Korean students Yehyun Song ’25 and Heewon Yang ’25 grew up in non-Asian communities, so when they came to Haverford, they were looking for a community where they could celebrate their Korean culture. “Coming to college we wanted to experience a sense of belonging in our own culture,” said Song. “We wanted to be part of a community we couldn’t have enjoyed back home.” However, they soon learned that Haverford’s student-run Korean Culture Association had been disassembled some time during the pandemic. So they started a new one themselves, calling it the Korean Culture Club. “We made the Korean Culture Club because there were a lot of students interested in Korean culture and we wanted to share our heritage with the Haverford community,” said Yang.
Song said he also wanted to start the club as a way to contribute to the destigmatization of Asian Americans and Asian culture. “Especially with the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes and stigmatization of Asian Americans, we wanted to address that,” said Song. “We want to bring together people who have the same passion for Korea and promote truth and break down stigmas built by racism and microaggressions. We can no longer be ignored. We’re part of a culture that we bring to this community and isn’t as foreign as [many people] think.”
Yang notes that the Korean Culture Club differs from other clubs that celebrate Asian and Asian American culture on campus because KSCC is not an affinity group. “We call ourselves a ‘culture club’ because it’s not just for people who are Korean,” said Yang. “It’s for anyone who’s interested in Korean culture and wants to learn more. The majority of our members are not Korean, but they are all eager to learn about Korea.”
“Our club is a reflection of the diversity and equity at Haverford,” said Yang. “Just from looking at our members alone, there’s a lot of different people from all over the world. When we talk about Korean culture, we also share individual stories. This inclusive space reflects the values of diversity and equity that Haverford strives for.”
After applying for funding, the club leaders spent last semester brainstorming events that would create the kind of Korean campus community they wanted to be a part of. This semester, they started hosted them.
The club’s inaugural event was on Feb. 15, when they made homemade bibimbap, a traditional Korean dish involving rice with a variety of side dishes. Many students packed into the VCAM community kitchen and commons to enjoy a taste of homemade Korean food by the co-heads. “We expected 20 to 25 people at the first event, and we had over 100 people,” said Song. “We had a level of support and turnout l couldn’t have genuinely imagined because l hadn’t experienced it in my home community.”
On Feb. 26, they hosted a movie screening of Minari, the Oscar-nominated 2020 film following a Korean immigrant family who move to a farm in Arkansas in the 1970s. They served Korean boba and shrimp crackers and hosted a post-screening discussion. The organizers chose this movie because it explores Asian American immigrant life and challenges the stereotype of Asian American immigrants. “A lot of the time when you see Asian American immigrants, you think of doctors, lawyers, or engineers, or people who have a high pay grade, but that’s actually only a very fraction of the Asian population,” said Song.
The KCC also teamed up with Global China Connection, Pan-Asian Resource Center, and the Haverford South Asian Society to put on a dumpling-making event, “A Taste of Dumpling,” on April 1. Attendees learned how to make mandu, momo, gyoza, shuijiao, and wonton, and discussed the different kinds of “dumplings” across different Asian cultures. The club hopes to host more events with the other Asian clubs next semester. “Our dumpling event was a joint event,” said Yang, “and we believe it is important for KCC to work with other clubs to build a community of collaboration and cooperation.”
Nolja—”let’s play” in Korean—will be the club’s final event of its first year. It will be held April 23 on Founder’s Green, and participants will play traditional Korean games from 1 to 3 p.m.
KCC’s message to the Haverford community is: “Keep your eyes open! You have an incredible Asian community that’s starting to grow and will continue to grow.”