PSU gets internationally cultured
Korean students draw crowd
Tyler Breedlove | reporter
As tensions brew on the peninsula, hundreds of people gathered in the Overman Student Center got to see that there’s much more to Korea than dramatic headlines.
Korean Culture Day was held in the Crimson & Gold Ballroom from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., with traditional Korean food being served at the United Methodist Campus Ministry afterward. More than 350 people attended.
The event began with a welcome by the president of the Korean Student Association (KSA), Kyongvin Jamie Lee, junior in international studies.
Choong Lee, professor in management and marketing, then spoke as the KSA adviser. Lee says the first Korean Culture Day was in 2000. She added that when it was created, Korean Culture Day’s future was unknown.
It has since grown to be one of the most anticipated annual events on campus.
“This is just for you (the audience),” he said. “Not the Korean Student Association.”
The two guest speakers for the night were Cathy Lee Arcuino, interim director of international programs and services, and Lynette Olson, provost and vice-president for academic affairs.
The events began with The Journey to Korea, an informative presentation about South Korea. The presentation discussed the history of South Korea, as well as the country’s monetary system, language and food.
Two performances by the KSA’s modern dance group focused on K-Pop, or Korean pop, a music genre from South Korea that is best known as the origin of the smash hit “Gangnam Style.”
Jamie Lee, who was one of the dancers, says that organization took a lot of work.
“We met three times a week for up to three hours,” she said. “We practiced for two months beforehand. It was really hard, but really fun.”
KSA performers garbed in the traditional white dobok and black belt of an expert in taekwondo put on a demonstration where they destroyed several patterns and difficult arrangements of wooden blocks with their heads, hands and feet.
One of the performers, Jihne Kim, junior in mechanical engineering, says that the demonstration took a lot of teamwork.
“Through all the performances, it needs to be very cooperative,” Kim said. “It is not only about individual behavior.”
After the taekwondo demonstration, a number of musical performances took place. These performances focused on both modern and traditional music.
Jiwon James Kim, a guitarist for one of the modern performances and junior in international studies, says the performances took a lot of effort.
“We had to practice individually every day,” he said. “Then we had to get together and cooperate. So, it was actually quite a bit of work.”
Kim added that the music was important to help show culture.
“We tried to pick songs that showed the landscape and the feel of Korea,” he said. “When people think about Korea, they think that we’re just different, or they think ‘Gangnam Style.’ I hope to see people learning about different aspects of Korea.”
Another type of music played was called samulnori, a traditional type of percussion music.
Jieun Alice Lee, senior in English, played the kkwaenggwari in this performance, which is a type of gong.
“It’s kind of about agriculture and the goddess taking care of us,” she said.
Alice Lee added that this event, as well as Korea, focuses on working together.
“Korean culture is really about ‘us,’ not ‘me,’” she said. “So it’s important to focus on something we do together.”
She also participated in the fan dance, also known as bachaechum. She says that practicing for the fan dance encouraged teamwork.
“Only one person in the group had experience with fan dance,” she said.
American Mary Jackson, senior in elementary education, participated in the fan dance. She says that events like Korean Culture Day are important.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to meet people from other countries,” Jackson said.
Kyongvin Jamie Lee also says that Korean Culture day is important in order to help bring cultures together.
“KSA’s aim is to share the Korean culture,” she said. “We not only have PSU students, we also have community members and sponsors that share the idea that we should share culture.”
Jieun Alice Lee also says that this event is important for cultural purposes.
“These people (from Pittsburg) are really nice to foreigners and they are willing to understand other cultures,” she said. “There just aren’t many opportunities to learn about Korea specifically.”
Sophie Jisu Park, senior in fashion and merchandising, was one of the cooks who helped with the traditional Korean food. Park says that cooking the food was a lot of work, but important for the event.
“For this kind of culture, sharing food among friends is the way to introduce a culture,” Park said. “I want people to learn more about Korea, not just ‘Gangnam Style.’”
Mandy Reno, sophomore in graphic design, says that she believes Korean Culture Day was very interesting. She added that she preferred the traditional performances.
“The fan dance and taekwondo were my favorite,” Reno said. “I haven’t seen anything like that before.”
Mark Peterson, assistant professor in history, philosophy, and social sciences, says that he also enjoyed the traditional aspects.
“I think Korean Culture Day was spectacular,” Peterson said. “I liked the more traditional things: the singing, the solo folk song and the dancing.”
Choong Lee says that this balance between tradition and modernity is important in South Korea.
“Korea is a dynamic country,” Lee said. “Where you can see tradition, and at the same time modernity.”
Students sample Paraguay
Marcus Clem | copy editor
Paraguay, described by presenters as one of the least internationally understood countries in South America, was the subject of the last international gathering of the academic year.
It was held on Friday, April 5.
Attracting about 250 guests with traditional, freshly prepared food, including beef and ham corn-encrusted empanadas, two varieties of soup and a variable side of fruit, the Paraguayan Students Association (PSA) covered a wide range of subjects.
Emilia Cardenas, freshman in music, who arrived this semester and seeks to earn her degree at Pittsburg State, said the response to the gathering has helped her feel more accepted as a student.
“I was shocked. I believed when I came here that most Americans would look at me like (a foreigner),” she said. “It’s nice to have this kind of experience that everyone can enjoy. It’s a bonding between Americans and internationals also.”
After food was served, attendees gathered in a Grubbs Hall lecture room to hear presentations on Paraguayan history, food, culture, sports and music.
“I’m taking Spanish (Language and Culture) II right now, so it’s an interesting opportunity to enhance that and learn about Latin American culture and everything,” said Rachael Sachs, junior in math education.
PSA students explained that Paraguay is the oldest independent state in South America, having overthrown the local Spanish colonial magistrate in 1811 in a bloodless revolution.
That event, the students explained, was contrasted in 1864 by the Paraguayan War fought against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, which through years of bloodshed and disease vastly reduced Paraguay’s territory to its current landlocked status and killed most of the population.
Transitioning into a discussion about culture, Cardenas discussed a host of traditional Paraguayan holidays and festivals, the most important of which is the San Juan festival.
One unique aspect of Paraguay was highlighted: It has a two-sided flag, an international rarity, with the front featuring the national seal, and the reverse featuring a depiction of a lion with the national motto: “Paz y Justicia,” or “Peace and Justice,” in English.
“I did not know that Paraguay had a two-sided flag,” said Leo Hudson, assistant professor of communication, who has taught in Paraguay as part of a program PSU established there. “I thought that was amazing. When I was there, I saw flags all over the place, and I never saw that … That’s really neat.”
Sports were also covered, as the students explained that traditional monolithic Latin American support for soccer is concentrated into two clubs: Club Olimpia and Cerro Porteño. The rivalry was on display even during the presentation as opposing statements of support for each team were given by different presenters.
Lastly, there were musical showcases that featured the two traditional Paraguayan styles: polka and guarania. Polka is a lively, high-speed and celebratory art form, while guarania is slower and more melancholy.
“The musical performance was a clever idea, because they really put on display the difference between the two (styles),” said Camilia Domingos da Silva, exchange student in psychology. “It was really clear.”