He was a tech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. Now he is a musician in Hongdae, Seoul.
After graduating college, he moved from Atlanta to New York, from New York to San Francisco, back to New York, and briefly was in Texas. He is now in Seoul, Korea.
His name is Ryan Kulp. He was known as a founder of FOMO.com, but now he is getting famous with his entertainment career. He has more than 30K subscribers to his YouTube channel, and he’s currently featured on a Korean TV show, “Paik Jong-won Class.”
He started learning the Korean language only in 2019, but he can now communicate with people in Korean. What’s more interesting: he developed Yangmal Game, a board game about making Korean words.
Here, let’s find out more about his journey to Korea.
Tell us how you came all the way to here, Seoul.
– I was a tech guy in the states. In technology, there is a kind of shared goal: get paid, learn skills, work for somebody, start my own company, and sell it. I dedicated myself to that goal from the age of 22 to 29. And I finally sold my own company in summer 2019.
But when I achieved my “goal,” I was not that happy. So I started my trip to Korea. That was early last year – during the covid. For a few months, I did what I hadn’t done before, and thought about what I should do with my life. By the summer, I came to the conclusion that I needed a big, long-term goal.
That’s when I decided to start my career as a musician in Korea. I’ve always had a passion for music. Also, as I played in the school orchestra when I grew up in Atlanta, I had many Asian American friends. I was somewhat familiar with the Korean language, so I decided to learn it.
Luckily, a Korean guy I knew from work had a business in Korea, so he sponsored my working visa. So I work for his company now, helping him with technology. Ever since I got my visa processed, I’ve lived in Seoul.
You moved to Korea during the pandemic. How’s your life in Seoul?
– Last year, it was not easy to travel or move. But I didn’t want this random phenomenon to control my life. So I moved to Seoul. Covid was not a big problem for me because I came here to learn, not to party. So for the first two months, I went to cafes every single day to study Korean. I still study every day.
After a while, I set goals and started to build things in Korea. That’s when I began to be on podcasts, radio shows, commercials, a tv show, and develop a board game and apps. Now I’m staying busy to adapt and be really involved in Korea.
You started to create your own K-pop music. Can you tell us more?
– Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a musician. During my 20s, I wrote music and recorded some songs, but my friends were my only audience most of the time. I was not a “professional” musician who gets paid for music.
The new goal I set last year was to make music – in Korean. I wanted a new goal to be more challenging than just writing music, so I added language learning.
So far, I’ve recorded four songs, and now I’m working on the fifth song and my first EP album. For my first EP, I wrote songs relatable to everyday people in both Korean and English. Now I perform around Hongdae and share my songs on YouTube.
Ultimately, I want to make a dent in modern Korean culture. I believe music alters our minds. Music encourages people and inspires people. With me coming here without any connections and musical skills, I thought I could create an impact on people – like, sending a message of “You can do anything!”
You can do anything. That’s what I’ve always believed. You can do anything; you just have to believe in yourself. I want to spread this message through music, things that I’m building, and even this interview.
Now let’s talk about this exciting board game – Yangmal Game.
– I tried to find the most efficient and fun way to learn Korean. Listening to hundreds of hours of lectures, memorizing thousands of words, studying grammar for months… These were too boring and not even efficient for me.
So I got an idea from board games like Bananagrams or Scrabble. By playing games, I can recall the words that I learned, and learn new words from others. Anytime I finish playing, I take a photo so I can remember the words in the flashcards.
Recently, I played this game with two kids, John and Mack, and you can find how to play this game in the video.
Thank you for sharing your interesting stories. Lastly, can you give any tips to those who want to come to Korea?
– I think soft skills are important, but hard skills make your life easy. I didn’t consider myself an engineer or a computer man, but I learned computer programming because I realized that’s why everybody wanted. You know, everyone looks for programmers. Now I’m in Korea because I could do programming, but I don’t have to do programming. But that’s how I was able to come to Korea.
It’s easy to think like, “I wanna do this, therefore I should do that specific activity.” But sometimes, in order to do activity A, you need to go learn activity B. It’s very non-linear how our lives and careers kind of happen. So I think being open to serendipity and random things that are beneficial is very important.
Again, there are easier paths to come to Korea, like teaching, but it doesn’t mean your life’s gonna be easy. So.. I hope you follow your own course and make big goals. Then you’ll be able to find your own path and do whatever you wish.
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