Celebrating Korean Culture

Students table for the first-ever UCI Korean Culture Night. (Diane Oh/New University)

Until this year, Korean Culture Night (KCN) has never happened here at UC Irvine, even though campuses like UCLA, UC Riverside and San Diego State have hosted the event for years.

“We wanted to bring that same tradition onto UCI’s campus because we have a ton of Korean-American students,” said KCN’s co- executive director, second-year international studies major Mina Choe. “Some are straight from Korea and most are born here. We have such a big community on this campus, yet we don’t have a culture night. That’s all about to change this year.”

This year a group of driven students from Konnect, Korean American Student Association (KASA), Korean Health Association (KHA) and Hansori (UCI’s Korean traditional drumming club) put their heads together to make Korean Culture night a reality here at UCI.

In 2001, there had been an attempt to make KCN happen at UCI but unfortunately, they weren’t able to get it off the ground.

Now in 2011, the dedicated leaders and members of Konnect, KASA, KHA and Hansori are going to make sure it becomes a yearly tradition.

“This night is going to show everyone what the Korean community here at UCI is capable of,” Choe said. “We will be able to showcase our talents, passion and our love for our culture.

We are all just working together. Our main goal is to establish Korean Culture Night and make it a lasting tradition. Twenty years from now, I want to be able to come back and see KCN still running with full force and striving for the best.”

Korean Culture Night is a stage production that educates UCI students and the Irvine community about Korean and Korean-American culture through performing arts.

This tradition will raise cultural awareness, multiculturalism and promote collaboration and solidarity within the Korean community.

The three-hour show will feature a combination of live performances of Korean traditional drumming, traditional dance, modern dance and Korean folktales that will all be tied together with a play, “Close to Home.” “Close to Home” is about a disgruntled high school student, Han Areum, who is completely apathetic to traditional Korean culture.

One day, he accidently activates an ancient trap that serves as a time machine and sends him back to 1506.

While Areum struggles in the past, Hong Gildong, a legendary bandit from the past, is sent to present-day Seoul.

They both must find a way to get back home.

The journey provides Areum and Gildong with experiences and lessons that allow them to discover their identity through their family and Korean culture.

“UCI’s Korean Culture Night was all made from scratch with students here at UCI,” Choe said. “We had no foundation whatsoever because there has never been a Korean Culture Night [at UCI], we really had no one to look to except a minor stepping stone from UCLA, but even then that was hard,” Choe said.

The leaders of the four Korean social clubs have been working hard and planning Korean Culture Night since the summer of 2010. It has been a vision that will soon come true on May 7 at the Irvine Barclay Theater. Doors will open at 6 p.m. for “Close to Home.”  Tickets are $7 for UCI students, staff and faculty, and $10 for the public. Buy your tickets and be part of the audience that helps start the tradition.