Program gives taste of Korean culture

Mandatory military service and a job in his native Korea are what loom in the near future for University student Chang-sung Kim, even though all he wants to do is study.
“It’s terrible,” Kim said. “I’m young, and I want to study when I can study.”
The economy in Korea prompted the Korean Student Association to throw a Taste of Korea celebration and fund-raiser Saturday at the St. Paul Student Center.
Kim, a third-year economics major in the Carlson School of Management, has been academically stymied by the economic situation in Korea since the crash of the Hong Kong stock exchange late last year. Since then, inflation in Korea has skyrocketed, and the strength of Korean currency relative to U.S. currency has fallen to less than half of what it was previously.
“Even if I go home and make a lot of money, I won’t be able to come back because it will be so little in U.S. dollars,” Kim said.
“(Taste of Korea) originally started with the idea to show our culture,” said Brandon Cho, president of the association. “But then the crisis hit and we said, Why don’t we make the event to help international students?'”
The three-hour program featured traditional Korean dancing, drumming, Tae Kwon Do and traditional Korean food. More than a hundred people showed up to see the show and make donations to help international students stay at the University.
“People are stuck and can’t pay for tuition,” Cho said. “People in Korea don’t have the money to send to their kids. And international students are not allowed to work off-campus.”
International Student and Scholar Services, an international student support program, does not let international students work off-campus except for certain circumstances, Cho said. One of those circumstances is an economic crisis. The Korean Student Association is currently trying to temporarily change the policy.
Taste of Korea was about more than helping international students. It was the start of a long-overdue showcase of Korean culture.
“In five years, we’ve never had this kind of program,” said chemistry major Han Yoo Park. “This kind of event should happen more often.”
Cho wanted to do a show to teach Korean-Americans more about their culture because Minnesotans adopt more Korean children than any other state in the nation for adopting Korean children.
The Chang Le Korean Dancers, who performed at the Taste of Korea, began in a Korean cultural camp where Korean-Americans learned about their heritage. This group of kindergarteners through 12th-graders performed six dances in traditional Korean dress, complete with fans and a few giggles from the younger girls.
There was also a display of Korean drumming in which Hong performed. He learned his drumming technique when he went back to Korea as an exchange student and joined a music group.
But the afternoon was reserved for students who are having a hard time dealing with the economic situation in Korea.
A few of the younger dancers carried boxes as big as themselves labeled “donations.”
The donations will go to the University Foundation which will distribute the funds to qualifying Asian international students.