Korea Night 2015 showcased Korean culture across the ages with performances including an action-packed Taekwondo demonstration, two different fashion shows and live music that ranged from traditional Korean acoustic music to covers of popular Korean rock and pop songs written in the last ten years.
The event held May 22 was organized by Portland State’s Korean Student Association (KSA) and took place in the Stott Center’s main gym.
Michael Do, the KSA’s president, explained one of the driving ideas behind the event was giving people unfamiliar with Korean culture an entertaining introduction to it.
“For this particular event, our theme is ‘Modern Seoul.’ Obviously, we’ve got to introduce the traditional culture,” Do said. “However, we like to show them modern culture, like modern music, you know, how we influence ourselves [over time].”
The theme arose from the KSA’s realization that previous iterations of Korea Night had never before focused on Korea’s contemporary culture, Do said. Korea Night 2015 gave attendees a chance to compare both new and old Korean culture, through performances like traditional music and a rock band performing more contemporary music, he added.
“I hope this is going to be a great memory, nothing more than that,” Do said.
KSA member Ariel Le served as the fashion director for Korea Night 2015. In Korea, it’s common for fashion shows to include dances on stage and generally feature more playful interaction between the models, Le explained.
“I wanted them to have fun with it, because that’s what Koreans do for their fashion show,” Le said. “Like, they actually really have fun.”
The contemporary fashion show focused on casual, daily Korean wear, she added.
“I’m just excited to show the audience what we prepared for them” Le said.
The KSA’s dance director, Richard Diep, explained that a big goal of the association’s K-Pop dance team is to bring together people interested in K-Pop as the genre becomes more popular. However, the language barrier is a significant hindrance to the genre’s popularity, Diep said.
“For the people in my group—or some people in general—they listen to K-Pop for the feel of it as well as the dancing that they choreograph for each of the groups,” Diep said. “That’s what makes me interested in it, and that’s why I try to gather people with a similar interest to dance with me as a group.”
This year’s songs incorporated a number of newer, less-known idol groups to fit in with the event’s “Modern Seoul” theme, according to Diep.
Preparations for the dance performances started near the end of December, he added, but these rehearsals took place separately for each individual performance.
“That’s what I’m really excited about, seeing every performance actually fit with the theme even though we didn’t really get a chance to meet each other or work with each other at all until tonight,” Diep said.
Hyundo Jang, the KSA’s general affairs supervisor, played indie rock at Korea Night, accompanied by two vocalists.
“We are going to perform two Korean songs,” Jang said. “We have been putting a lot of effort into it and it’s going to be awesome.”
The KSA invited U.S. veterans of the Korean war to the event, he added.
“We would like everyone to appreciate their efforts,” Jang said. “Because of their hard work, we can live like this peacefully and can enjoy our lives in Korea, too.”
Managing the large number of volunteers was one of the biggest challenges of coordinating Korea night, according to Jang.
“In my opinion, we didn’t have a really great communication channel,” Jang said. “We communicated via email, via SNS stuff, but it didn’t really work, at least for me. I don’t know, I’m not sure if that’s the case for other students, too.”