Transkoreaning Contract (English)


I, kate-hers RHEE, plan to do a ninety day long performance project to become Korean.

The goal of Transkoreaning or I like Korea and Korea likes me is that I become Korean in every way possible in language, culture, traditions, customs, and mannerism by immersing myself as a full time Korean, including eventually recovering my South Korean nationality. Although the chances that I will fully be perceived as a “real Korean” are low, I’ve been able in the past to “pass” in public when not speaking.

I will change my name to Mirae Rhee (이미래 /  李未來), a Korean name, and only use this name during the duration of the performance to be consistent with my ethnic identity.

I will dress in business attire appropriate for going to work in an office when I leave the house. This project is my job and I will treat it so; I will attend language school in my work attire and I will have meetings with the public during office hours much like someone employed at a company.

The Korean Speaking Challenge addresses the language component and directly evokes my durational work from 2008 called The German Speaking Project, where I learned to speak fluent broken German in a period of three months.

Similar to The German Speaking Project, I will not speak English and instead will speak only in Korean. My Korean ability is very low, despite learning Korean before. To learn more about my traumatic experiences learning Korean, please read my essay on my blog, “How I failed at being a Korean.”

Acknowledging that others may attempt to speak to me in English, I will politely request they engage with me only in Korean, giving them an explanation printed on my calling card. However, I must note here that I cannot control how others will respond to this project. If I meet those who cannot speak Korean and can only speak in English, I will try to avoid the exchange. If it is a rather important exchange related to my legal status or livelihood, I am permitted to communicate through a translator.

I will only listen to Korean language radio and music, watch Korean language television and films, or read Korean language newspapers, books, and magazines. I am permitted to watch foreign media, as long as it is either subtitled or dubbed in Korean. English language media must be dubbed and not simply subtitled in Korean. Nonetheless, I may be put into situations that are out of my control, for example if I am in a tourist area where people are speaking others languages or when English language music is played inside a shop I visit.

I will consult Korean citizens and Korean experts to guide me in all ways Korean through one-on-one personal discussions and through social media. Members of the Korean speaking public will be able to make appointments with me if they wish to help me learn the language and the culture, thereby helping me transition into being Korean. These exchanges in person and online will be documented in text, video and photography. I will hold regular office hours regularly so people can drop in and engage spontaneously.

Everyday, similar to The German Speaking Project, I will post a diary video on my blog to chart my language acquisition progress and document my process of turning Korean. I will keep an online blog about my adventures, posting text in Korean, publishing images, making use of instagram and social media to document my transition.


I am allowed to use books and materials for learning Korean that may have explanations in English, as long as the ultimate goal is to improve my Korean language ability, i.e., dictionaries, grammar books, flash cards, etc.

For purposes of the professionalism of the project, I will be allowed to work on my computer in English to edit images and video, upload materials to my website or to deal with text in English that are crucial to my livelihood.

I am permitted to converse in the German language especially with my partner, Hanjo Rhee, for the sake of our marriage. My German language ability is somewhat fluent, but I am not a native speaker. An additional significant meaning in this work is being barred from using my native language and the fact that it is English, the international language of communication. Globally, English native speakers are the most privileged, as they are rarely forced to speak in any foreign language.

Other exceptions are that I may use English in a life and death situation.

SEVERABILITY.  Invalidity or unenforceability of one or more provisions of this Agreement shall not affect any other provision of this Agreement. If possible, any unenforceable provision within this Agreement will be modified to reflect the parties’ original intention.

The performance will begin on December 6, 2016, when I arrive in Seoul, South Korea, by airplane and continue 90 days later until March 5, 2017.