The Middlebury Campus

The Soul of Seoul Comes to Middlebury

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This year’s Korean Culture Show brought students from all backgrounds to enjoy music, poetry and dance.

This year’s Korean Culture Show brought students from all backgrounds to enjoy music, poetry and dance.

SILVIA CANTU BAUTISTA

SILVIA CANTU BAUTISTA

This year’s Korean Culture Show brought students from all backgrounds to enjoy music, poetry and dance.

By EZRA NUGIEL

On the evening of Friday May 4, bright neon glow sticks illuminated the packed crowd in Wilson Hall. The audience’s energy was palpable as they anxiously waited to celebrate Middlebury College’s second annual Korean Culture Show. The show began at 8 p.m. and ran for about two hours (with 18 individual acts), featuring a diverse collection of Korean performance art including dancing, singing, rapping, poetry reading, instrumental music and more.

The only requirement for participation in the show was a love of Korean culture and a desire to share it with the Middlebury community. A diverse cast, comprising ethnically Korean and non-Korean students alike, graced the stage for each performance.

“Through the Korean Culture Show, I started to engage with community members that I hadn’t been exposed to,” said Max Lucas ’21, who danced in the show. “[It’s about] bringing together different people from different backgrounds… It’s really nice because you get to learn more about traditional Korean culture but then you can also just to have fun and dance on stage. Our group had a ramen night where we had different Korean ramens, did facemasks, and watched a bunch of Korean videos to build the community and get everyone excited about the performance in general.”

The Korean Culture Show is a significant event on campus because it is one of the only formal platforms for celebrating and sharing Korean culture. While organizations such as Korean American Student Association and Asian Students in Action exist, their events usually take place on a smaller scale and in informal settings. Students praised the Korean Culture Show for giving the Middlebury community such accessible exposure to this culture.

“It was really nice to see how a lot of people came out from the Middlebury community who may have not necessarily known what K-pop is or about Korean culture, but they were willing to come and see what people had produced,” Lucas said.

This entirely student-led production showcased the talents of over 50 students and was coordinated by a logistics team made up of Abby Escobar ’20, Karl Lin ’20, and Lia Yeh ’20. These students began organizing the program as early as this fall while team-wide rehearsals began at the start of spring semester. The individual performances were conceptualized by a group of team leaders who finalized the show’s setlist and led rehearsals. Members of the Leaders Team included Mika Dab ’20, Jeffrey Formen ’19, Monica Galbraith ’20, Abla Laallam ’20, Karul Lin ’20, Nathan Nguyen ’19, Alan Ohikuare ’20, Miko Dai ’20, Jilian Ohikuare ’20, Anton Gallegos ’20 and Lia Yeh ’20. Four lively emcees, Keun Young Ko ’21, Sean Rhee ’21, Jin-Mi Sohn ’18 and Miles Tyner ’18, kept the show moving with detailed introductions of the performances and their cultural significance and helped maintain a vibrant energy among the crowd and performers alike.

Upon entering Wilson Hall, audience members were given a yellow ribbon sticker in honor of the Korean Culture Show’s theme: commemorating the heartbreaking sinking of the Sewol Ferry in South Korea and suicide awareness. Sean Rhee ’21 delivered a speech at the end of the show dedicated to these issues.

“Even though four years have gone by [since the sinking of the Sewol Ferry], the tragic accident continues to pain the people of South Korea,” Rhee said. “Tonight, we continue to honor those 153 students who lost their lives on April 16, 2014. The yellow ribbons [are] to remember the Sewol Ferry disaster and to keep pushing for justice for those students and passengers we lost that day.”

“South Korea is known for its youthful culture and viral K-pop performances like the ones you have seen tonight,” Rhee said. “However, underneath that vibrancy exists a growing concern of depression and suicide. South Korea, unfortunately, has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world, and is even referred to as the ‘Republic of Suicide.’ Tonight, we support those who suffer from society’s immense pressures. Within this society that pushes against us, stigmatizes mental health and expects us to accept these adversities as a part of life, let us push back against these ideas.”

For the show’s final performance, the entire cast gathered onstage to lead the audience in an interactive dance. Audience members exited Wilson still practicing their dance moves and smiling from ear to ear. It is safe to say the second annual Korean Culture Show was a wild success. The audience ate up every bit of the show and erupted in applause at the end of each act. Congratulations to the entire team who put on this passionate and striking performance. Your dedication truly shined through.

“It’s a baby it’s only two years old so hopefully it becomes a tradition,” Rhee said. “I really hope that it continues because it was really exciting for me as a Korean to share that culture on this campus. As hard as it was and as stressful as it was, it was really rewarding at the end of the day.”

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