As the winter break comes to an end, students are busy looking back on what they did during their precious vacation. Most students believe that traveling to a foreign country to experience a broader world is one of the most meaningful ways to spend their vacation. However, there are students who believe that as Koreans we should know what is ours first, before turning our eyes to foreign culture. For example, students from the Korea Culture Expression Group have passed their winter break with a tour to the heart of Korean culture.
The Korean Culture Expression Group, a club established in 2002 by students who were taking a Korean culture class taught by Professor Choi Joon-sik (Korean Studies). The club has grown to encompass students from universities nationwide with over fifty members in the university sector as well as about 30 university alumni.
The theme of the annual winter break field trip was about experiencing Korean life culture. This year, the group traveled to Bonghwa-gun and Yeongju located in North Gyeongsang Province. "We were able to actually taste the songi mushroom bibimbop (mixed rice with assorted vegetable) and mookbop (rice with jellied acorns) which are ingenious to the region. It was a chance to experience true Korean food culture," said Kim Hyoun (Yongin University, 3) who is the current president of the group. After the field trip, club members write a report and prepare a presentation to be delivered in front of the group.
Other than regular field trips to different parts of Korea during vacation, the group holds seminars to learn about Korean culture and goes to see traditional Korean performances in areas ranging from music, art, and even religion. Every summer, an "Independent Journey of Korean Culture" is held. Last summer, a journey was held to introduce Korean culture to foreigners, while this year the journey will be about coming to understand aspects of Korean culture that has been influenced by China.
Because this group was started by Ewha students under the direction of Professor Choi, many Ewha students are currently participating in the group. Jang Ji-ae (History Education, 3) joined the group because in order to teach students Korean history, she felt that she needed to travel and feel Korean culture for herself. Planning field trips as a member of the organizing committee, allowed her to check out the sites in person before going with the group, which in turn helped her to develop a keen sense of taking in and understanding Korean culture.
Son Se-eun ('08, Chinese Literature), who wishes to introduce Korean culture to foreigners visiting Korea, recounts that observing a traditional exorcism was one of her most memorable experiences in the group. "I have always thought exorcisms were rather scary and the shamanism is far detached from our lives. However, after actually witnessing an exorcism, I found out that it was not scary at all." Son believes that it is the lack of opportunity for students to actually experience Korean culture that hinders students from taking interest in Korean culture.
"Knowing the facts from a Korean History textbook is not enough to truly know about Korean culture. Students should take the time to actually go to different places in Korea and feel the Korean culture lively breathing there," said Son. Members of the Korean Culture Expression Group all agree that it is important to understand one's own culture before taking in the cultures of other countries.
The group is planning to recruit new members at the beginning of this semester. Activities to introduce Korean culture to foreigners in and out of Korean is under way, too, "Korean students try to visit foreign countries and experience their culture, but do not actually know the true culture of their own. I believe that only after fully understanding our own culture, can Korean students really understand and take in the cultures of other countries," said Kim.
*Students of the Korean Culture Expression Group enjoy a Korean traditional game of tooho, which is throwing an arrow and making it inside the jar.