Thriving in Korea following your own path. A Busan perspective
Laura McLuckie has followed her own path since her days as a language student at Kyungsung University. She shares her stories about her life in Busan, her dedication to wellness and her work in broadcasting and the media.
Not only does Laura run WellMi Wellness Solutions, she is also a regular broadcaster on Busan English Broadcasting (부산영어방송). Her other hats include, Head of Community Relations at the International School of Busan and Ambassador of the Marine Stewardship Council.
Alex talks with Laura about her most recent projects including the Busan International Wellness Conference as well as sharing how she came to understand and value mental health and wellness after she became a mother.
She also talks about thriving in Busan, a city she describes as being a little more laid back than Seoul, with a holiday feel and some really beautiful nature while also being a bustling port and a growing high-tech scene. Its this dichotomy that for her makes it such a great place to live.
Today’s episode brought to you by Eastpoint Partners Limited. Offering an unparalleled Asia wide network of relationships with corporates, governments and investors.
Thriving in Korea following your own path. A Busan perspective
Laura McLuckie is thriving in Korea following her own path.
Alex Jensen: You’re listening to Koreabizcast with the KBLA. I’m Alex Jensen, and it’s Monday, November 22nd. And over the last few weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to connect with guests in various locations in Korea and across the world. But we hadn’t spoken with someone directly in Busan. Well, that changes today. And by the way, I might add that Busan citizens got a recent welcome boost as thin air said last week, it will open a Busan Helsinki route early next year, which not only helps traveling to Finland, but also, it’s a popular transfer option for other destinations. We can talk about the return to normality and staying well through it all with our next guest. This episode is brought to you by Eastpoint Partners.
Laura McLuckie: Oh, thank you so much, Alex, it’s a pleasure to be with you. Thank you for calling me and inviting me on your podcast. It’s exciting.
Alex Jensen: It’s about time we connected with Busan. And it may not have been ideal in the last few days. But generally, there has been a wave I think across the country businesses, spreading their wings, a little people may be feeling more hopeful. But could we say there was already optimism rising before living with COVID where you are, after the Busan International Film Festival was held successfully last month, that must have been a big boost for the city in itself?
Laura McLuckie: Yeah, it was fantastic. Because I mean, obviously, the International Film Festival is the largest in Asia. Last year, it was scaled so far back that it didn’t even feel like anything happened. But this year, you know, I mean, as a broadcaster you mentioned earlier, Thanks for the lovely introduction by the way.
Alex Jensen: My pleasure.
Laura McLuckie: We were even able to get back out and to do our show from the radio station and get out onto the main stage of BIFF and be with a crowd of people. And one of the really remarkable things about it is that despite it being a film festival with the 70,000 people visited or something around that, as far as I’m aware, and what they did, they were so strict with the COVID regulations, but nobody was upset about it. Everybody was really happy to comply, was really happy for the, you know, the really extensive regulations that were in place. And they were very rigorous with it. So, what they did was the actually, PCR tested, they tested all of their staff and volunteers at the beginning, during and at the end of the film festival. And not one person had contracted COVID-19, they did all the location tracing. And there was one person through the whole festival who was found to have had a positive COVID test. And he did, you know, they did all the contact tracing, and it was nipped in the blood. And that person was already kind of quarantining or something. So, they did it, it was such a benchmark of how this kind of large-scale event can be run successfully. And, you know, look into the future, this is really where we’re going to be going, I think and the move going back to, back to normalcy, I guess you can call it the living with COVID scheme. It’s kind of an arbitrary 24 hours, but the date and just announcing that we’re all moving into this new normal, we’re coming out of the pandemic, it’s so nice. It’s so nice to see people feeling hopeful again, it’s so nice to see people with the freedoms to travel to meet friends, family, there’s not this kind of air of fear that’s floating around. It’s more like a very hopeful and very jovial, like a renewed energy here. So yeah, I love it. And it’s been nice to travel as well, because I’ve traveled up and down to Seoul to Gangnam recently and it’s, it seems like an atmosphere that’s kind of everywhere. So yeah, it’s, it’s a really nice, it’s a really nice time to be outbound of Busan, and also see in other parts of the country as well.
Alex Jensen: Where does that leave your event that I mentioned before the Busan International Wellness Conference?
Laura McLuckie: Oh, gosh. So let me tell you, we started that in the middle of the pandemic because if there’s something that you definitely want to do in the middle of a pandemic, it’s be healthy and well, so we thought, you know, what we need to do is make a large-scale event and this year, not this year, last year was the first annual opening we, my partner, Zen Lee from BZen Communication. She and I had been talking for a long time, we wanted to create wellness content, wellness event, a wellness community of festival so going through it, of course, COVID-19 hits, we’d already started making all these big plans. And the day before the first event was supposed to elite was scheduled to happen. We went into like a very high level, and we couldn’t have people on site. So, the government changed the rules the day before. So, we had to literally scramble to get everything online to get everything into a hybrid conference. So, like so much money into the I mean, it’s obviously very expensive anyway, but you know, into all the equipment into the tech into the experts who can actually do the live stream. So that was an experience, but it had fantastic feedback because everybody knew it was a global pandemic. So, we were able to adapt, not ideal, but you know, you’ve got to adapt. And then this year, goodness, the same thing happens. So then, literally about a week before we were supposed to hold it, we went into level 4 here in Busan. And again, that meant we had serious restrictions on what we could do on site. And this year, it was such a shame because we’d organized at the APEC, the Nurimaru APEC House which is, of course, the sights of the 2005 APEC summit. And the venue is just phenomenal, the views phenomenal, we had such fantastic content, international speakers from, you know, the Global Wellness Institute, we had the Wellness Tourism Association CEO, it was such a wonderful lineup, and then ‘Oh ho, level 4’, so we had to do that again. But this year, we had prepared for it. So, it was already a hybrid event. So luckily, we didn’t have to make too many changes. But what it’s showing us is that we can still run a very successful because the feedback has been just phenomenal. So, we can run a very successful event, despite these setbacks, because I think it’s really shown us how resourceful we can be and using technology has, you know, opened up the world to us so not only are we able to bring people on site, but we can reach anyone, anytime of day, through the power of the internet. So yeah, it was stressful, stressful as hell, but absolutely amazing. Loved it. Can’t wait for next year.
Alex Jensen: Yeah, I mean, of course, the whole idea of wellness is, I guess, to help combat stress, at least for the people who visit and get inspired by an event like that. What inspired you to be involved in the wellness industry and what do you even think wellness is?
Laura McLuckie: Okay, so very difficult question, what is wellness because it’s different for everybody. So, I’ll leave that to the next but um, what inspired me actually, I’ve always been into sports. I’ve always kind of, you know, been a really athletic for want of a better phrase, tomboy kind of girl, and love just moving my body, like, always been amazed at what the human body can do. But then, I’ve had my own struggles with mental health. I, to be very candid, had an eating disorder for a long time. And there was not, you know, in my experience, there was not enough help out there. That wasn’t, like serious medical help. I didn’t want to be on medication, although that’s just a personal choice. But, you know, there was not enough choices out there for me to engage with other people who were maybe suffering there wasn’t enough of a community that I could reach out to and so, I just started especially after I had my son here in Busan, my son’s eight years old after I had my son. I was very depressed. I had what you call it, postnatal depression. I didn’t know at the time I thought wow, being a mom is really hard. I didn’t realize that I was suffering from postnatal depression. And I thought, you know, I can’t stand this anymore. So, I just looked for ways to make myself feel better and actually, it started it started off with those really annoying videos, you know, those videos with like Eric Thomas or The Rock or you know, Arnold Schwarzenegger, ‘you can do it! Get up! It’s only you! Fight to the end!’. I like those videos. So, I would listen to those, and it would get it would pick me up out of mood or, you know, a place where I was. And it really did give me motivation to then seek other ways to just feel better, to feel good, to feel, and then eventually to feel great. So, the whole thing really stemmed out of my own personal need for healing. And since then, I’ve been on such a journey because I started doing it for myself, but then I started seeing changes in myself. And then my friends would say, you know, ‘I’m very stressed, I need to release some stress helped me’. So, then I started a small volunteer community group, and we would meet in my house, and I would, you know, study, and then I would do these classes with these kind of people in the community. And I would study more and come back for next week. And so, it just went on like that for many, many years. And that led me through my certifications, you know, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, life coaching, like kind of stuff, and nature therapy. And so, it’s just been a constant progress because seeing how it changed my life, this just the addition of wellness promoting activities or habits or lifestyle changes. It’s just been, yeah, it’s been wonderful. So, it started off, just kind of self-help and then it became bigger, it just became so much bigger and No, for me, filling my cup is done by helping others, enabling others to find wellness techniques or space where they can explore something a feeling or whatever it might be. Yeah, that, that for me know is, is what drives me forward is seeing the change in other people is honest, Alex, it’s magic, it just absolute magic, when someone just is released from darkness, or is released from a feeling that they couldn’t get rid of or it feels, you know, the anxiety lifting even if it’s just for a brief moment that is really magic because having been there, it’s so debilitating to be, you know, depressed or stressed or anxious or any other manner and combination of mental health situations. I don’t want to say illnesses, just situations. So yeah, it started off personal and now it’s 100%, just helping people makes me feel really happy. That’s, that’s all it is. Also, it’s so much fun and I think that’s what keeps me going with it because there’s always something different. And yeah, well, lots of energy. So, I need to do something.
Alex Jensen: Yeah, well, you’ve got a lot of different activities that you’re involved in, and I wanted to ask you a little bit about that because this what you’ve just described sounds like a serious passion for you as well as being fun of your work. But you’re still also a broadcaster an MC, you’re actually an example of someone who takes freelancing maybe to the next level as an expat in Korea. Do you find that to benefit you? And do you think that people should perhaps consider it more here to try different hats rather than think that they’ve got to just stick to one office job, for example, one particular business goal?
Laura McLuckie: Absolutely. 100% the thing is, I’m very, very lucky. I have the visa that enables me to do that. I also speak pretty good Korean. I’m not fluent by any stretch of the imagination. But my Korean language skill is enough for me to be able to work in both languages with English and Korean that is, so yeah, I think what needs to happen if you want to be able to do that and I definitely think you should do that, you know, what’s the point? What’s the point and stick into one thing if you want to try all these different things, and of course, sticking to one thing, if that’s what you love, then that’s what you got to do. But it’s, you should always be directed by joy, by passion, by energy, and you know what they say you feel it in your gut. If you’ve got something that you just feel in your gut and you think I really want to try this, or I’ve always wanted to do stand-up comedy, or I’ve always wanted to try being a chef or owning a cafe. You just got to do it, like I think a lot of people have a mindset that well, first of all, a lot of people have a mindset that doing lots of different things is, you know, jack of all trades master of none. But for me, it’s not at all, you know, being a generalist and also just having my having all my passions know all kind of merging together as careers and still loving them all is yeah, it just shows me that what I’m doing is right for me. And like I said everyone’s different, you know, wellness, you asked me earlier what is wellness? Wellness is doing things for yourself that make you feel good that allow you to live with ease, that allow you to live optimally a life of, of kind of joyfulness and, and happiness. And of course, that’s not a constant state of being that would be insane. But, you know, it’s, it’s a balance of being able to do all the things you love, and still get paid.
Alex Jensen: Yeah, that’s always a nice bonus. By the way, people might think, well, if I want to do this, I need to study for it. And there are of course, certain professions that will require qualifications, you are a double degree graduate of Korean universities, I understand. Would you recommend the Korean university experience?
Laura McLuckie: Okay, speaking frankly, yes, I would. But only if that is something that is going to benefit you in your career, in your future, if you’re looking for it. You know, for example, I know that university teachers like to get their masters, or to become a university teacher, you need to have a master’s. So, if it’s going to push you forward in your career, 100% I would say because it’s in Korea, you’ve got two options, learning in English or in Korean, depending on where you go. And for non-English speakers, I’m sure it’s very similar learning in English or in Korean. Because of that, I don’t know, I find it not as engaging as I had really hoped it would be, you know, I went back to grad school. And I’m actually not a double degree student, by the way. I’m starting my PhD next year. But I just finished my master’s in Wellness Tourism and Hotel, and I had this, you know, I had this expectation of, you know, when I go there, it’s going to be this amazing learning experience and of course, it was halfway through COVID as well. It was not the enriching academic experience that I had considered it to be. That’s what I thought it would be. But I would definitely recommend it because it pushed me forward in where my career needs to go. And I learned a lot. Absolutely. But yeah, it was an interesting experience, having come from Scotland and done my first degree in Scotland, it was definitely a very different experience. So, I’m interested to see how the PhD course is because I’m working with a professor who I respect deeply, and he speaks fluent English and I’ll be learning a lot of the things that I’ve already, you know, studied but also the I hope to move into in the future. So, yeah.
Alex Jensen: Well, I have no idea how you find the time and even energy that you said you have for all that. But I’d like to finish with something a little different. While we have the opportunity to speak to someone in Busan, someone could be listening now who’s considering moving they’re from another country or maybe they’re in Seoul, and they’re thinking they’d like to try Busan. Is like very different in that city? Is there anything we need to know?
Laura McLuckie: Oh, there’s so much you need to know it’s such a beautiful place to be, um, I would say that the pace of life here is a little bit slower than it is in Seoul, we have a bit more of a laid-back attitude because we’re a beach town, you know, so we’ve got that kind of, we’ve got that holiday feel even when I walk out and drive my car across the Gwangan Bridge and, you know, I feel like I’m on holiday. It’s beautiful to look at the ocean. And not half an hour away is every single beach in the city. So, no matter where you are, you’ve got access to some of the most beautiful scenery, most beautiful natures, the people here are, sorry Seoul, so much more friendly, so friendly and even though the dialect is a little bit difficult to decipher. Yeah, you know, they say that Koreans have Jeong, Jeong-i manh-eun salam (정이 많은 사람), But in that means there’s this kind of unspoken, you know, human connection, unspoken energy. And I think Busan really has that. But also, it’s such a unique and special place because it’s this juxtaposition of history meets rapids modern technology development. It’s, you know, a lazy beach time and a bustling port city. It’s, you know, high tech, fin court, like all, not fin court, fintech. And at the same time, it’s, you know, fish festivals and just lovely, beautiful traditional dances and temples and it’s a place that you can come and even if you leave Busan will never leave you is one of those places that just leaves a mark on you. And yeah, everyone that I’ve ever known who’s either lived in Busan or visited Busan just raves about how wonderful it is. So, if you’re planning to move to Busan, definitely do it. I would say as well, you mentioned earlier about freelancing. If you can just try as many things as possible and one of the tips, I have for you is network, network, network like, this is the one the most important thing that I’ve learned as a broadcaster. Can you hear my dog growling?
Alex Jensen: I didn’t know what, I didn’t know what kind of creature it was, to be honest, you could have said almost anything I would have believed you.
Laura McLuckie: That’s his happy signs that he’s. Yeah, he’s in. But yeah, networking is the most important thing for me as a broadcaster, as a wellness practitioner, as you know a businesswoman who is dealing with second language, business meetings, and you know, ambassadorships and that kind of stuff. Networking is the most important thing to do. And even if you think that you’re not good enough, or you need to study more, or you need to train for something, just don’t care about it, just come to Busan and try something, try what you want to do because there will be somebody here who knows someone that can get you to where you want to be. And it’s just like, there’s always an opportunity and that’s what I love about being here. There’s always something to learn. There’s always a new opportunity. And if you’ve got the right mindset for it, there’s always something positive around the corner. And it’s yeah, it’s just like no place I’ve ever been before. I love it. Because I don’t work with it, by the way. Just I like living here.
Alex Jensen: I believe you and thank you, Laura McLuckie for your positivity for your time and for your debut appearance on Koreabizcast.
Laura McLuckie: I Know, so exciting. Thank you so much. Make sure you add all the crazy bits.
Alex Jensen: Well look, if you’ve said that I’m gonna have to leave a few in otherwise people won’t know what you’re talking about.
Laura McLuckie: Okay, okay, you can leave it all in. I love it. Thank you so much for inviting me, Alex. I appreciate it a lot.
Alex Jensen: Well, if anyone else listening is also in Busan or Gwangju or Daegu or anywhere else in the country and you want to get in touch, just email email@example.com as we’d love to hear from you and wish us all the best as we hope to get over this recent bump in COVID cases. This episode’s been brought to you by Eastpoint Partners. See you again tomorrow.