This essay was written by Hae Joo Kim, a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Her essay earned second prize in the Research Center for Korean Community's Essay Contest on Korea and Korean Culture. Kim's essay, titled "Hanryu: A Means of Participating in Koreanness," discusses the rise in popularity and visibilty of Korean popular culture. In discussing hanryu (the Korean wave, which refers to the global popularity of Korean culture), Kim examines the Korean spirit of participation, unity, and collectivity via the concepts of jeong (the invisible bond that exists among Koreans) and uri (the Korean word for "our" or "us"). She gives concrete examples of jeong and uri in pungmulnori (a genre of percussion music that flourished as a form of ritual and entertainment in the village-based agrarian society of Korea before modernization) and in contemporary Korean pop music a.k.a. K-pop. Below is a short excerpt from her essay:

"Negotiating the Western value of individualism with the importance placed on collectivity in Korean culture has been a rich (and lifelong) process. That is not to suggest, of course, that lines between the two are solid or exclusive; obviously, independent identity and mobilizing as a group are an important part of both societies. But the aspect of Korean culture that has been the most meaningful and special to me, from my perspective as a citizen of both cultures, is the importance of interpersonal relationships and the value of community, expressed in terms such as jeong (attachment, affection) and uri (“us” or “our”). The bond that a person establishes with another is an important foundation on which community is built; it is a positive base for accountability and understanding. Indeed, no matter how brilliant or successful an individual might be, the need to belong still remains one of her/his most basic human needs, as psychologists and sociologists have shown. It is this dimension of Korean culture—the notion of community—that has spoken to me as a second-generation Korean American."

Published in Qualitative Data

This essay was written by Tamar Herman, a senior East Asian Studies major at Queens College, Macaulay Honors College. Her essay earned third prize in the Research Center for Korean Community's Essay Contest on Korea and Korean Culture. In this essay, titled "More Than a Wave," Tamar Herman recounts her initial interest in Korea and Korean culture via Hanryu (which translates to "Korean wave," referring to the increasing global popularity of Korean culture, including K-pop, K-dramas, Korean cuisine, Korean electronics, etc.). Using the extended metaphor of water droplets amassing size and momentum until it culminates in a deluge, Tamar Herman's narrative describes one woman's path to another culture. Below is an excerpt from her essay:

"When applied to cultural phenomena, the word “wave” usually implies a large impact that will eventually die down. The Korean Wave, hanryu, was deemed by media to be such an occurrence, and it may very well die out in a few years. But for me, hanryu was never a wave. It was a trickle that began with a song, which led to a singer, which led to a drama, which led to researching, which led to an interest in Korea that eventually led to me learning Korean, and declaring an East Asian Studies major. The initial drop, or interest, that I had in hanryu has led me down a path towards a much larger entity than just a simple wave that crashes and dissipates back into the ocean. Instead, I now have a new and ever-changing understanding of Korea, its history, culture, politics, and society." 

Published in Qualitative Data

 

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