As part of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the Montclair State University community recently celebrated its third annual Korean Day, showcasing the rich culture and traditions of Korea.
The title of this year’s theme was “Hallyu,” also known as The Korean Wave (K-Wave for short), and encompassed both contemporary and traditional aspects of Korean culture. Students, faculty and staff gathered on Friday, April 21 in the Student Center Quad for the festivities that included Korean street food tasting, a Tae Kwon Do workshop, a drum performance and workshop by Montclair’s Asian American and Pacific Islander organization, and entertainment stations such as No-rae-bang station, and K-pop song and dance.
This year’s event was distinct from previous years because it catered to the surrounding local communities, with children also invited to participate. The Department of World Languages and Cultures Korean Program, the Korean Culture and Language Student Association and sponsored by the Korean Education Center of New York and AAPI Montclair, collaborated with the aim of promoting inclusivity and diversity on campus.
According to Yun Kim, a Korean Instructor and one of the event coordinators, Korean Day is designed to celebrate Korean culture and encourage students to share and learn more about the Korean language, culture and traditions.
“We believe that people can only gain a genuine understanding of other cultures by experiencing them firsthand. So, we hope that this Korean Day event was able to give people the chance to immerse themselves in the joy of Korean culture and feel more connected to a diverse global community,” Kim says.
One of the highlights of the event was the Korean street food tasting booth, where attendees got to try some of the most popular Korean dishes, such as Tteokbokki (spice rice cake), Eomuk (Korean fish cake), Kimchi Jeon (Korean pancake), and Hobbang (Korean red bean bread). The dishes were prepared by the Korean Culture and Language Student Association, which shared the stories and histories behind each dish from Korean royal court cuisine to popular street foods.
To enjoy the cultural food offerings, participants were required to engage in an activity, such as Tug-of-War, or try on Hanbok, traditional Korean clothing. Once they completed the activity and learned about its significance and history, they received a red ticket which was a copy of Korean money that could be exchanged for food.
The Noarebang and K-pop song karaoke stations gave students an opportunity to showcase their impressive dance moves to popular K-pop songs. The performances drew cheers and applause from the audience, with some joining in on the dancing.
For Edwin Luna, a freshman majoring in Molecular Biology, the event was a learning experience.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for people of various backgrounds to explore and to meet new friends from different cultures. I enjoyed their games, and the costumes that we had to try on and now we’re going to look at the food and explore what options we have to eat,” Luna said.
Haydee Aguilar, a freshman Psychology major, was drawn to the event by her strong interest in Korean culture and being a huge fan of K-pop.
“I was actually very happy that Montclair had this event since I have a lot of interest in K-pop and Korean culture and it’s a great way to gain a bunch of friends. I was actually able to meet a lot of people today who are interested in the same things as me so that was really fun,” Aguilar said.
Lucia Nguyen, a freshman Nursing major, says the event was a learning experience for her, and she came to support some of her friends who were volunteering at the event.
“I’m definitely learning a lot about Korean culture and its different activities, especially in the food and we get to try it so I appreciate it a lot,” Nguyen said. “I think having an event like this makes the campus more diverse for everybody because everybody’s learning about the culture and is getting involved and I think it’s really fun.”
To learn more about the Korean Program, visit the website.
Story by Rosaria Lo Presti. Photos by John J. LaRosa.