this isn’t so much a blog post as a time capsule.
in 2069 when i get dimentia and ask myself “why the hell did i live in Korea for 2 years” i’ll read this in 48pt font on my iPhone 32 Pro Max they/zer edition.
getting a visa
i moved to Korea in Spring 2020. a Fomo affiliate partner offered to hire me as CTO of their advertising agency in Gangnam. with an E-7 Visa in Korea you can do pretty much anything. immigration: accomplished.
when i lived in Atlanta, making friends was easy because i was in college. in NYC and San Francisco it was easy because i loved drinking and worked at offices. but coming to Korea posed new challenges: a language barrier, culture barrier, and Kung Flu lockdowns.
to kickstart a friend network i attended language exchanges. i also hired some cool tutors who joined me for outings. through these folks i met their friends, too. surprisingly, Twitter was also a source of friendships, connecting me directly with people i’ve “known online” for years who happened to live in Seoul.
i’m a big believer in having just a few close friends, so once i had something fun to do every weekend i stopped chasing new relationships.
building a network
“having” a network is something i definitely took for granted in New York City. i could get a date spot recommendation, be intro’d to a smart person, or even find co-founders with a single Tweet or email. to pay it forward i also helped other people accomplish their goals. don’t be a leech.
of course my network itself was a tangled web. from high school acquaintances who now lived in the city after 8 years of not keeping in touch, to college buddies who moved up from Atlanta like i did. even remote friends in Spain and San Francisco who i met along the way. so it’s impossible to identify Patient Zero, so to speak.
but then Korea happened. i had Zero Patients, with the exception of that business partner who got me the visa. but he’s busy, i didn’t want to bother him, so i started over from scratch. instead of language exchange apps, i used Craigslist.
here’s a snippet of my tracker (unedited) that i built inside Roam Research around 2 months after arriving (i slept 12 hours /day and played video games until this point). reminds me of my past.
in February 2021 — 5 months after landing — i got my first big break. her name was (still is) Joy, a Canadian who had recently moved to Korea. (she’s also a private person, otherwise i’d link her!)
Joy and Seyoung helped turn my k-pop and entertainment goals into a real business. thanks to them i recorded an album, was on multiple TV shows, scored radio + print newspaper interviews, launched a board game… but more on all of that later.
by Spring 2021 i had a weekly cadence of shipping YouTube videos, social media content, music, performances, etc.
i think the point of marketing is to build a flywheel such that you can stop doing marketing as soon as possible. although this applies primarily to products, in entertainment, the person is the product.
so it follows that at some point opportunities should be coming to you, instead of the other way around. ego aside, this is also an indicator that you’re OK at whatever it is you do, if people come find you.
funny enough, my biggest wins in Korea were all inbound, usually in the form of an Instagram direct message. (note for future Ryan – Instagram was a social media app at the time)
what i did
with the context, strategies, and tactics of my 52-edition “Going K-pop” experiment in place, below is a list of every meaningful thing i did in Korea from Summer 2020 to August 2022.
- co-founded a Korean board game
- sold out 2 NFTs (Gimbap, Seoul Metro)
- held an exhibition at the Seoul Metro Gyeongbokgung Palace station
- co-founded a rental film studio (600+ clients)
- built multiple crypto mining rigs
- co-founded Ooju, a web3 / crypto agency (10+ clients, 4 free tools)
- co-created “Portfolio 911,” an english translation service for Korean designer portfolios
- launched Founder/Hacker, then built another course
- bought an investment property in Vegas
- produced dozens of vlogs
- 20+ collabs with Korean Bros, BuzzFeed, The Korea Times, DKDKTV, John & Mac, Your Korean Saem, Tyongeee, Sean Pablo, Day One Studio, others
- KBS – “Paik Jong-won Class” reality show co star (15 episodes)
- Arirang – “SingSing” 1st place international winner (5 episodes)
- KBS – “I Love Songs” contestant (1 episode)
- TBS eFM “Life Abroad” weekly guest (12 episodes)
- TBS eFM “Uncoded” part-time guest (6 episodes)
- TBS eFM “Chart Toppings” weekly guest (7 episodes)
- CeREELS webtoons voice acting (20+ episodes)
- Hotel/condo commercials lead singer (2 ads)
- released Foreigner, my first Korean EP (+ 2 music videos)
- live gigs at small bars / cafes in the Hongdae neighborhood
- produced “Lyric Explanation” series for Koreans learning English (17 episodes)
- rode a bike ~700km from Seoul to Busan
- swam across the Han River (sort of)
- produced a professional autobiography for a Korean grandma
- mukbangs (dog stew, pig intestines)
- built and open-sourced iPhone widgets (Kal, Nate Pann) and a CLI
- bought a car
- visited Busan (3x), Jeju Island (2x), North Korean border, Yang Yang, Gapyeong, Nami Island, Gwangmyeong Caves, historic Bamboo Forest, 300 year old soy sauce factory, etc
a more in-depth recap of a few of these projects is in this interview: How Ryan Kulp 80/20’d Korea.
throughout this period i studied the Korean language every day, worked out, got sued 3x (and won), fell back in love with video games, read a couple dozen books, became a beginner ethical hacker, learned Solidity, and improved my programming skills.
just before leaving Korea i bought a ranch in rural Georgia. after living in the world’s largest cities for 13 years i’m ready for a change. my move-in date is next week, and i’m thrilled for Ryan’s Life: Chapter 3.