Press Release – Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment
The Wellington representative on a global quiz show has bought home the top prize, beating competitors from 29 other countries to win first place in the Quiz on Korea competition.
This was the first year a New Zealander had made it to the finals of the show, which is an annual event organised by the Korean government. The event is designed to promote Korean culture overseas, making the most of the ‘Korean Wave’ triggered by PSY’s 2012 mega-hit Gangnam Style.
In July, Michael Smith, a 33-year-old energy analyst from Wellington, won the right to represent New Zealand at the grand final in Seoul. During the final, Michael narrowly missed out on the first and second sudden-death rounds before winning the third to join South Africa and Paraguay in the final round. After a tense battle, Michael secured the win by correctly naming the neo-confusion scholar depicted on the Korean 1,000 won note.
“I had never even been to Korea before, so it’s really unbelievable. A lot of the other contestants could speak fluent Korean so I didn’t think I had much of a chance” explained Dr Smith. “But I had prepared well, studying Korean history and culture rather than Korean pop songs,” he added.
Contestants from 30 countries were flown to Korea for the final, which was aired at prime time on KBS television during Korea’s biggest holiday, Chuseok (Thanksgiving Day).
Contestants were asked to wear their country’s traditional costume for the televised show. Michael wore the All Black’s 2011 Rugby World Cup jersey, and was asked to perform an impromptu haka after winning.
First prize was a brand-new Hyundai SUV.
Before returning home Dr Smith enjoyed his new found celebrity status on the streets of Korea, stopping for photos and signing autographs for his fans across the country.
The Korean community in New Zealand is proud that a local has won. “It was a big and wonderful news to our community and to the Korean people in Wellington” said Cecilia Kim, leader within the Korean community.