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Taru Salminen

Taru Ulla-Riikka Salminen
Born October 29, 1977, Elimäki.

Bachelor of Arts (East Asian Studies), University of Helsinki, 2006
Bachelor of Business Administration, Helia University of Applied Sciences, 2006

Translator and restaurateur
Assistant, Finnish Embassy of Finland, Republic of Korea, Seoul, 2007-
Intern, Finnish Embassy of Finland, Republic of Korea, Seoul, 2005–2006

Written by Tero Juutilainen
Translated by John Calton

From TV game shows to makgeoll

Taru Salminen doesn’t exactly consider herself a household name in Korea, although some people do recognise her in the street. Various appearances on TV and radio, on entertainment and current affairs programmes, have seen to it that she is one of Korea’s best known Finns! She is often invited to guest on shows to discuss current issues, and in particular for a Finnish take on how to deal with things.

Salminen enjoys taking part in these debates. She explains how Korea has developed rapidly in economic terms, especially since the 1950s, but how the actual civic society has remained stuck in the past. There are plenty of taboo topics which Salminen would like to raise, and indeed does. Finns, like other foreigners, are given more leeway when it comes to criticising how things are done.

“Koreans have perhaps got an over-romanticised view of Finland. In a way, I throw the odd spanner in the works: “What’s all this about attempts to bribe your politicians?” I can talk about these things openly there - gently of course, not shouting from the rooftops.”

One of Salminen’s ambitions is to raise the level of mutual understanding between Finnish and Korean cultures. Alongside her day job, in 2010 she opened her own restaurant in South Korea.

“The menu in my restaurant offers a combination of Korean and Finnish food and drink. We’re situated close to the university campus in Seoul and the restaurant fits right in with the multicultural surroundings.”

After nearly five years, the restaurant is doing well. She reckons it would be great to open a similar restaurant in Finland. The only catch for Salminen has been the absence of Koskenkorva from the restaurant’s offering, owing to a lack of importers. Customers have to make do with Finlandia vodka instead.

“When it comes to Korean cuisine, my favourite is 탁주 or makgeolli, a rice-based alcoholic drink. People call it rice wine, but it’s not exactly that. The taste differs according to who has made it, and there are a number of small distilleries in Korea.”

Taru Salminen was rather shy initially, but has learned to be more outgoing.​
Taru Salminen was rather shy initially, but has learned to be more outgoing.​


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