My short bio: My name is Jordan VanHartingsveldt. I moved to South Korea in 2011 to teach English to pay off my student loans. In 2013, I - along with a group of friends - started a small convention in our city, calling it Alleycon after its birthplace (a foreign restaurant named The First Alleyway). The first year saw 60 participants and the following year 240 participants. This year, we're expecting 500 people to come from across the country. You can find out more at

My Proof:

Thanks for the question, /u/MossTheTree. I'll be checking in tomorrow morning and every few hours after that to answer any questions that come in. Stay classy!

Comments: 26 • Responses: 11  • Date: 

Honeycone8 karma

So... what's actually the difference between a western style and an asian style convention?

alleycon7 karma

Asian-style conventions tend to focus on one niche (i.e. costume play or animation or game development), whereas western-style conventions are more esoteric, pretty much something for everyone.

We've got an artist alley, theatrical performances, a panelist room, debates, tonnes of stuff... all under one roof. It's a point of pride for Alleycon.

MossTheTree4 karma

Looks like a fun event, and I wish it had been running back when I lived in Korea! Right away though I note that this seems to be a distinctly non-Korean event - none of the organisers seem to be Korean, for example, and the website is only in English (with a couple of white folks on the home page).

Aside from your direct friends, have you been able to attract Koreans to previous conventions, or do you expect to do so this year? Do you try to overcome the language barrier, or is the entire schedule run only in English? Are these decisions deliberate, or is it simply a lack of capacity or demand?

Regardless, good luck with what looks like a fun couple of days.

alleycon6 karma

Thanks for the kind words!

Due to space restrictions and a fire safety-imposed capacity, we figured that reaching out to the Korean audience would bring in far more people than we could handle. We did have a few Koreans join us at the inaugural event, though, as they were invited by friends.

The larger event in 2014 saw a good number of Koreans join us, all of which had heard of it through word of mouth. They were warned ahead of time that all the events would be only in English and they did not seem to mind. So yes, the decisions to not advertise to Koreans in 2013-2015 were deliberate.

Next year, however, we will be working on a way to bring more Koreans in and involve them. We're actually tapping into the Korean tabletop scene on July 4th at the Game Festival hosted by TRPG!

Thanks for the well wishes!

TheMonkeyMug4044 karma

What were the initial start up costs associated with this? And what would you say would be the hardest part to your day to day operations?

alleycon2 karma

Thanks for the question!

Our start up costs were low as we hosted the event at a local restaurant run by friends of ours (no rental fee) and the event tshirts were printed and sold at a higher price than the printing cost (profit!). Everything else was donated by locals (the tvs by tech company Korea MacPC Guys, consoles by participants), so costs were at a minimum.

We spent about 500,000 KRW (450 USD) to put on the first event and profited 300,000 KRW at the end of the day, all of which went to the venue as a token of gratitude. They ended up spending it on board games for patrons to use while eating. Awesome stuff.

The hardest part of operating day-to-day would be the language barrier. There's so much we want to do but can't because the way of running business in Korea is different than in western countries (i.e. - saying 'yes' even if you have no intent to keep your end of the bargain).

hurljack3 karma

What are the pros for teaching English in Korea over similar places in the region? (ie: Japan, Taiwan). Convention looks cool.

alleycon9 karma

Hm, I would have to say the biggest pro would be the comparatively low cost of living to the high salary. At my best, I was making about 40,000 USD per year and could comfortably live on 500 a month.

Your accommodation is paid for by your employer and taxes are a whopping 5% for foreigners. Health care is cheap as hell, too.

Living in Korea let me pay off a 40k student loan in 3 years while still traveling to awesome locations during breaks.

Thanks for the questions!

templefugate3 karma

What seems to be a popular show/movie/thing that people are into in Korea?

alleycon4 karma

Tough one.

It would be easiest for me to say Starcraft and League of Legends, but most people already know those are huge here.

Frozen was a point of national pride because the characters were designed by a Korean concept artist.

As far as geek interests go, Korea cranks through the fads pretty quickly, though the kids have maintained an interest in Beyblade for the entirety of my stay here (4.5 years).

As a teacher, you can sway the geekdom of your students to wherever you want it to go. I love fantasy, so my English lessons always ended with a ten-minute story about demons or trolls or knights. The kids loved it.

Long answer short, Koreans go with the flow and change fandoms nearly as much, if not more, than your typical western geek.

NorbitGorbit3 karma

which firm do you think provides the best wages for english teaching?

alleycon2 karma

For newbies to Korea, I'd go with EPIK. My recommendation: come over with EPIK for a few years, then look for your own job when you know what you want. There are some gems out there (honestly, look into the Samyook line of schools).

john_stuart_kill2 karma

Where in Canada are you from (fellow Canadian, and thus I have to ask)? And had you been to many conventions in North America before moving to Korea? How has that experience (or lack thereof) affected your planning for these events?

alleycon3 karma

I'm originally from St. Catharines, Ontario.

I had only ever been to Fan Expo Toronto twice before moving to Korea and so planning for Alleycon took a little bit of research.

I do have to say, however, that a geek gathering on a large scale isn't terribly difficult to plan when everyone wants to see it succeed just as much as you do, if not more.

For Alleycon 2015, we've had so many offers to borrow equipment (consoles, televisions, art stuffs, etc.) which we totally appreciate. However, we're looking to expand with each coming year and really need to take our planning to the next level.

Our five-year plan is to have a five to ten thousand person event in 2020 with celebrity guests brought over from other Korean cities, Japan, China, even the States. And frankly, even though we're growing in size fairly quickly, the planning becomes easier as the organizing council gains collective experience. We also now have a good reputation on which to plan future events.

Planning these events is pretty intuitive if you're a geek yourself, I guess would be my easy answer. You know what you'd want yourself, so you follow that vision.

Freshy_Q1 karma

What is your degree in? Did you major in teaching English, or was it something you found you were able to do to pay off your college education along the way? Is it something anyone could get into?

alleycon2 karma

I majored in English Language and Literature, minored in Art History. When finding a job with those credentials proved too difficult, I did the English teaching route. Wouldn't trade it for the world; most likely the most valuable experience I've had in my life. It started as a way to pay off my education debts, but left an indelible mark.

Do I think anyone could teach English? No. I honestly don't. Teachers aren't just educators, they're role models. Those who would be English teachers are ambassadors to a foreign country and should be there in the best state of mind.

zhdJaeYun1 karma

Where abouts in the country is this event?

alleycon1 karma

This event is taking place in Gwangju, Jeollanamdo, on September 19 and 20. Come on over and visit with us!

zhdJaeYun1 karma

Haha I wont be able to make it since I live all the way up in Incheon. I work part time at an english academy and there are quite a few foreign teachers here as well.

alleycon1 karma

That's too bad. We'd love to have you for the couple days. Gwangju is a brilliant little city with a lot going for it.