On the entertainment program, Non-Summit, just like a mouthwatering salad bowl, the panel is made up of foreigners engaging in animated conversation. They sometimes dress their talks with humor but never leave out the salad dressing sauce of “prudence.” Especially, one beloved cast member is Daniel Lindemann from Germany. He has been attracting viewers’ attention through his calm yet persuasive way of discussing issue. During our one hour long interview, he left reporters sensing his genuine character: very modest, thoughtful, and judicious.
You have lived in Korea since 2008. Please share the reason you decided to live in Korea.
I majored in Oriental and Asian Studies at University of Bonn, Germany. Since my early years, I had great interest in oriental martial arts and learned Taekwondo. At that time, I knew about Japan through their movies and China through local restaurants; however, Korea was totally new to me. I wanted an adventure and challenge. At university, I learned Korean and came to Korea University as an exchange student. After graduating from Bonn, I entered Graduate School of International Studies at Yonsei University. After the graduation, I couldn’t find a job that suited me. Moreover, my visa was expiring, so I left for Germany and took on a part time job. However, I decided to return to Korea on a Working Holiday visa. Then, fortunately, thanks to the agents’ knowledge of my winning first prize at the World Korean Language Speech Contest for Foreigners, I was asked to join a panel that was to be featured on Non-Summit . I am now very satisfied with my work. This is as good as it gets.
Were you ever worried about your chances of getting a job with a major in Oriental and Asian Studies?
I wasn’t that concerned at the time. However, people around me expressed a lot of doubts and worries. Some even boldly asked what I planned to do after graduation. Although I cannot say I never thought about my future, I had a strong conviction since I had such great interest in my major. One may say I was too naïve, but I did my best step by step, thinking ‘I love Korea and I will be whatever the future holds for me—professor, journalist, ambassador or something else.’ I didn’t think about my future broadly but was passionate enough to take one step at a time.
When you first came to Korea, did you experience any shocking differences between reality in Korea and your image of Korea?
I imagined Kung Fu Panda when thinking of Korea and the book about Korea which my uncle presented me had only old pictures of Korea. However, as I looked about Seoul, I realized Seoul is highly developed unlike what I’d seen in books. Also, by interacting with Koreans, I felt their mindset to be quite different from what had been portrayed when I had learnt about the ‘oriental mindset.’ Rather than being shy or calm, Koreans enjoyed cheerful singing and dancing. However, I wasn’t disappointed; these aspects made me more attracted to Korea. I lived in the countryside in Germany, so I felt lonely. In Korea, however, there is no time to feel lonely.
Lots of Korean go overseas to travel or join exchange programs. What is the best attitude to take with you when entering an exotic culture?
It is best to have a similar or objective mind. If you think ‘this country must be better than my country,’ you will easily get disappointed and eventually frustrated. For instance, when Korean friends ask Germans ‘How’s the taste of Korean beer?’ nothing good will come if they respond with, ‘Oh, it is terrible. I am totally disappointed.’ Knowing the short history of Korean beer, it is natural that it will not have the flavor of Germany. Thus, it would be better to respond with, ‘Korean beer is less strong than German beer.’ In this way, both the speaker and listener will not be offended. When encountering “different” things, one should think about why it is done in that way or why they do it like in the first place. To sum up, lots of effort should be made to understand cultures.
Your recent interview on German media has made headline news in Korea. It seems like you are leaving a strong impression of German people in Korea. How do you feel about it?
I feel burdened and have a lot weighing on my shoulders. However, I really appreciate those people who appraise me positively. I have been contacted by German media; therefore, now I am not only taking the role of introducing Germany to Koreans but Korea to Germans. I am much more careful in what I say than before. I am not a professor or an expert, just a normal German. Accordingly, when people ask for advice or want to get something off their chest, I emphasize that all I can do is offering my personal thoughts, inspire, or encourage them to think in a somewhat different manner. Once again, Germany is not Daniel. I am just one of German, but since I have been given a special role, I am studying a lot to give objective information.
Your sedate and sober style of discussing on Non-Summit is memorable. Is this a typical nature of Germans, or is it just your character?
That’s hard to answer clearly. In Germany, we do not learn to discuss like in Korea, however, recalling my old school days, my high school teacher who taught pedagogy once told me, “To give your opinion, you need a rigid background knowledge about the topic. If you do not have such knowledge, you are unqualified to set forth your assertion.” My concept of discussion was established by that teacher. In this way, a discussion does not involve a quarrel, but an exchange of ideas and information. Each person moves in parallel, side by side. Not only arguing one’s opinion but also active listening to the other party’s position should be done.
Reading your other interviews, it seems that your desire to study a doctoral degree is strong. Do you have any other future plans?
I want to study a doctoral degree, but I have to wait and see how my broadcasting career goes first. Other than this, I want to become a professor. It will allow me to study my field and continuously strive for my self-improvement. Along with this, I want to teach Hapkido, which I have practiced for quite long time. Hapkido raises physical strength, concentration, and makes me to act honorably even when I face hardships. Other than these, I hope to appear continuously on TV programs while having my personal career. For a challenge, you might think me too greedy, but I want to perform music in Hongdae or Itaewon as a hobby and if the opportunity presented itself, I would like to shoot a film just for the experience, regardless of my role in the film.
You really are a dream chaser. Would you like to leave a few final comments for Sookmyungians who are struggling to achieve or find their dreams?
The Flying Classroom, written by Erich Kästner, says people should equip themselves with knowledge and courage. Through studying, I hope students gain a sense of freedom, build knowledge, and put that knowledge into action with courage. That is the role of university students. Whether it is a “big” dream or not, rather than following others’ paths, pursuing one’s own dream, will make one feel fruitful. On the other hand, not having a dream can also be a dream. If you do not have specific dream, just live within your boundary. However, at the same time, you should contemplate how you can adjust yourself into your environment. The Alchemist, a novel by Paulo Coelho says, “Usually the threat of death makes people a lot more aware of their lives.” Think of death every morning. It makes me more vigorous for the day. Keep death in mind, and contemplate what you shed a tear for within your boundary.
• Oriental and Asian Studies at University of Bonn, 2009
• Graduate School of International Studies at Yonsei University, 2011
• Current Panel Member of JTBC‘s entertainment program Non-Summit
• Current MC for Sky Sports’ program, Bundesliga Show