroad time in South Korea from when I was in undergrad be in the audience, and some people from UW, particularly Prof. Junghee Kim, who was my third-year Korean professor. I wasn’t really nervous about the cameras and the audience; as usual I was more concerned about my Korean speaking ability, but traveling around Korea that week and constantly speaking with the other contestants and KBS in Korean greatly improved my confidence. The questions were very difficult; I’ve been told even Koreans wouldn’t know the answers to many of the questions we were asked. Unfortunately, I was eliminated in the first round, but I wasn’t disappointed. I got a free trip to Korea, made wonderful new friendships with the other contestants, and improved my Korean language skills and confidence over the course of the week. So all in all, I think I did win.