Interview: ‘Dear Korea’ Creator Jen Lee

[su_heading size=”20″ margin=”18″]Jen Lee has been publishing her clever take on life in Korea since 2010. Now, the talented illustrator has put her “Dear Korea” collection into a book.[/su_heading]

Jen Lee’s long-running comic strip that looks at expat life in Korea has now been put into a book called, “Dear Korea: Volume One.“

Lee, a native of Houston, Texas and graduate of George Bush High School, has been publishing her clever take on life in Korea since 2010 when she took a job teaching there.

We recently had a chance to talk with Jen at her current digs in Gwangju, South Korea, as her book was set to hit the bookshelves.


When did you publish the first “Dear Korea”?

The very first Dear Korea was published in late 2010. Though it had spent some time online, the first publication it was featured in was Gwangju News back in November 2010. I had initially sent them my comic to see if they wanted to use it, only to find that it had been printed without my knowledge. Since then, I have made over 130 strips and hope to keep going.

Dear Korea Fast Food - Branding in Asia

How did you get started creating your own comics?

As far as I can remember, I enjoyed drawing and writing stories. Though I wasn’t particularly great at either, the idea of combining them both to create something always seemed like a fun idea.

“Dear Korea” takes aim at the culture clash for foreigners living in Korea with a humorous touch. Is that your general feeling? Just lighten up and embrace it all?

My history has been sketchy, to say in the least. I learned at a young age that if I didn’t approach hardships and frustrations with a sense of humor, the negativity of it all would consume me. I made sure to bring this mentality with me to Korea, as I didn’t want to become somebody who would look back on these experiences in a bad light. Even during the most difficult times, I’ve made it a point to search for a humorous aspect of the situation so that I can look back at that point in my life and laugh. I’ve been lucky in the sense that Korea makes it easy to do so.

Dear Korea Mosquitos - Branding in Asia

Has there been any blowback from Koreans who didn’t like what you’re doing?

Since I first started working on “Dear Korea, my work has received very little blowback in general. While I’m sure this is something that will eventually change, most of the criticisms I have received from all of my readers have been quite constructive and often respectful.

What do you do when you get comic writer’s block?

I bother my friends, procrastinate, have an existential crisis, eat something, and eventually manage to push out a comic. This happens far more often than most would think.

Dear Korea creator Jen Lee Interview - Branding in Asia
Jen Lee, thrilled with the weather – Photo by Relja Kojic

Are there any particular people that you look up to in your field?

That is a list that would go on forever. There are a number of artists, comedians and writers I look up to for an assortment of reasons, and I like to use them as inspiration for different aspects of my work. If I have to think of anyone in my field, when it comes to telling fantastic stories in an entertaining manner, Ryan Estrada (fellow Korean expat comic strip creator) is someone who definitely comes to mind.

What’s next for Jen Lee? Dear China? Dear America? What’s the future hold for you?

The future is a weird, uncertain thing. As much as I’d like to return to America to my friends, family, and Cool Ranch Doritos, it doesn’t really seem to be in the cards for me at the moment. For now, the plan is to stay in Korea and work on becoming as awesome as I can before I move onto my next destination.

This can definitely change at any moment, but for as far as I can see, there will be plenty of comics to come. I hope to someday be able to release more personal and original stories in the form of graphic novels, but that’s still a bit of a distant dream.


You can see more from Jen at dearkoreacomic.com or www.jen-lee.com or www.dearkoreacomic.com.


This article appears courtesy of Branding in Asia Magazine

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Bobby McGill
Bobby is the founder of Haps Korea.

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