News / Interviews

ATK Magazine Founder And Editor Cindy Zimmer Gives The Inside Scoop On Canada's K-Pop Scene [EXCLUSIVE]

By Ashley Griffin | July 13, 2015 09:37 AM EDT


As Canada continues to get more attention in the Hallyu market, Cindy Zimmer has the best seat in her town. As founder and editor of Toronto-based ATK Magazine, an online magazine about Korean culture, food and the Korean Wave, she leads a diverse team of writers who seek to share the Hallyu experience with other interested Canadians.

Zimmer took a moment to switch roles a few weeks ago, from head honcho to interviewee, and sat down with KpopStarz to share her appreciation for Korean culture, her experiences in South Korea, and the joys of writing.

Since leaving South Korea, ATK Magazine has been your self-professed way of staying "connected to Korea and Korean culture." Has being at the helm of the online magazine provided a front-row seat to viewing the increased interest in Korean entertainment and culture in Canada?

Cindy Zimmer: Yes, definitely. Although when I left Korea and continued writing about Korean culture and entertainment, it was on my personal blog (called "Life's an Adventure 2" then). It transitioned into ATK Magazine as readership grew and I realized there was a need for such an online magazine in Canada.

It's been fun watching the interest in Korean entertainment, culture, food and language grow in Canada; and not just among fans. Mainstream media are covering it more and more, and are talking about it as a trend now rather than a fad. The fact that Toronto can sell out an Epik High concert in less than an hour or be the only city in North America to host the "Unite the Mic" concert is amazing and something I wouldn't have imagined 5 years ago.

While I am Korean culture aficionado (with a bit of knowledge to back it up), I tend to view it through the lens of media which sometimes gives me a unique view to the increased interest here. It's been a fun ride and I can't wait to see what else it brings. 

Sounds like it! What do you believe draws people into the Hallyu Wave?

CZ: In many ways, I think it depends on what aspect drew them in first - the music, the dramas, the films, the food or even the makeup or skincare (I tend to think of those as the main aspects of Hallyu, although there are so many more). Two years ago I went on a trip to Korea sponsored by the Korean Tourism Organization to highlight Hallyu tourism and there were participants from 21 different countries. Being a writer (and a very curious person), I chatted with my fellow participants and found that my theory was correct, different aspects did call to different people and for different reasons. For some, it was to reconnect to their heritage, for others it was from living in Korea (like me). Other reasons included the catchiness of K-pop, the fact that Korean dramas tend to be short-lived, or the belief that K-pop music videos and K-dramas are more innocent than their Western counterparts (not so sure this is still true). 

Have you noticed that more women want to write about the industry than males? Why do you think this is?

CZ: I think it depends on what they are writing about. Korean dramas and K-pop tends to attract more female writers than male (as does Korean cosmetics/skincare); while I find that Korean indie music, film and food are more balanced. If I was to guess, I would say that it's tied to the demographics of the fans - people tend to write about what they like, especially when they aren't being paid and are just doing it because they have a passion for the subject. 

You were a member of Say Kimchi, founded in 2007, and watched the Meetup group successfully grow until your departure in 2014. What advice would you give someone interested in creating a Korean-interest group in their hometown?

CZ:  My advice to anyone thinking about creating a Korean culture group would be to do it. If you have a passion for Korean language or Korean culture and there isn't a related Korean-interest group in your area, create your own. is a great tool/website to help you do so (it will save you a lot of work) as is Facebook. If you can, get a couple of like-minded people on your team to help. And if your group/interest is Korean language, it helps to have a native speaker involved (or at least someone that speaks intermediate or higher Korean). 

Let's put you in a hypothetical state of mind: you have 24 hours in South Korea. What would you do and why?

CZ: This is such a fun question but also a super hard one. Only 24 hours? There's just so much to do! I'd stay in Seoul. I would wake up in my lovely traditional guesthouse in the Bukchon Hanok Village, head over to Insadong for tea at one of the traditional tea houses (and perhaps some shopping) before visiting Gyeongbok Palace. After spending the morning and early afternoon taking in some traditional Korean culture, I'd head over to Myeongdong for some shopping (I'd definitely load my suitcase up with Korean cosmetics) and street food, then head over to Dongdaemun for fun, new clothes. I have so many good memories if shopping there with friends. All that shopping would make me hungry so after dropping off my purchases, I'd meet up with friends for some delicious dwaejigalbi or samgyeopsal (and perhaps a beer or two). Then we'd head to Hongdae to catch some live Korean indie music for the night. Finally, just before my 24 hours was up, I would grab a quick bite to eat at one of the street stalls. And then my whirlwind trip of Korean culture, shopping, food and music would be over. 

That is definitely a busy day! Finally, Is there anything additional you'd like to share with our readers?

CZ: I love seeing all the interest in Korean culture and Hallyu and love connecting with others with similar interests so please say "hi" if you ever see me or connect with me on social media. I encourage you all to explore all the different aspects of Korean culture and Hallyu. Follow your passion; you never know where it might lead!

To check out the online magazine, visit the ATK Magazine website. 


Ashley Griffin is a diverse writer, blogger and YouTube Personality. An accidental nomad, Ms. Griffin currently resides in Houston, Texas. Find "Multifacetedacg" on YouTube and shoot her a message on Twitter.

Tagged :  interviews, ATK Magazine, KCON 2014, Cindy Zimmer, KCON, toronto, Canada, Epik High, Unite The Mic Tour 2015


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