On April 7th, Yale extracurricular group Korean American Students at Yale (KASY) held their largest annual event, the KASY Cultural Show, highlighting Korean culture on Yale’s campus. Students performed a variety of acts, including singing, dancing, Taekwondo, and acting as they gathered to celebrate their love and appreciation for Korea. The 2-hour long showcase garnered an audience of over three hundred students, friends, and faculty.
This year, the cultural show’s theme was 정 [jeong]. This term, so distinctively Korean, is one that does not directly translate to English, but roughly signifies a deep and profound loyalty to one’s community that grows stronger over time. Under the leadership of KASY’s Cultural Chair, Stella Choi, and the rest of KASY Board, the main aim of this year’s show was to demonstrate to a wider community what jeong means, as well as to foster jeong within the Korean and Korean-American community at Yale.
Since its inception in 1984, KASY has been integral in fostering a unifying space for students of both Korean heritage and non-Korean heritage by aiming to promote the social, political, and cultural interests of the Korean American community at Yale. Seung Min Baik Kang, a Yale College first-year student and Outreach Chair on KASY’s Board, expressed the importance of finding a sense of community and belonging at Yale through KASY. Kang says, “I cannot imagine my time at Yale without student organizations like KASY. These organizations are spaces where students come together for their shared love and appreciation for their heritage and cultural background; they also create meaningful opportunities to cultivate new friendships. It has been particularly heartwarming to see students across all grade-levels form bonds that they likely would not have made without KASY.”
Importantly, KASY was at the forefront in the movement to revive Yale’s Korean Studies program in 1990. In addition to KASY’s private donation to re-establish the Korean Studies program at Yale, according to Kang “the [KASY members’ and students’] activism created a growing impact on the community that certainly reverberated to the administrative level.” This experience highlights the important role and powerful impact that student-led organizations at Yale can have in influencing decisions made at the higher level.
Since its revival, Korean Studies at Yale has attracted great interest and demand for more Korea-related courses has increased every year, with over 20 courses being offered this past academic year. As the Korean Studies department and Council on East Asian Studies continue to work together to expand the department’s team of faculty members, they also aim to broaden the selection of Korea-related course offerings, according to Council on East Asian Studies Chair, Hwansoo Kim.
The KASY cultural show is one among many events hosted by KASY throughout the academic year to promote cultural awareness and unity among students. Other events include Korean food-related events, fireside chats with guest speakers, and one of Kang’s personal favorites, Adopted Friends, a collaboration with the New York Mountaineering Society that works to nurture a space for Korean cultural immersion for Korean American adoptee children in the Connecticut area.
As KASY wraps up another successful academic year filled with entertaining events and opportunities for Yale students to come together, they hope to sustain their mission of striving “to increase Korean American political engagement on campus, strengthen its ties with local and global institutions, and expand its support for the Korean Department at Yale” in the coming years.
To watch the video recording of the KASY Cultural Show, click the image below.