South Korea may be a small country, but its cultural reach stretches far and wide, especially across China.
Generations of Chinese have weaved Korean elements into the nation's cultural fabric, cultivating interest that goes well beyond Gangnam Style, Pororo and kimchi.
Just ask Zhu Yi from Beijing, whose love for Korean dance has become a way of life for her and many others who frequent Beijing's Korean Cultural Center. "I come here for fun," Zhu beamed. "Most of us don't even have any basic dance skills. But we enjoy learning Korean dance because we love the culture."
The center also provides classes in Korean calligraphy, taekwondo, music and, of course, food.
May Tang attends the center's culinary class once a week, and, after three years, has become quite the chef. "I cook some Korean food for my family," said Tang, who hails from a southern Chinese family that loves spicy food. "My family says 'you really learned something!'"
Experts say China's fascination with its neighbor was largely fueled by the "Hallyu" movement in the 1990s, when Korean TV shows and pop culture gained popularity among many Asian countries. But they also say China's continued affection is due to the longtime warmth and good tidings between the two lands.
"This year marks the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and South Korea, and also the 10th anniversary of our Korean Cultural Center here in Beijing. I hope our center continues to be a great platform for the two countries' cultural exchanges," said Han Jae-heuk, the center's director.
Staff at the center simply marvel at the mutual admiration each country has fostered in the other.
Cooking instructor Woo Young-sun, who's been in China for a decade, said that she can "deeply feel the two countries getting closer and closer, thanks to activities like television programs, fashion show exchanges, festivals, exhibitions and so on," adding that they hope their students will also learn more about Korean culture, history and lifestyles during their classes.