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In Love with Korea


Social Media Anthropologist

A towering Dutchman with a passion for stories and storytelling, Bart van Genugten first visited Korea in 2014. Since then, he has gotten married and established a popular YouTube channel, “iGoBart,” where he profiles Korean War veterans from the Netherlands and introduces places in Korea that are often overlooked.
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For his YouTube segments, Bart van Genugten uses a lightweight, handheld camera while cycling around neighborhoods.

Bart Van Genugten’s first foray into Korea had more than a few missteps. In 2014, he was dating a Korean student while studying Spanish in Malaga, which spurred him to enroll at Sungkyunkwan University’s Korean Language Center in Seoul. But instead of living in the capital, he stayed to the west in Bupyeong, a district of Incheon, where public signage did not necessarily have foreign visitors in mind.

Growing up in Grave, a town in the Netherlands with a population of 8,500, did not impart navigational skills. “The huge subway stations with a million exits were hard to get used to. If you couldn’t read Korean, you were always losing your mind,” Van Genugten recalls. “You’re struggling to deal with being a young man in a big city.” Nevertheless, Korea made a lasting, positive impression on him.


Three months later, Van Genugten returned to the Netherlands and went to work. That lasted a year. Realizing that he wasn’t ready to attach himself completely to the routine of an office life, he quit and returned to Asia. He spent a few weeks in Korea, and then embarked on six months of backpacking through China, Taiwan, Myanmar, Viet Nam, Thailand, and the Philippines. But his wanderlust lingered.

“My trip through Asia was quite boring overall. Just being on your own all the time. I asked myself, ‘Is this life?’ I still wanted to go somewhere else, and Korea was the most familiar. It had this weird mixture of being new and completely strange to me, and at the same time feeling really homey. There is a real balance between the West and Asia. You can feel comfortable even without knowing everything.”


Van Genugten tells the story of his return to Korea in early 2017 with an air of levity. But it was clearly a turning point in his life. To begin with, he met Hwia Kim, the woman he would later marry.

“We met on Tinder. She was living in Sangsu-dong, I was living in Hapjeong-dong, so we were pretty much neighbors. We just clicked really well, and that was right before I had to go back to the Netherlands. I thought maybe I should stay for a bit longer. We liked everything about each other and there was no reason not to get married, so we just did it.”

After getting married in 2019, Van Genugten and Kim settled in Seoul’s Mapo District. It lies along the Han River and features walking and cycling trails, several universities, boutiques, and late-night venues popular with young people.

From the beginning, Korea’s rapid changes were a constant source of fascination to Van Genugten. “It’s so interesting how a country went from colonial oppression and the Korean War to economic success and democratization, before being hit by the Asian financial crisis. And then, in less than 10 years, it became one of the best-known places in the world. That fascinated me a lot. Because I studied human geography [the relationship between people and their surroundings], I could feel that Korea was about to become bigger in one way or another.”

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An unhurried approach puts locals at ease and gets them in the mood to share anecdotes about their neighborhoods.


In 2018, with Kim’s help, Van Genugten started the YouTube channel “Sexy Green.” Focusing on environmental issues, his initial aim was to start a company that sold environmentally friendly products which he could promote through his content. But very quickly his passion for travel and different cultures piqued his interest in discovering stories about people and places and led to a change in the channel’s name and direction. Thus, “iGoBart” was born. “iGo” expresses Van Genugten’s desire to visit somewhere new and is also a play on words. The Korean word “aigo” is an exclamation that expresses surprise, empathy, or even sorrow.

His more than 300 videos have garnered some 32 million views. Among the most popular are those interviewing and telling stories of Dutch veterans of the Korean War. The series began with videos he d after visiting North Korea in 2018.

For him, it was an exploration of one of the deepest connections between the Netherlands and Korea. “A few thousand men came and fought here and over 100 of them died. I wanted to shine a light on that before it’s too late because most of the surviving veterans are 80 or older.”

Some of the individuals featured on his channel have since passed away. With now fewer than 100 Dutch veterans of the war still alive, he feels a sense of urgency. But rather than eliciting war memories, the series is more about letting the veterans know that there are people who appreciate their sacrifices. Van Genugten is a storyteller at heart. Some people call him an influencer, but he says he feels more like “a arian, a video maker, and a YouTuber too.” He believes everyone has a story.

“I love listening to stories. They really inspire me. My father is the youngest of ten siblings; he’s already 70. His parents were 97 when they died 15 years ago. His grandparents knew people who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. That’s a history that is now unreachable.”

His handdrawn map gets a splash of color after each of his visits

For his current project, Van Genugten aims to explore all of Seoul’s 467 neighborhoods. His handdrawn map gets a splash of color after each of his visits.


By 2021, burnout was encroaching. Van Genugten felt overwhelmed by the pressure to upload content every week and was less satisfied with the results. His videos reflected what viewers wanted to see rather than what he wanted to .

His wife suggested a cycling trip with the inspiring imperative, “See what life gives you!” Between July and October 2021, he cycled around the entirety of Korea’s mainland, covering the approximately 2,000 km of coastline. He enjoyed remote landscapes and coastal vistas and visited places where time seemed to have stopped. The rural areas in the South Gyeongsang and South Jeolla Provinces had the vibe of Korea from the 1960s and 1970s.

The trip also was an eye-opener about his life and his adoptive home. “I definitely learned my wife is the best.” Van Genugten also experienced a deeper realization about his love of Korean culture. In his refreshingly uncompromising perspective, the beauty of Korean culture is not in the “perfect image that’s being sold to the outside world.”

“There was racism, discrimination,” he explains frankly. “There were super-friendly people who welcomed me into their homes. Other people said, ‘What are you doing in my town!’ There was a bit of everything, the good and the bad, but it’s that imperfection that is so attractive to me.”


A self-described “country boy,” Van Genugten’s rural upbringing prompts him to greet strangers, a custom that most Koreans do not share. “I like connecting with people. I find it difficult with younger folks sometimes, but elderly people often make time to have a chat with you,” he says.

Dutch people are, according to him, “super direct.” This allows immediate friendships and connections to be made even when meeting people for the first time. Discussion on one’s religion, political affiliation, and even sex life is by no means off-limits. The difference between Dutch and Korean culture is, at least in this area, particularly stark.

“When I have dinner with someone, at some point I want to talk about politics, ask about the president, or who they are going to vote for. In the Netherlands, you can talk about these things, maybe even have a tough discussion, but in the end, you are still good friends. You build relationships on controversies. In Korea that can be complicated.”

On the other hand, Korean etiquette has rubbed off on Van Genugten to the point where he approaches conversations more gingerly when he is back in the Netherlands. “I feel like I’ve become more Korean. I care more about a person’s feelings. Living in Korea has made me more self-aware. I feel like I’ve adopted the best from the two countries.”

Still, Van Genugten says he is simply “a Dutch guy, living here, learning about the country.” The idea of truly becoming Korean is a mission that he finds impossible. “I am a happy stranger in this country. But people accept me for who I am and that’s enough for me.”


Last year, Van Genugten found himself at an old traditional market in Gajwa-dong, a neighborhood in Seoul’s Seodaemun District. It wasn’t particularly attractive or hygienic but it intrigued him. “I thought, ‘I didn’t know such a place existed!’ I felt there were so many lesser-known places that deserved attention and so many opportunities to learn about Korea through them.”

His most ambitious YouTube project ensued: a series of videos about each of Seoul’s 467 neighborhoods, or dong. He has already covered almost 40 of them. He says, “They all have their own stories and histories. It’s fascinating to learn about Korea through all these little tidbits that make each neighborhood so intriguing.”

Pressed to pick his favorite spot from those ed so far, Van Genugten expresses appreciation for his area in Mapo District. “It’s like my hometown in Korea. Where I was raised. I know the streets like the back of my hand. It feels so like home and I don’t want to lose that feeling.”

Eventually, he hopes to complement his series with a book, sharing his experiences alongside anecdotes from experts and residents.

Many Korean viewers have commented that Van Genugten, a foreigner, seems to know more about Korea than they do. He dismisses that notion. “Probably not. I’m learning along the way. I’m not a professor teaching you. I’m more like a social media anthropologist.”

Van Genugten wishes to share his passion and learning journey. “My goal used to be [to amass] subscribers but that’s very superficial, because what do you want to achieve after that? That’s very empty. We don’t ask why people make aries. We just watch and enjoy. That’s what I hope people do on my channel.”

Daniel Bright Writer
Han Jung-hyun Photographer


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