The 2017 Under(U)-20 World Cup kicked off with excitement on Saturday May 20, 2017 as the host country, Republic of Korea faced Guinea. You could feel the energy starting to build during the opening ceremonies which featured a flying soccer ball drone, traditional Korean dance, and the up and coming K-Pop group NCT dream performing the tournament’s anthem, “Trigger the fever.” The fever was truly palpable when the whistle blew and chants of, “대한민국!” (Dae-han-min-guk, Republic of Korea) erupted from all corners of the sold out Jeonju World Cup Stadium. I attended the game with two fellow ETAs and we were treated with a game full of skill and class by both sides. For much of the first half the game was even, with the two teams going back and forth until Korea’s Lee Seung-woo, Barcelona youth product, ended the deadlock on a deflected shot outside the penalty box. Except for the lone goal, the parity between the two teams continued well into the second half until Korea pulled ahead with two late second half goals (with one being by fellow Barcelona youth product Paik Seung-ho) en route to a 3-0 victory.
Mat Goldberg (ETA 2014-17) and Hannah Shannon (ETA 2014-16 and current JET ALT) are joining forces to design a cross-cultural, leadership English camp for Korean and Japanese students this summer. Amid their busy schedules, they gave FKAR the inside scoop to the upcoming Korea Japan English Camp. Read on to learn about the inspiration, potential challenges, and more for the Camp!
Author’s Note: This article contains links to Youtube clips so that you may listen to the music. I have also added links for to further reading and more detailed information about lyrics and origins of particular songs. This article is also available on my personal website. This article is a continuation of my coverage of the protests in South Korea. Read the previous article, “A Time for Protest”. All photographs were taken by Cara Mooney.
Friday, March 10, 2016, 10:59am — My students sit tensely with anticipation as we watch the television and wait for the the impeachment results from South Korea’s constitutional court. Cheers erupt around the classroom to the unanimous decision to uphold the impeachment of President Park Guen-hye.
This decision came after months of protests that moved millions to expressed their feelings on streets across the country. I have only attended a number of protests in Gwangju and Seoul during the height of the Park Geun-hye scandal and protest fervor. Having witnessed these demonstrations, I was struck not only by the sheer number of participants, but also by the music— this soundtrack to change. Throughout the world, music has driven socio-political movements from stirring rebel Irish passions to igniting anti-Vietnam war sentiments in the USA. These protests would not be the same without the music unifying the people’s feelings and emotions, and rekindling memories of the past when Koreans fought and died to bring about democracy.
These protests have not always been so sanitized and peaceful. Modern South Korean national identity is rooted in the struggle for democracy against an authoritarian military government. The southern city, Gwangju, where I currently live, and the larger North and South Jeolla provinces in particular have a long and bloodstained history. May 18th, 1980, known simply as 5.18, marks the Gwangju Uprising, when hundreds of student activists and civilians protesting the martial law, were brutally tortured and massacred by the government, under dictator Chun Doo-hwan, in order to suppress the democratic movement. This event become a powerful symbol of the power of the people and helped to usher in a distinct genre of lyrical social protest known in Korean as minjung gayo (민중 가요), or “protest song”, an offshoot of Korean folk songs, as a part of the larger minjung or people’s movement (Chang 211) .
Inspired by American folk singers like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, this particular musical movement acquired the name norae undong (노래운동) or “song movement” and brought “political awareness and cultural activism into the domain of Korean popular music”
FKAR is happy to announce the creation of the Regional Alumni Facebook Groups! 7 groups have been created in cities with heavily populated program alumni. These groups are meant for you to easily connect, network, and share relevant information with the Fulbright Korea community in your area.
Below, you can find the group closest to your current residence and become a member. FKAR is planning to create more groups in the future, so hold tight as we work through this “beta phase”.
Traveling is one of the best ways to expand the mind and challenge oneself. For many Fulbright Korea grantees, they take advantage of their location in East Asia to adventure before returning home. This past month we spoke with three alumna who utilized their time after Fulbright to explore the world, and they share their advice for anyone thinking of packing their bags for their next adventure.
Breauna Oldham & Adrienne Winzer (ETA grantees, 2015) Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macau
Adrienne: Bre and I went to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau for three weeks after our first grant year. My favorite location was Taiwan. The sights were good, but it was the food that made the trip. I recommend visiting the night markets, especially Raohe – its where you can find food, souvenirs and other amazing things!
Breauna: Hong Kong is super hot so bring light clothing. There are so many areas to explores, so take advantage of the city bus tour buses. However, with Macau you only really need a day to see everything.”
Tess Zaretsky (ETA grantee, 2015)
Vietnam is a beautiful, lush country filled with friendly smiles and spice-filled food. Da Lat is a small mountainous town in Central Vietnam that provides the most idyllic environment to canyon through waterfalls and hike into the clouds. It is without doubt my favorite place I’ve ever been to. Head south to Saigon and if you’re daring enough, rent a motorcycle and eat street banh mi’s you can get by on 5-10 dollars a day and about 20 bucks per night in a hostel. It’s filled with backpackers so I suggest lightly planning and going with the flow based on the people you meet!
Koh Lanta, Thailand: though it takes a few hours to actually get to this island from the mainland, Koh Lanta is unbelievable and should definitely be the Thai beach that you/anyone chooses. The majority of the population is Muslim, so the food is much different than anywhere else in Thailand. The beaches are crystal clear and you can even stay at a super nice resort for maybe 25-30$ a night.
Protesters gather in front of the former Provincial Office in downtown Gwangju
A Time for Protest Written by Cara Mooney, ETA 2015-17
The world is watching South Korea. I am watching too.
Politics has saturated into my daily life in South Korea. It comes in snippets of news I hear from taxi radios and public televisions. It filters through whispers in the gyomushil (교무실, faculty room). I see it in the impertinent remarks made by students attempting to be funny. It is carried over the beat of samulnori (Korean percussion music) down the street and the angry call to action from truck-mounted loudspeakers…
Since October, 2016, the country has been rocked by a political scandal over President Park Geun-hye’s connection to Choi Soon-sil, a woman without security clearance or any official position, who was found to be secretly giving counsel to the president and had access to presidential and government documents.
Already, it has come to light that Choi Soon-sil was found to have used her clout and influence to extort ₩77.4 billion (around $60 million) from Korean chaebols (large business conglomerates), embezzle money from two of her foundations, in addition to rigging the admissions process at Ewha Womans University so that her daughter would be accepted. There is a palpable sense of betrayal and rage against the government and President Park for colluding with her confidant, Choi Soon-sil.
Placards reading 당장 내려야 (Step down now!) and 박근혜 퇴진 (Park Geun-hye Resign!)
Following this news, protests rapidly sprung up across the country, with the largest protests being organized in Seoul. With approval ratings for the president below 4%, massive demonstrations have continued to grow in size for the sixth straight week in a row. The most recent protests on Saturday, December 3rd proved to be the largest rally in South Korea’s history with organizers estimating over 2 million people on the streets in Seoul alone. Police put that figure around 350,000, a still remarkable number. President Park Geun-hye said on November 30th that she would allow the National Assembly to determine her fateand only hours ago, the vote was passed to
The entire country has waited for this moment and shown it through their resilience, activism, and dedication that has culminated in immense demonstrations. By and large, these protests have remained very peaceful, captivating the international community. However, South Korea has not been known for their peaceful protests. Police and demonstrators have clashed in the past, with police turning powerful water cannons and pepper spray on demonstrators. In April of 2014 following the sinking of MV Sewol Ferry, South Korea’s worst maritime disaster, strings of protests erupted across the country, with many turning violent. In recent protests, many demonstrations have been led by the people who lost family from Sewol. They are calling not just for her resignation, but her arrest.
As a Fulbright Korea ETA, I feel like I am experiencing an incredible time in Korea’s history. I live in Gwangju, the heart of the political left of South Korea. Even before President Park was elected, the North and South Jeolla regions have always pulled left, favoring the Democratic Party, a social-liberal political party, in opposition to Park Geun-hye and the Saenuri Party.
I have seen the impressive protests in Seoul twice now, and although they dwarf the protests in any other city, I feel they lack a spirit that I find when I stand among the crowds in Gwangju. For those unfamiliar with this southern city, it was the place of the infamous and tragic May 18 Democratic Uprising in 1980. Also known as the Gwangju Uprising, it was a mass protest against the then national military government. It was brutally repressed, with the official death toll at 170 (unofficial estimates range as high as 2,000), many of whom were college activists. While the Uprising was unsuccessful in bringing about democratic reform in South Korea, it is often considered a pivotal moment in the country’s struggle for democracy.
May 16th, 1980 – days before the Uprising – university students protested by lighting torches in the fountain of the square in front of the Provincial Office, known as the ‘Torchlight March’ (횃불데행진). In the moving video above, modern protestors emulate this by lighting torches in the same place as years before. [Image from the UNESCO Memory of the World Gwangju 5.18 Archives]
Once again, people fill the square in front of the former provincial office, where the Uprising and subsequent massacre occurred. Standing in the throngs of protestors, there is a pulsing energy; a tangible emotional charge. A strange feeling grips me as I stare across the sea of heads. All of the protests have retained an almost concert or festival-like atmosphere: street vendors dole out food and toys, and entire families–babies in tow–lay out picnic blankets along with their banners and flags. Protest organizers pass out candles, plastic placards, and seat cushions. Everything is a whirl of colors and candles numerous as stars. It is difficult to not get wrapped up in the chorus of “Park Guen-hye out!” or not to feel moved by the impassioned voices of orators and singers.
The main street in Gwangju filled with protesters.
Relatively new to democracy, the Korean people are still struggling to get the government they deserve. Their anger has been pointed towards improving the country, and through peaceful, cohesive demonstrations, they have come so close to realizing their goals. In a year of political controversy, strife, and increasing violence and discrimination, I feel like I have stood witness to something greater than a simple protest. It gives me hope that people everywhere can unify under our own banner for positive change.
On Saturday, July 3rd, over 100 English Teaching Assistants met in Seoul at Yongsan Military Base’s Dragon Hill Lodge to have one, final dinner together as the Class of 2015-16. Of those who attended, 81 Fulbrighters will join the ranks of more than 1,400 Fulbright Korea Alumni currently living in the US and abroad. 38 ETAs have chosen to renew for their second and third years. As alumni of Fulbright Korea, many of us commemorate the gathering as an inherently bittersweet moment of the grant year. A longstanding milestone of the Fulbright experience, Final Dinner is a time of reflection and a time, for many, to say final goodbyes before parting ways.
The 2015-16 ETA Cohort
Executive Director Jai Ok Shim commenced the event with an opening address, where she thanked the assembly of ETAs on the (near) completion of yet another grant year, while also extolling the “exceptional” work of Program Coordinator Amelea Kim and Executive Assistant Ben Harris. After Director Shim concluded her speech, Mark Canning, a Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Seoul, took the stage and gave advice to those who would soon be leaving the Fulbright program, informing them of several opportunities to take advantage of in Korea after the grant year, specifically scholarship programs like the Korean Government Scholarship Program, the Korea Foundation Fellowship, and graduate studies scholarships offered at Yonsei University and Seoul National University. Canning likened the “decisive” experience Fulbrighters gain to the life-changing experience of Kathleen Stevens, the Ambassador to South Korea from 2008-11, when she taught in South Korea as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Robert Little presents his community garden FKAF project
Next was the customary final dinner slideshow, which was organized this year by first-year ETAs Allana Wooley and Robert Little. The video can be viewed here. After that were FKAF project presentations by Allana Wooley, who created a student newspaper, Robert Little, who cultivated a student-led community garden, Katrin Marquez, who made art with her students, and Mave Wall and Alessa Strelecki, who worked with elementary school students with disabilities. ETA performances included Abhik Pramanik and Matt Walters as the K-Pop idols “GD & T.O.P.,” Emily Shoemaker and Hillary Veitch’s “Foreign Teacher’s Daily Life: A Musical Rendition,” and “Beyonce on Fire,” a dance choreographed and performed by Kingsley Leung and Monica Mehta. Finally, as per tradition, David Stewart (2013-16) delivered his emotional Final Address, summarizing the year and offering some perspective for those to come.
Kingsley and Monica’s “Beyonce on Fire”
Looking back, it is easy to see how engaged this year’s Fulbrighters have been in their communities. Not only did they support flagship programs, such as North Korean English Defectors tutoring, Youth Diplomacy Leadership Conference, and FKAF community and research grants, but they also spearheaded entirely new initiatives. Throughout the dinner, ETAs had the chance to appreciate this year’s many distinguishing moments and milestones:
Fulbridge was officially launched. The organization strives to create a way for ETAs serving in different countries to meet up, share lesson plans, and create a more interconnected Fulbright experience.
After the dinner, many ETAs and alumni gathered in Hongdae, where they descended upon an after-party event organized by FKAR. The festivities lasted well into the night, with ETAs and researchers relishing one of their last nights as Fulbright Korea grantees, as well as the countless memories and friendships they forged over the year. On behalf of Fulbright Korea Alumni Relations, we wish those leaving South Korea the best of luck in their future endeavors. As Director Shim put it during Final Dinner: “You can take the ETA out of Korea, but you can’t take Korea out of the ETA.” Though the hackneyed phrase may be a bit worn out, the fundamental meaning it expresses holds true: no matter what we choose to do in the future, the moments we shared in this country will continue to shape us long after.
Another grant year is coming to an end, and we will soon welcome 81 new alumni into our diverse community. This being a time of transition and change, the Newsletter Team has begun to reflect on the significance Fulbright Korea has had in our lives and will have in our future careers. Among the many memorable moments we’ve experienced –living with a homestay family, traveling, forging friendships– serving you all has been our pleasure and something that we take great pride in. Living in Korea, at one point or another, is the string that threads our disparate lives together. We believe this bond remains strong over the years, and can only be further strengthened by our future efforts to reconnect with such an enriching experience. We hope you all continue to connect with Fulbright Korea alumni as time goes by, and we encourage you to contribute to this newsletter in issues to come.
The end of the grant year does not mean it is the end of your involvement with Korea. Whether you are leaving Korea in the next few months or have been back in the states for more than ten years, check out these ways to stay involved with Korean affairs and the larger Fulbright community.
FKAR: Fulbright Korea Alumni Relations
Overall, the best resource for Fulbright Korea alumni is FKAR, which offers numerous opportunities to stay connected with Korea and Fulbright. Through FKAR, you can volunteer to do a webinar for current ETAs (past topics include applying to law school, careers in consulting, and careers in university admissions), read about the accomplishments of current and past grantees, or make donations to support current grantee projects. FKAR also has its own alumni database, where you can search for grantees by name, location, occupation, and industry.
In addition to its virtual presence, FKAR plans social events for Fulbrighters in Korea and facilitates meetups and events for alumni in the United States. If you are interested in arranging a stateside meetup in your area, you can contact the social connectors team within FKAR.
Keep the conversation going! Join the Fulbright Korea alumni Facebook and LinkedIn communities to chat about current events in Korea and the US, ask questions about teaching or job opportunities, and share experiences at home and abroad.
The Fulbright Commission
Outside of FKAR, the Fulbright Commission and Institute of International Education offer additional resources for alumni, including social media pages, membership in the Fulbright Association, and alumni directories. You can see the full list of alumni resources at http://us.fulbrightonline.org/alumni/state-alumni.
Want to share more about your Fulbright experience, or how it has influenced your life in the states? Fulbright Korea’s Infusion literary magazine welcomes submissions from alumni, and so does the Fulbright Student Program blog. As an alumni-oriented organization, FKAR also encourages alumni submissions. If you are interested in being featured as a guest writer or alumni interviewee for the newsletter or the website, please email FKAR.
North Korean Defector programs
During their time in Korea, many Fulbrighters volunteered with North Korean defectors and their families. Though direct contact with defectors is more difficult in the US, nonprofit organizations such as Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) and the North Korea Freedom Coalition offer opportunities for volunteering and fundraising to help defectors. These organizations also release stories about recent defectors and provide information about the challenges that North Koreans face in escaping their homeland and resettling in a new society.
Looking to brush up on those Korean language skills? Websites such as My Language Exchange, WeSpeke and iTalki match language partners around the world. You can conduct conversations over the phone or the Internet. Whether you are fluent or trying to remember a few words of 한국어, language is one of the best ways to connect with Korea.