The University of Alberta 2017 Korean Speech & K-POP Contest

안녕하세요?

Hello. Or literally translated “Are you well?”

It’s a phrase I said over and over again on November 3, 2017 as the Korean MC for the 2017 University of Alberta Department of East Asian Studies K-POP Singing & Dancing Contest.

Luckily, they let me MC the Korean Speech Contest in English.

Let me backtrack. Enrollment in Korean Language Studies classes has reached 700+ with over 80 students on the waitlist. The same students are also clamoring to take Korean Culture studies classes as well. With 1 Advanced Korean class (KOREA 401/402), 2 Intermediate classes (KOREA 301/302), 3 Beginner classes (KOREA 201/202), and a whopping NINE Novice classes (KOREA 101/102) – it’s safe to announce that University of Alberta has the largest Korean Language Studies program in Canada.

One of the driving factors for this is the international popularity of Korean pop culture, especially dramas and music. This year’s K-POP Contest featured 8 singers, 7 dance teams made from Korean Language class students, and 9 dance teams made from the ‘public’. Many students in the Korean Speech Contest also spoke about how Gangnam Style or DBSK were how they first became interested in South Korea.

But one of the other huge factors in the success of the Korean Language program at U of A is the immense support from the Korean community. All prizes for the contest were provided by the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Vancouver. A delegation from the Consulate, including the Consul General himself, always make their way to frost-bitten Edmonton to show their support and say welcoming words. The Edmonton Korean Canadian Association, Edmonton Ice Flower Literary Club, Edmonton Korean Seniors’ Society, and many other organizations send a representative to Department of East Asian Studies events to judge the contests, give a welcoming speech, or support us with their presence. Furthermore, the partnership between these associations and the students within the Korean Language program is incredibly strong.

Myself and many of these students visit the Edmonton Korean Community Center in Downtown Edmonton several times a year. We have volunteered as mentors for recently immigrated Korean youths, studied Advanced Korean reading, and participated in the Korean Culture College. My favourite memories there include “kimjang” which is making kimchi (usually with your family, neighborhood, or entire village sometimes); receiving the Female Leader of Next Generation Scholarship from the Edmonton Korean Canadian Women’s Association; and doing a presentation with my mentee on his Korean and Canadian identity.

The concept of “community” is so integral in South Korean culture. The Korean Speech Contest and K-POP Singing & Dancing contest was a clear example of this. We filled a lecture hall with the capacity of 500 people plus the top of the lecture hall was filled with standing spectators who couldn’t find a seat. All out of love & support for each other and for Korean culture. With this amount of support, I only foresee further growth & prosperity for the Korean Studies program at the University of Alberta.

Congratulations are in order for the winners of the contests, as the competition was extremely fierce this year.

Since I graduated in April and entered the workforce, I haven’t had a chance to come back to campus until November 3rd. But I’m really glad I managed to get the day off and support all of my hoobaes (underclassman) as well as my alma mater. The experience only solidified my resolve to continue my studies on Korean culture & language. And it got me excited again to continue my path of becoming a professor just like the ones who not only taught us so much about South Korea, but also created a wonderful space for us to express what we’ve learned and love.

If you’re interested in seeing the day’s events in my perspective, I uploaded a vlog about the contests to my YouTube channel!


This article originally appeared on ahlekseu

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