Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Sujan Shakya: The Nepali Sensation in Korea

From Kathmandu to Korea, fueled by the hopes and aspirations of youthfulness and backed by the unwavering support of family, Sujan Shakya first stepped into the land of Korea in 2010. Little did he imagine that in the foreign land, he would evolve into a celebrated foreign TV personality, a lifeline for Nepali asylum seekers as a translator and garner notable public appreciation from the former Korean president himself for his book “Utmost and Personal Nepal.” 

Mr. Sujan Shakya has been featured in popular Korean reality variety shows such as JTBC’s “Non-Summit” andWhere Is My Friend’s Home. Through his TV and numerous other media appearances in Korean entertainment, he has represented Nepal in the best possible light. While it’s been more than a decade since his arrival in Korea, he remains deeply rooted in his identity as a Nepali and proudly reflects his heritage at every opportunity without fail. 

Sujan Shakya’s Rise as a TV Personality
Sujan Shakya’s Rise as a TV Personality

Moreover, the appointment of Sujan Shakya as a translator at the Seoul Immigration Office by the Ministry of Justice in Korea and his publishing of the book about Nepal in the Korean language is a matter of pride for the Nepali community. 

We, at GazzabKoo Magazine, had the privilege of interviewing the remarkable and inspiring Mr. Sujan Shakya. Here are some highlights from our interview with him.

From the author Sujan Shakya- Utmost and Personal Nepal
From the author Sujan Shakya- Utmost and Personal Nepal

It was an immense honor, not just for me, but for all Nepalese, I believe. A friend informed me about former President Moon Jae-In tweeting about my book. Initially, I was in disbelief, convinced that I was the target of a prank. At that moment, I didn’t even have a Twitter account, which only reinforced my skepticism. However, as text messages, direct messages, calls, and news reports started pouring in, I gradually understood the gravity of the situation. My friend’s assertion was indeed genuine. I was overwhelmed, soaring with an extraordinary blend of exhilaration and profound emotions.

2. The book features numerous highlights about Nepal such as; Greeting Gestures of Nepali People, Religious Harmony in Nepal and many more. 

Could you share some of your personal favorites?

This book cannot encapsulate the entirety of Nepal, which is why I titled it ‘Utmost and Personal Nepal.’ The country’s diversity spans so many domains that to capture it all within a single volume is an impossible task. Having spent the first 24 years of my life in Nepal, this book reflects my personal experiences and sentiments about my homeland. 

After living in Korea for 15 years, I have observed that there is still a prevalent belief in a mono-ethnic state, with a strong push for social homogeneity. As the number of foreigners in South Korea surges, approaching 5% of the total population, my reflections on how Korea can learn from Nepal’s embrace of diversity become increasingly pertinent. 

One of the cherished aspects I emphasize is the practice of ‘Namaste,’ which transcends a mere greeting. This gesture, imbued with deep spiritual significance, honors and acknowledges every soul, reflecting a profound respect that is deeply ingrained in Nepalese culture. Additionally, I have translated Nepal’s newly composed national anthem into Korean, highlighting its core values. This anthem is a testament to our respect for diversity and inclusivity, principles that we, as Nepalese, strive to embody. These elements are among my personal favorites, underscoring the essence of what makes Nepal so uniquely rich and multifaceted.

3. Did you face any difficulties in translating the essence of Nepalese culture into Korean? Aside from this, what other challenges did you encounter?

This book undoubtedly includes translations of facts and interviews, as previously mentioned, but it remains an arduous task to encapsulate the entirety of Nepalese culture within a single volume. Crafting this book was a formidable challenge, as I often struggled to find the right words and phrases to convey the essence of particular practices. There were moments when I felt like giving up, but the unwavering support of those around me kept me going. My family, many Nepalese residing in South Korea, and the publisher provided immense support throughout this journey. 

I want to emphasize that this book is not merely a translation of Nepalese culture; it is a true reflection of my vision and experiences. Despite the numerous challenges Nepal faces, my goal was to share its richness with the Korean people, to ignite a spark of curiosity and understanding. I aspired for this book to serve as a guide, opening the gates for Korean readers to gain a deeper appreciation of Nepal. 

Before publishing, I was plagued by concerns—whether the investment in printing would be recouped, and whether the book would be well-received. Even after its release, I faced criticism, with some Nepalese accusing me of using politically charged imagery on the cover, which they felt was inappropriate for promoting Nepal. There were even harsher comments, which I prefer not to detail, but they certainly made me more cautious. 

Despite these obstacles, the completion of this book stands as a testament to the collective effort of those who believed in its purpose. It is a manifestation of my dedication to bridging cultural gaps and fostering mutual respect and understanding between Nepal and Korea.

4. In what ways did your personal perception of Nepal change while reflecting and writing this book? 

Reflecting and writing this book profoundly transformed my personal perception of Nepal in several enriching ways. The process of delving into the myriad facets of Nepalese culture, history, and daily life allowed me to appreciate the depth and complexity of my homeland more than ever before. As I meticulously translated my experiences and observations, I uncovered layers of cultural practices and traditions that I had previously taken for granted. This deepened my admiration for the resilience, diversity, and richness of Nepalese society.

Writing this book also highlighted the contrasts and synergies between Nepal and South Korea, enhancing my understanding of how each culture navigates diversity and social cohesion. It underscored Nepal’s unique ability to integrate various ethnicities, languages, and traditions into a harmonious mosaic, a quality I came to value even more when viewed from the perspective of my life in Korea. 

Moreover, this endeavor rekindled my connection to my roots. It reminded me of the profound spiritual significance embedded in simple practices like ‘Namaste’ and the collective respect for diversity expressed in our national anthem. These reflections made me proud of my heritage and inspired me to share these cultural treasures with a broader audience. 

In essence, writing this book not only broadened my understanding of Nepal but also deepened my appreciation for its cultural wealth and diversity. It was a journey of rediscovery that strengthened my identity and commitment to fostering cross-cultural understanding.

5. What are your future plans as a writer? Do you intend to write more books that introduce Nepal to the world?

I have been dedicated to representing Nepal in the best possible light. The book I recently authored is just one avenue of this ongoing effort. Since 2014, I have engaged in numerous TV shows, radio broadcasts, YouTube videos, lectures, and more. Frankly speaking, I do not have a rigid plan for the immediate future. After my father’s passing, I ceased making concrete future plans. However, this does not imply that I have lost my direction or am being ambiguous. Representing Nepal and Korea remains my foremost priority, and presenting a renewed vision of Nepal through various mediums and pushing my creative boundaries will always be my future endeavors. 

Despite the absence of a strict roadmap, my commitment to cultural representation and exploration remains unwavering. Each project I undertake is infused with a deep sense of purpose and passion, driven by the desire to bridge cultural gaps and foster mutual understanding. My father’s legacy and the support of my community continue to inspire me, fueling my dedication to this mission. In essence, my future plans are not confined to a specific path but are guided by a steadfast commitment to celebrating and sharing the rich culture of Nepal and Korea.

Sujan Shakya’s work as a translator
Sujan Shakya’s work as a translator

6. You also work as a translator. The responsibility of a translator is huge, especially in work like yours where you have to translate the asylum seekers.

Does this responsibility ever scare you and make you nervous? Do you ever emotionally connect with the asylum seekers, specifically, as a fellow Nepali? How do you deal with all this?

As Nepalese, we typically speak at least two to three languages on average. However, when I moved to South Korea, residing here and learning Korean presented a unique challenge. Initially, I believed that mastering Korean for basic survival would suffice. Many hold the notion that knowing a single language is adequate to navigate a new environment. Yet, I soon realized that language acquisition is merely a gateway—it allows us to begin adapting, but it is just the starting point for truly immersing ourselves in the intricate layers of culture, norms, values, and more. 

Once I understood this, I felt compelled to assist others in similar situations, leading me to take up translation work. Translating is an enormous responsibility and a profound commitment. When I first decided to pursue this path, I was both excited and apprehensive. The selection process was rigorous; we had to attend workshops, sit through lectures, and pass examinations. The initial phase was particularly challenging—sometimes, the poignant stories from asylum seekers could overwhelm me. However, the intensive training and workshops served as vital reminders of our professional role: to convey their words as accurately and faithfully as possible.

I have now been working in this field for almost five years, and what consistently comes to mind is the importance of professionalism. Translating is not just about language; it’s about faithfully bridging communication gaps and respecting the narratives of those we serve. This work has deepened my understanding of the human experience and reinforced the importance of empathy and precision in every word I translate.

7. Lastly, do you have any message for the Nepali community reading your interview?

 To the Nepali community reading this interview, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude and share a message of encouragement and unity. Our culture is rich, diverse, and deeply rooted in values that have shaped us into resilient and compassionate individuals. As we navigate life in different parts of the world, it’s essential to hold onto these values and share them with others. 

I encourage you all to embrace the challenges and opportunities that come your way. Each of us has a unique story and perspective that can contribute to a greater understanding and appreciation of Nepalese culture. Whether through language, arts, or everyday interactions, let’s continue to represent Nepal with pride and integrity. 

Moreover, support one another. Our strength lies in our community, in the bonds we form, and in the collective effort to uplift and inspire each other. By working together and fostering a sense of unity, we can overcome any obstacles and achieve great things. 

Lastly, always be open to learning and growing. The world is vast, and there is much to discover. Embrace new experiences while staying true to your roots. Let’s continue to celebrate our heritage and share it with the world, making a positive impact wherever we go. Thank you for your ongoing support, and let’s keep making our community proud.

Appsha Digital

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