Every evening, thousands of Kurds do not pick up their phones because they are too busy watching TV. An unexpectedly high number of Kurds of all ages and sexes are hooked on soaps that are made in Korea.
I cannot stop wondering about it. What do Kurdish people like about a soap that is situated in such a different culture as the Korean? With people who dress so differently, who react so foreign, who look so different and live in such completely different circumstances than the Kurds? With stories that have so little in common with daily life in Kurdistan? What do Kurds share with Asians?
Perhaps it is because of the Mongols, who also came to Kurdistan, centuries ago - a fact that can still be seen in some of the features of the Kurdish people. And I suppose they are still present in some of the Kurdish food and dishes, like bryani and naan, and in the language.
Yet I know most Kurds are more focused on Europe than on Asia. Young people who leave Kurdistan mostly want to live in the West, and few go to Asia. Even holidays in Malaysia, which do not require a visa, are not popular. Kurds look to the West for fashion, for fast food, for beautiful women, for football, for knowledge, for studies – and for most answers to difficult questions.
Yet the most popular TV is not American, British or Swedish. It is TV made to the taste of Korean audiences. Soaps that had to be synchronized into Kurdish, so every time someone opens his/her mouth, you can see he/she is saying something else than your ears are telling you.
It took me some asking around, until I found the probable cause. As part of the coalition of 2003 Korea was very active in Iraqi Kurdistan. It sent not only troops, but also aid in all kinds of shapes and forms. And it brought the first soap series from Korea – for free.
When other Kurdish channels saw this, they wanted their very own Korean TV soap. And so it went on. By now the series are no longer free, nor are they cheap, I have been told.
So if the Americans had brought West Wing – a great series about daily happenings in the White House which can teach you a lot about politics, or if the British had brought one of the beautiful BBC detectives, now Kurdistan would be hooked to American or British series. Or am I badly mistaken?