BY MOLLIE SIMON
For those adventurous students unable to hop on a plane for the 7,120 mile journey from Athens to Seoul, South Korea, Korean Night offers an immersive sampling of the Asian culture without leaving campus.
On March 22 the Korean Undergraduate Student Association’s hosted its ninth annual Korean Night, titled “Seoul of Athens,” which returned to Tate Grand Hall after having had to relocate to the Memorial Ballroom last year.
“This is a time when most of the members from KUSA can come together, and we want people to just come and experience Korean culture,” junior Jay Kwon, a biology and psychology major from Suwanee said.
Kwon was one of the co-coordinators for this year’s event, which has been in the works since August when the group originally had to reserve the space in Tate. In total, over 230 individuals, including students, parents and sponsors, filled the hall for the standing-room-only evening.
Before the audience got to indulge in a mix of student and professional performances, they were invited to grab chopsticks and fill up on traditional food from Chef Chang’s Catering. This included bulgogi, a dish of marinated beef with vegetables, kimchi or fermented cabbage, kimbap, a mix of rice and vegetables in seaweed and mandu, or Korean dumplings.
The stage opened up for the night with student renditions of the Korean and American anthems, followed by a traditional drum dance by two artists from the Atlanta Korean Cultural Center.
The center was represented again later in the evening with a traditional fan dance, which could have been mistaken for drums by an unsuspecting listener. By spreading and retracting their fans, the performers seamlessly produced a beat that melded into the background music, while also filling the stage with color from their bright dresses.
Other acts included a taekwondo demonstration by a group from Cumming and the Korean song, “Are You Sleeping?” performed by students Jooyong Sung and Wen Chiou (available below). Mcees also created their own show in between stage changes by adding some slapstick humor and jokes to the set.
The event was put on as part of International Student Life’s Ethnic Nights series, which also included celebrations of Filipino and Caribbean backgrounds on Saturday and will conclude with evenings highlighting Arab and Indian cultures in April.
“A lot of the other ethnic clubs come out to the [Korea Night] event, and we go to the other ethnic nights as well to support each other. It is a really good relationship,” Kwon said.
In addition to support from other student groups, KUSA received assistance from companies in the Athens community, including The Table, Inoko, Utage and Iron Factory. They also reached out to businesses in Duluth, which has a large Korean community.
Kwon said that KUSA at UGA has about 200 members who meet monthly for events. They also divide into “family groups” to get people more involved and to connect freshmen and upperclassmen with similar interests and to form mentoring relationships.
“The majority of members were either born in Korea or have Korean parents or family members, but we also have some who are not Korean or took a language class and are just interested in learning about Korea,” Kwon said. “The community is really closely knit, and the people are very accepting.”