North Texas Daily

Bridging the international gap

Bridging the international gap

The Korean Culture Exchange organization will hold Korean classes for their members beginning Sept. 24 at 6:30 in Curry 103. English classes are also available. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Bridging the international gap
September 22
00:11 2015

Sam Beckett | Staff Writer


The Honors Hall ballroom is crammed full of participants. A tangible feeling of excitement flows through the room. Nervously chattering, the crowd of students grows quiet as the next group takes its place in the center of the room. Korean pop music begins to play.

The auditions for UNT’s yearly Korean Culture Exchange Festival are underway.

Linguistics senior and president of KCE Chigozie Osuh developed a love for the Korean culture after studying abroad in South Korea.

“I really want to make sure that Korean culture is represented well at UNT,” Osuh said.

The KCE is unlike any other student organization on campus. The group intentionally uses the word “exchange” in place of club because of the interchange of East Asian and American cultures.

Every November the KCE holds a festival to celebrate all things Korean culture. This year’s festival will feature booths offering lessons in the Korean language, traditional food, and authentic Korean clothes to try on. The festival also traditionally features members of the KCE performing dance routines, singing popular songs and even holding Taekwondo demonstrations.

Korean Culture Exchange members judge the auditions held Sept. 17, 2015 at the Honors Hall Ballroom. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Korean Culture Exchange members judge a participant during auditions held on Sept. 17 in the Honors Hall Ballroom. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Group after group performed in front of the enthusiastic crowd in the small ballroom in the Honors Hall. Such a large following of Korean pop music exists that the leadership of KCE had to implement an auditions process to select who would be able to participate with performances in the upcoming festival.

“We have gotten so big, and so many people want to dance, we actually had to start having an audition process,” Osuh said.

Korean pop culture has become so trendy in the United States that the KCE has grown every year since its inception in 2011. According to the KCE’s website, the group was started with the mission of understanding the South Korean culture through cultural exchanges between Korean and non-Korean students.

While the mission of KCE has remained the same, the cultural mixing pot of KCE has provided a platform for many students to learn about the political landscape of North and South Korea, which has been center stage in international news.

“We get to have a more intimate socialization with international and Korean students,” integrative studies senior and longtime KCE member Simone Lott said. “We try to discuss the pressing political issues. It is difficult to understand what is happening in that part of the country by just seeing the movie “The Interview.”’

The KCE provides a friendly and safe atmosphere for Korean international students who have been affected by the political conflict in North and South Korea an opportunity to share their experience.

“It’s thin ice that we have to tip-toe on, but we do our best to be respectful and bridge the cultural gap,” Lott said.

Korean Culture Exchange members wait for the judge’s decision after performing at the auditions held on Sept. 17, 2015 for an upcoming festival performance. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Korean Culture Exchange members wait for a decision from the judges after performing at auditions for an upcoming festival performance on Sept. 17. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Moving to a new country to receive an education is something many students never have the chance to experience. According to UNT’s 2014 international student summary, the university was home to 3,087 international students last year, with 173 students coming from South Korea.

Chemistry sophomore and KCE treasurer Katrina Huynh has been a part of the KCE since she began studying at UNT. She believes the group is able to provide a sense of family for international students.

“What we want to do is teach more people about the Korean culture and interact with international students,” Huynh said. “That’s why it is called an exchange.”

The KCE brings people together from all walks of life.

“With so much diversity in our group, it helps us to gain better perspective and have a more positive outlook on other cultures,” Huynh said.

Part of KCE’s allure is the strong fascination many students have with Korean pop music, or K-pop. K-pop is a musical genre originating in South Korea. The K-pop genre is vast and includes audiovisual elements as well as components of dance-pop, pop ballad, electronic, and rock music.

“I really like the beat and rhythm of K-pop. Even though I don’t know what they’re saying, I can understand,” Huynh said. “Musically, that communication that I get from K-pop is really important to me.”

The KCE provides a safe environment that aims to bridge the cultural divide that so many people experience. It is one of the largest on-campus groups that is able to come together and assuage the too often tense and misunderstood experiences that most students have with people who are from a different background than their own.

While the East Asian region of North and South Korea remains tense, the students of UNT’s Korean Culture Exchange are coming together to provide support for international students.

The KCE wouldn’t say they are trying to solve the problems in North or South Korea. They wouldn’t say they are providing a cathartic experience for international students.

They would say they love to dance.

Featured Image: The Korean Culture Exchange organization will hold Korean classes for their members beginning Sept. 24 at 6:30 in Curry 103. English classes are also available. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

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