Ep. 2 – Manuel Azuaje-Alamo on Japan and Korea differences, East Asian literature, and language learning

Manuel Azuaje-Alamo is  a PhD. candidate at Harvard University. After studying at Shizuoka University (Japan), he obtained his BA from the University of Alberta (East Asian Studies Major, Comparative Literature Minor), and later was a visiting researcher at the University of Waseda (Japan). He also obtained a Masters degree from, and began a PhD. program at the University of Tokyo’s Department of Contemporary Literary Studies. After being admitted as a PhD. student at the Department of Comparative Literature of Harvard University in 2013, he has received multiple fellowships for study abroad in Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan and Brazil. He spent last year on a Confucius Institute Research Fellowship at Beijing Normal University, and currently resides in South Korea thanks to a fellowship from the Korea Foundation. His research analyzes the introduction and evolution of the concept of “World Literature” in East Asia, especially of the inclusion therein of the literature from non-Western regions, with Latin America literature being a case study.

00:00               on living in Nicaragua

03:30               what was appealing about Japanese culture

04:55               foreign literature in Venezuela

06:50               starting to learn Japanese

07:15               popular anime in Latin America in the 1990s

09:40               getting denied at the Japanese embassy in Caracas

11:15               multiculturalism in Venezuela

13:52               what’s so special about a Japanese yard sale

16:03               the university of Alberta

17:23               first encounters with Korean literature, culture, language

18:09               first trip to Japan

19:20               learning Japanese via radio

20:33               on being Hispanic in Japan

21:52               how Korean students were treated in Japan

23:02               Osaka, Koreans, and Ghettos

24:43               being a Korean at a Japanese university

27:50               how Korean culture was received in Japan in the 2000s

29:10               Korea perceptions while in Japan

30:58               living in Fukushima before the meltdown

32:03               exploring abandoned Japanese buildings

32:36               applying for the MEXT scholarship

34:00               going to Korea for the first time/similarities to Japan

35:44               speaking Japanese around Seoul

36:10               the 외국인Free Pass

36:40               missing the last train to the airport

39:21               Korea University’s language program / living in Anam

40:37               on learning seven languages

41:39               linguistic differences between Japanese and Korean

43:30               attending Tokyo University

44:45               getting in to Harvard University

47:19               the best language program ever taken

48:47               the problem with language learning programs

49:40               the Korea Foundation

50:35               the highest literature prize won in the Korean language

51:00               unique challenges learning Korean

51:14               learning Korean as a Japanese speaker

53:08               biggest differences between living in Seoul vs. Tokyo

54:17               why zip codes matter in Korea

55:13               allegiance by neighborhood in Japan

56:19               on Japanese trains

56:41              Korea’s cultural homogeneity

57:23               Seoul and Tokyo: which is easier to live in as a foreigner?

58:45               How Manuel’s opinion of Korea has changed

59:58               Lessons for Shinzo Abe from the Choe Soon-sil scandal

01:02:24          What Manuel wishes he knew before he came to Seoul

01:04:40          what to change about Korea

01:05:37          Manuel’s favorite Korean literature

01:06:32          common themes between Chinese, Korean, and Japanese literature

01:08:29          where to start with East Asian literature?

01:11:05          on putting up a billboard in Seoul


People, Places, Things Mentioned in the Interview