KSA officers and Oolleemm worked together in order to perform the Bongsan mask dance that originates from the Hwanghae province of what today is North Korea. // Photo by Maxwell Leidig
Imagine a room filled with people of all backgrounds and different walks of life, laughter bouncing off the walls, hugs being passed out like free candy on Halloween and the showcase of the bright and colorful traditional Korean clothing. That is exactly what many students experienced at the Korean Student Association heritage dinner.
“We want to make the presence known that there are Korean students on this campus and try to put our culture out there for others,” Johnathon Yu, vice president of KSA and a fifth-year student, said.
Every year the KSA officers pick a theme for the event. This years theme was gamsa, a Korean word that means giving thanks to those who paved the way before.
“This year we chose thankful or ‘gamsa’, which is in Korean. I think especially because a lot of the minority population here is second generation, a lot of us have a big emphasis on our parents or family and those who have worked hard to get us either to America or just to where we are today giving us a roof over our head,” KSA President Jennifer Yoo said.
On April 2 in the multi-activity court in the Wade King Student Recreation Center, the event kicked off with a colorful fashion show, with each KSA officer strutting their traditional hanboks. Then, guests stood to pay respect to Korea’s national anthem, which was sung by Jessica Choi, a first-year student and officer of KSA.
The rest of the night was filled with traditional Korean dances such as the Buchae Sango, a solo fan dance performed by Oolleemm, a Korean cultural dance performance group based out in Seattle.
“There is a lot of things that go in to it, this year the officers are learning the traditional dances so that means we had to go down to Seattle and practice once every two weeks,” Yoo said.
Oolleemm also performed the Nanta with the KSA officers, the performance of the drums that starts off quietly and intensified throughout the performance. The whole room was cheering the performers on.
Jen Kim, former president of KSA and a Western alumna graced the stage as the first guest speaker of the night.
“Growing up, making friends was very hard for me,” Kim said.
Kim talked about the struggles of growing up in a predominantly white society and accepting the cultural differences. She publicly thanked KSA for her growth to where she is today.
Dinner was catered by Tokyo House and included Korean staple foods such as mandu, dbukbokki, spicy pork, kimbap, japchae, fried rice and so much more.
“Dinner was so great, I loved the food,” Savanna Yann, a fourth-year student said.
The event also included a silent auction, which included a snack basket of Korean candy, chips and drinks, a Western basket that included a 40-ounce Hydro Flask, and a Bellingham Patagonia sweater, and lots of Western accessories. Last but not least, a vibrant and bold painting by Yunjee Kang, secretary of KSA and second-year student. The proceeds raised will go towards the Korean American Coalition.
After dinner there were more musical and dance performances by KSA’s officers and volunteers, including a special K-Pop dance performance by QPN and 3MIN, which are both student and volunteer-based groups.
“QPN has been around since the first dinner and 3MIN came around the second dinner. Just because K-Pop has been such a popular thing throughout Korean culture and we wanted to incorporate that into our dinners as well,” Yu said.
The two groups circled the gym to show off their dance moves to the guests.
To finish off the night, KSA officers took the stage to thank everyone who made the event possible. A few tears of joy were shed by KSA’s president as her fellow officers took the time to show their appreciation to her for all her hard work by giving her flowers and a balloon.
“You worked really hard, you did surprisingly really well,” Yu joked. “I was in my bed curled up, I just slept it off. You threw a dang good heritage dinner.”
To finish off the night, the officers ran over to hug Yoo sparking an emotional moment that was interrupted by laughter as the balloon Yu was holding was let go and floated away to the ceiling of the gym.
“You don’t have to be Korean or Asian to attend the club, that’s one of the main questions we get and we’re always trying our best to make anyone feel welcome,” Yu said.
Students interested in learning more about KSA can attend the clubs meetings every Wednesday from 5 to 6 p.m. in room 305 in the Academic West building.