To Unpredictable Passions: Yeşil Grena/yoonsookjin, Lip-Syncher of Turkish Tunes

(LJ readers, pop on over to my site to read this post if the videos I embed beneath the cut aren’t working… LJ sometimes takes the videos in stride, and sometimes hates my embedding anything….)

At some point or other I stumbled onto the existence of a Korean by the name (or pseudonym?) of Yoon Sook Jin (usually written yoonsookjin) who achieved some degree of fame online doing those sing-along webcam type videos which, since the dawn of Youtube, have been competing with cat photographs for how much bandwidth can be, er, used up in unentertaining entertainment.

yoonsookjin photo

But you know, there is something unusual about Miss Yoon, and it’s not her lovely smile that you can see in the photo to the right, which is from what appears to be her blog, or the fact she looks a little like Björk. Those things aren’t the odd thing about her And the hair? I think that’s a wig. Nope, the interesting thing about her — well, the thing about her that interested a bunch of people in another country on the other side of the earth — is what kind of songs she performs on those webcam videos.

They’re Turkish.

They’re so Turkish, in fact, that I don’t know if the titles of the tracks will work or break if I paste them into this rich-text editing window. “Yeşil Grena” is a bit of text that keeps showing up, enough that I have to wonder if that’s her Turkish name. A Google Search suggests that it is… which gives one pause: plenty of Koreans have “English names,” but a Turkish name?

She does quite a good job in some of them — not everything is stellar, but some are nicely edited and executed, and they have the look of a labour of love, not something slapped together — though I have no idea how authentic all the trappings are, like the belly-dancing, belly-dancing gear, the costumes, and so on. She does seem to know the language, or at least enough of it to lip-synch along well enough to fool me at times. I think in some of them, she’s actually singing, too. (And while it wouldn’t take much to impress me, some of the comments in Turkish that come up on the search linked above seem pretty positive, or pleased, too. I think I even found a (Turkish?) fan singing her a heartfelt birthday song — it looks like that from the text description of the video, anyway!)

This is one of those things that reminds me why, despite the frustrations I discuss here sometimes, and despite the way Korean manias sometimes end up making things difficult, I like this characteristic of Korean people a lot. There’s something about their odd fanaticisms that sometimes gets directed at the neatest, most interesting, surprising things. Things you’ve never met anyone else obsessed with before. You’ll meet Koreans who are crazy about Turkish popsongs, or French poetry, or flying model helicopters — whole groups of those, congregating t do it on weekends — or translating German opera librettos because all the extant translations suck, according to them. Yes, people essentially fansubbing Wagner. They’ll sometimes blow you away with how much they can pick up, even when they’re living in some podunk little town. Or maybe because they, more than anyone, need something to make life in the podunk town interesting.

Maybe, also, there’s something about living in a peripheral country (like Canada or Australia) that isn’t anglophone (unlike Canada or Australia, but more like say, Finland) that opens up the range of weird stuff people can just go crazy for. Yes, it’s true that it’s more uncommon for you to meet people with crazy, unusual passions here in Korea; but when you do, there’s a much wider range of things, it seems, for them to be head-over-heels passionate about, and to them, it’s not left-field at all. No more left field than their favorite movie being German — how is that weirder than it being Japanese or Hollywood or French? — or the place they dream of visiting being Ivory Coast or Titicaca?

So, a toast: to those odd and interesting Koreans we all meet if we’re lucky enough, and their unpredictable, refreshing passions!

Without further ado, if you care to read on, here are some of yoonsookjin’s videos, a couple before the cut and more after, for those who want more:

Want more? Try here, or here. There’s tons, and while I haven’t watched them all, they are entertaining enough to merit distraction for a spell.

5 thoughts on “To Unpredictable Passions: Yeşil Grena/yoonsookjin, Lip-Syncher of Turkish Tunes

  1. I’ve actually seen something very similar where I live in Texas. Austin has fairly large populations of Chinese (from both the mainland and Taiwan, one of my friends moved here from Beijing some years ago), Korean, Vietnamese, and a few Japanese, and quite a few of them have come to our international folk dance groups from time to time. Many of them have learned English fairly recently, and learning other languages such as Turkish, Macedonian, or Hungarian at least well enough to sing songs phonetically isn’t particularly hard.

    And there’s something about Turkish music. I recognized one of the groups whose music she’s using — “YK” is an abbreviation for Yurtseven Kardeşler, and most of the songs she’s chosen are halay tunes. (I’ve learned to sing a few of YK’s songs myself, including my favorite so far, Halayımız Bitmesin .. :)

  2. And I forgot to mention that one of our local Hungarian folk dance instructors is Japanese, and speaks more fluent Hungarian than she does English. It’s often reminded me that Western/European/American culture is only one of many “foreign” cultures to people who live in other countries (including Korea), and while we’re somewhat interesting, there are other cultures that are also very interesting.

    From getting to know quite a few people who’ve come here from that area of the world, I get a very strong sense of hunger to experience as much of the world as possible .. it’s hard to avoid that when I hear a friend from Hong Kong singing along with a Macedonian lesnoto, or a teacher from Japan shouting out call-and-response csujogatas in a Hungarian dance .. :)

  3. Hey gord,

    Evidently her name means “green garnet” in Turkish. Sounds like a stage name to me (or at least a YouTube name). I’ve never seen “yesil” used as a girl’s name there.


  4. Bruce,

    Wow, that’s fascinating. Especially with international folk dancing, and all that. I don’t know about Chinese or Japanese so much, but I’ve known Koreans who’ve never danced in public before. (An old girlfriend who danced with me in a bar once said it was the first time she’s danced outside her own room.) What you say about Western European/American culture being one foreign culture of many for people in other countries is right on the money, and what I was trying to say Yoon Sook Jin expresses well, though I’d have to say that I wonder whether the people who actually immigrate abroad might be the minority that have that hunger you describe. (A lot of people one meets here seem less possessed of such a hunger.) Lime’s friend recently tried to get Lime to go to Europe with her… 7 countries, 7 days, $3000. Probably no European food the whole time. Lime was taken aback and didn’t go — because she would actually like to, you know, experience Europe, for that kind of money — but this is a very common way for people to travel… though, at least, the younger generation seems to be more interested in actually spending time enough to have some idea about the places they go.

    I agree with you: there is something about Turkish pop songs… they stick in your head.


    Aha! Makes sense. I was wondering if it was some kind of transliteration of the meaning of her Korean name into Turkish, but nah, it’s just the translation of her real Youtube name. At least now I know where to subscribe.

  5. Oh, and I’ve stumbled onto a TON of videos of Turks and Koreans teaching one another their national songs. The funniest K-Turk thing, though, was some Turkish girls doing their version of this viral video of what I think is comic genius — a couple of Korean schoolgirls singing karaoke:

    Then again, there’s a whole rabbit hole’s worth of attempted remakes of that video, of widely varying quality, from all over the world. Makes you wonder what would happen if all international diplomacy were conducted in the form of Youtube lip-synch exchanges.

    “Before the end of the week, sir, you still have to lip synch a Chinese song, a French ballade, and that Basque folksong I emailed you the link for.”

    “Basque?!? The things I do for my country!”

    “Yes, and the President’s request you really shake your booty on the Chinese song. You know, work off tensions with their international image problem.”

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