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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Heart and Seoul

From left to right, Western seniors Catherine Park, Kathy Lee and Jennifer Kim don traditional Korean robes, called dangui, and perform the Buchaechum, also known as the Korean fan dance, on Saturday, Jan. 23 in the Viking Union multipurpose room. All three performers are part of the leadership of the Korean Student Association that held the KSA Heritage Dinner that night. // Photo by Ian Koppe
From left to right, Western seniors Catherine Park, Kathy Lee and Jennifer Kim don traditional Korean robes, called dangui, and perform the Buchaechum, also known as the Korean fan dance, on Saturday, Jan. 23 in the Viking Union multipurpose room. All three performers are part of the leadership of the Korean Student Association that held the KSA Heritage Dinner that night. // Photo by Ian Koppe

As the piano rendition of the South Korean national anthem played, traditional and modern culture came together for a night of celebrating Korean heritage.

At the entrance of the Viking Union Multi-Purpose Room, Korean Student Association President Jennifer Kim greeted guests as they entered the hall. She was joined by her vice president Kathy Lee, her secretary Catherine Park and several other members of the club. They thanked them for joining the KSA as they kicked off the second annual KSA Heritage Dinner, known as Han Maeum: One Heart, One Seoul.

For members of the KSA, a heritage dinner is like a culmination of the club— it’s a way to unite modern and traditional cultures of South Korea with people who may feel disconnected from it.

Freshman officer Johnathan Kang said living in a population that is mostly caucasian led him to join the club because he wanted to know more about his culture.

“At home, my parents don’t really discuss it with me often because they have been ‘Americanized,’” Kang said.

Vice president Lee grew up in an area where she had many friends who were also Korean, or at least of Asian descent.

”When I came up [to Western] for the first time, I was in culture shock,” said Lee. “Joining KSA was an opportunity for me to meet people from my own background who share the same culture.”

To begin the celebration, Kim, Lee and Park ascended to the stage wearing pink and red outfits— called dangui— contoured to resemble a flower in bloom. The wore headpieces known as jokduri, meant to resemble a tiara.  

In addition, the three members performed “Buchaechum,” or Korean fan dance, while resembling three spinning jewelry box figurines. Their fans snapped to the rhythm of the traditional music.

“It’s a dance that’s supposed to symbolize the blooming of flowers and the trees.” Lee said. “It’s one of the more well-known types of dances,” Lee said.

The next performance was the “Talchum,” also known as the Korean mask dance. There are several different types of these dances that are named for areas in Korea – this particular one is named for the Hwanghae Province in North Korea.

Korean Student Association members twirled their long sleeves in unison while performing the Talchum, or Korean mask dance, for a full audience on Saturday, Jan. 23. // Photo by Ian Koppe
Korean Student Association members twirled their long sleeves in unison while performing the Talchum, or Korean mask dance, for a full audience on Saturday, Jan. 23. // Photo by Ian Koppe

“I think it was the most difficult [dance],” Lee said. “Not because the choreography was difficult, it’s just that with the costumes on and with the masks on.”

A big part of Korean culture is modern music and dance, which is why there are two K-pop groups in the club.

The first group who performed, 3Minute, is composed of women from the club who made their debut performance. Swetha Popuri is not of Korean descent, but joined because she is a fan of the culture; particularly K-pop.

“My sister’s friend got me into Korean music and from there, everything went downhill,” Popuri said as she laughed.

Quarter Past Noona, or QPN, caused a crowd frenzy as they make their way to the stage. The male dance team has made a name for themselves among the group due to their mix of hilarious and awe-inspiring dance moves paired with “cutesy girl songs,” freshman officer Jonathan Kang said.

All male dance team Quarter Past Noona perform to hoots and laughter in the midst of Korean pop songs. Their aim is to be comedic. // Photo by Ian Koppe
All male dance team Quarter Past Noona perform to hoots and laughter in the midst of Korean pop songs. Their aim is to be comedic. // Photo by Ian Koppe

“It’s like the girls are dancing more serious and it’s a contrast— the guys go up there and act cute out of nowhere, doing the opposite of what the girls are doing,” Kang said. “It’s a comedic factor; we want to get the crowd going and laughing.”

Kim ended the festivities with a personal monologue discussing struggling with her identity as a Korean-American.

“I was just really confused with my identity,” Kim said. “I didn’t know if I was Korean or American. My first speaking language was Korean, it was the first thing I learned how to read and write.”

Kim was born in Guam and moved to the U.S. seven years ago, she said.  

“I became better at English, I became better at the grammar and whatever, and then I lost my Korean side.”

She joined the club as a freshman four years ago when it was still gaining formal club status through the Associated Students. Before KSA was recognized as a formal club, they had to fight for a position in the Ethnic Student Center, Kim said.

Kim said the KSA club meetings are held every Wednesday at 5 p.m., welcoming new members at Viking Union room 565.

The night ended with a special nanta drum performance, which is a modern form of the percussion performance samul nori. To mark the official end of the evening though, the entire KSA ascended to the stage to dance and laughed together as the closing music from Saturday Night Live played.

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