FORMER Gisborne man Michael Smith was shocked to win the top prize in a global quiz show in Korea last week.
The 33-year-old Wellington-based energy analyst beat competitors from 29 other countries to win first place in the Quiz on Korea competition.
Dr Smith, son of Gisborne couple Rod and Judy Smith, won the right in July to represent New Zealand at the grand final in Seoul.
During the final, Dr Smith narrowly missed out on the first and second sudden-death rounds before winning the third to join South African and Paraguayan representatives in the final round.
After a tense battle, Dr Smith secured the win by correctly naming the neo-Confuscian scholar depicted on the Korean 1000 won note.
“I had never even been to Korea before, so it’s really unbelievable,” he told The Gisborne Herald. “A lot of the other contestants could speak fluent Korean so I didn’t think I had much of a chance.
“But I had prepared well — studying Korean history and culture rather than Korean pop songs,” he said.
Contestants from the 30 participating countries were flown to Korea for the final 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. Dr Smith wore the 2011 Rugby World Cup All Blacks jersey, and was asked to perform an impromptu haka after winning.
First prize was a Hyundai SUV but Dr Smith took the cash equivalent.
Organised by the Korean government, the event was designed to promote Korean culture overseas, making the most of the “Korean Wave” triggered by PSY’s 2012 mega-hit Gangnam Style.
Before returning home, Dr Smith enjoyed his new-found celebrity status on the streets of Korea, stopping for photos and signing autographs for fans across the country.
The Korean community in New Zealand is also especially proud a Kiwi won.
“It was big and wonderful news to our community and to the Korean people in Wellington,” said Korean community leader Cecilia Kim.