Kiwi strikes it big on Korean quiz show
A Wellingtonian has become the unlikely champion of one of Korea's biggest quiz shows.
Mt Victoria resident Michael Smith, 33, has taken the title of world champion of Quiz on Korea, an international trivia contest that includes competitors from 30 countries.
Aimed at promoting global awareness of Korea, the quiz airs during one of Korea's largest holidays, Chuseok (Thanksgiving Day), drawing huge audiences.
Mr Smith said he went into last month's contest a bit unsure of himself, with some other contestants speaking much better Korean.
"A lot of the contestants spoke fluent Korean and were pretty smart, so I thought, ‘I'll just enjoy my time', but when it came to the actual quiz I kept getting the questions right.
"My Korean isn't really that good, but luckily it's marked on your trivia knowledge rather than your language skills."
In the final round, Mr Smith faced contestants from South Africa and Paraguay, winning on a question about the scholar depicted on the Korean 1000 won note.
He had been learning the language for three years and had become immersed in the Wellington Korean community, and was now a member of a Korean choir, he said.
"When I finished university, I really wanted to learn another language. What attracted me to Korean was it had a phonetic alphabet."
Before this year's national selection in Wellington, he began intense study for the quiz.
"I got all the books out of the library, dvds, promotional things for Korea and just took in everything I could."
As for prizes, Mr Smith took home a brand new Hyundai, but said the week contestants got to spend in Korea was the best reward.
"It was the most amazing experience of my life. It's an amazing country."
It had been his first trip to Korea and he would be returning in two weeks' time for a holiday, he said.
He joked he might have a few autographs to sign during the visit.