The Soundtrack to Change

April 19th, 2017

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”

Utilizing Regional Alumni Facebook Groups

April 19th, 2017

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”.

Program Alumni in Atlanta

Program Alumni in Boston/NYC

Program Alumni in Chicago

Program Alumni in DC

Program Alumni in Houston

Program Alumni in Korea

Program Alumni in San Francisco

Don’t see your city? If you are interested in creating a Regional Alumni Group in your area, please contact FKAR for more information on how to get started!

Researcher Spotlight: Ben Young

April 19th, 2017

Ben Young
Junior Researcher 2016-’17

Can you provide a small bio that outlines your hometown, education background, and a fun fact?
I was born and raised in Rochester, New York. I went to a public high school and then attended The College at Brockport, State University of New York, which is a small state school located 20 miles outside of Rochester. I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SUNY Brockport and I’m now pursuing my PhD at George Washington University in DC. I’m very proud to be from Western New York (which is not New York City!) and I’m still quite close with my high school buddies. One fun fact about myself (more like a weird fact about myself) is that I memorized the nicknames of all Division 1 colleges when I was a kid and, for some odd reason, I still remember them. I could have learned something useful, like Chinese, but instead I memorized nicknames of college sports teams.

Can you provide a brief overview of your research/dissertation?
My dissertation looks at North Korea’s relations with the Global South during the Cold War era. Many people don’t realize that up until about the mid-1970s, North Korea was ahead of South Korea in most indicators of economic output. This had a massive effect on the foreign policies of the two Koreas. During the 1960s and 1970s, there were many newly independent, postcolonial countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, which is what I refer to as the Global South. These countries had to choose whether to diplomatically recognize North or South Korea. The choice was not as obvious back then as it might be today. So, for my dissertation, I trace the history of North Korea’s links to Latin America, Africa, and southern Asia. During the Cold War era, North Korea often gave financial and military assistance to many postcolonial countries. The isolated and rogue North Korea, that we know today, is a relatively new phenomenon. I think it is important to historicize North Korea in order to better understand their worldview and policies. Since its inception, North Korea has been a revolutionary country that sees itself as under siege from an aggressive and morally corrupt world. During the Cold War era, this worldview resulted in a proactive foreign policy. Now, North Korea’s foreign policy is reactive.

What inspired you to choose this research? What got you interested in North Korea?
I was very interested in Russian history when I was an undergrad at SUNY Brockport. I took all of the Russian history courses I could at the time. However, I really wanted to study a country that was still communist so I read every book I could on North Korea. I became obsessed with the place. My first trip abroad was actually to North Korea in 2012. Most recent college graduates to Cancun or Paris. I went to Pyongyang. So, that trip just propelled me further into North Korean studies. I still have good friends from that trip to Pyongyang. It was full of interesting characters. As for this specific research topic, I found that most contemporary analyses of North Korea lack historical depth. I think history is very important for understanding such an opaque country. With historical analysis, you can establish patterns in North Korean actions and make their seemingly unpredictability more predictable. Also, the history of North Korea’s foreign policy, specifically its relations with the Global South, is severely under-researched but critically important. Just look at the recent killing of Kim Jong Nam. Where did it happen? It wasn’t in North Korea or China. It was in Malaysia. That did not surprise me. For a long time, North Korea has conducted nefarious activities in Southeast Asia. It’s been a space where the North Korean leadership feels quite comfortable conducting violence against it political rivals.

What do you hope to do with this research? What are some of your future goals?
I hope to turn my dissertation into a book and eventually become a tenured professor at a college/university or work in a Korea-related capacity with the U.S government or a think tank.

What is your experience with Korea? Have you lived in Korea before?
I visited North Korea in 2012, which propelled me into the field of Korean studies. A year later, I taught English at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul and then studied the Korean language at a tiny Buddhist school in the South Korean countryside. This is officially my third time living in South Korea and fourth time on the peninsula. I’ve also lived briefly in the ethnic Korean region of northeastern China.

What are your thoughts on the current and future relationship between the Trump administration and North Korea?
Well, it’s frankly worrying. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently said that a pre-emptive military strike on North Korea is not out of the question. That would trigger a full-out war and millions in both Koreas would die. I think this administration needs to do more than nothing, which is what Obama did. However, it needs to be well thought out and balanced. The North Koreans are master tacticians and may be able to manipulate the next ROK president (who will probably be a leftist) and the inexperienced Trump administration.

If you had to sum up one fact for people to learn about North Korea, what would it be?
That’s a difficult question to answer, as there is a lot of misinformation out there on North Korea. It’s important to remember that North Koreans are not automatons but people with their own emotions, beliefs, and fears. They will be the agents of change in that country.

What do you do in your spare time in Korea?
I’ve recently become interested in South Korean cinema and watch 1-2 movies per week. In the future, I’d love to teach a course on South Korean cinema. My favorite South Korean movies are The Wailing and Memories of Murder. South Korean cinema is very similar to Russian literature. That might be why I like it so much. If people abroad really want to understand Korean culture, watch South Korean movies.

Do you have any advice for those interested in conducting research in Korea?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Whether it’s a librarian or an establish professor in your area of study, don’t be afraid to shoot them an email or ask them in person. South Koreans will go out of their way to help you once you make the first move. It can be quite nerve-wracking to do so but it’s worth it in the end.

Do you have any tips on learning Korean?
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. As someone who had to take weekly speech lessons as a kid, language, let alone a foreign language as difficult as Korean, has never come easy to me. When I initially started studying Korean, I really struggled. However, I kept with it and have improved a lot since I first started. What really helped was a summer studying Korean at Middlebury Language School. Middlebury requires that you speak only in Korean. That really improved my Korean and made me feel more comfortable making mistakes in the language. If you are afraid of making mistakes in Korean, you will never approve. The best people to practice Korean with are taxi cab drivers in Seoul. Most do not know any English and do not slow down their speech for you.

What’s your favorite part about living in Korea?
South Korea is a really safe country. That might seem absurd to some Americans considering the fact that the neighbor up north can cause quite the ruckus from time to time. However, on a local level, this is a safe country and I’ve heard many stories of foreigners accidentally leaving stuff in the Seoul subway and having it be promptly returned to them. In America, that stuff is gone and most likely re-sold on Ebay within a day. Also, South Koreans are active participants in their democracy. They don’t take it for granted. I think many Americans take democracy for granted and forget that democracy is not the norm in much of the world. I will have to say though that I find the excessive consumption and emphasis on beauty in South Korea to be repulsive at times. This almost singular focus on wealth and image creates a rather toxic and stifling atmosphere. I don’t think young South Koreans are very happy and many want to leave South Korea and live abroad. There is too much pressure on young South Koreans to conform to unrealistic standards that South Korean society has placed on them.

Is there anything else you would like to say?
I want to thank my family for being so supportive of my Korea-related endeavors. I don’t come from a family of academics but my entire family has been so kind, loving, and supportive of my academic pursuits. I really appreciate that because getting a PhD is not an easy or quick path to take.


Ben Young is a Fulbright Junior Researcher in Seoul (2016-2017), and a PhD candidate in East Asian history at George Washington University.

Alumni Spotlight: Where Are They Now?

April 18th, 2017

The FKAR team had the privilege of interviewing Julia Bach (ETA ’06-’07), who generously offered to share her insights on the Fulbright experience and its impact on the work she does today.

Julia Bach, ETA 2006


What is your occupation/future occupation?
Since graduating college, I have been involved in the field of education-very much with a global focus. Since completing my year in Korea, I have taught in the US, gotten my masters in International Education Policy, worked with teachers in India and taught in Malawi. I am in the process of applying for further studies and know that living and working abroad will continue to be an important part of my life. 

What is your biggest piece of advice for a current ETA?
Accept invitations that people extend to you. Spending time with your co-teacher, host family and other colleagues is a wonderful opportunity to see and do things you would not have the chance to do otherwise. 

How did your experience as an ETA impact your life’s work?
In the last 10 years, I have spent more time living and working outside of the US than within it. I think my year in Korea solidified my passion for exploring the world. I was always interested in education, but my experience as an ETA, working within a school with a number of talented colleagues, taught me that there are so many different approaches to education and teacher learning. 

What was the biggest challenge you faced as an ETA?
It has been a while, but I remember two types of challenges. One was related to work: I was a novice teacher and desperately trying to maintain the attention and engagement of 35 six year olds. I had some wonderful suggestions and valuable input from the classroom teachers which helped enormously. It was also challenging to constantly play catch-up with conversations and situations. Because of my students, I did learn quite a bit of Korean, but fast paced adult conversations made my head spin.

What is your favorite memory from Korea?
I had such fun with my colleagues. I remember chaperoning field trips and having my numbers read, enjoying dinners after work and making kimchi with colleagues. They graciously included me in the life of the school which made the experience very special. I also lived with a host family where the little girl was learning to read. I would strategically sit next to her mom when it was story time so I could also practice my reading.

What is your favorite quote?
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ~ Nelson Mandela

Beyond Fulbright: Harvard HGSE Alumnae Earn Prestigious Award

July 12th, 2016

It’s neither a surprise nor a secret that members of the Fulbright community go on to do impressive things. Fulbright Korea ETA alumnae Elaine Townsend (2012-2014), a recent Master’s degree recipient from Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), earned a prestigious award in her fields of study. As detailed on the school’s website, the HGSE Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award “recognizes 13 students (one from each Ed.M. program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced the academic life of the community and positively impacted their fellow students. The honorees were nominated by fellow master’s students based on who inspired them, impressed them, and contributed to their own learning throughout the year.

Elaine Townsend (ETA 2012-14) with students

Elaine Townsend (ETA 2012-14) with students

Townsend , who was previously featured on our website, completed her Master’s degree in education from HGSE’s Technology, Innovation, and Education program. After marrying her boyfriend of five years, Townsend will return to her alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There, she will lead curriculum development for the school’s Scholars’ Latino Initiative (SLI) program. The program provides mentorship for Latino high school students.

During her time in Korea, Townsend taught at the Attached Elementary School of Kyungpook National University in Daegu. She utilized technology in the classroom for both managerial aspects and in-class activities, such as student-directed music videos.

Using technology in my classroom opened doors for me to study the intersectionality of technology and education at Harvard,” Townsend said. “Here, my peers and I challenged ourselves to solve large problems within our education system by further examining the digital landscape of our current society.

Townsend’s innovation in the classroom while in Korea clearly primed her for continued success at graduate school. Townsend was also grateful to her students, host family, peers, and co-teachers for the inspiration and encouragement to pursue her field of study. The teaching experience and personal connections that Townsend established during her two years in Korea have left their mark on her. In the same way, Townsend has left her own mark on the Harvard community.

Kimchi and All of Its Friends

July 12th, 2016

Margaret Cleveland (ETA 2015-16), who teaches at an elementary school in Yeongcheon, making kimchi at a community event.

Jenna Smith, Gwangju- It’s 12:25pm on Wednesday, and I can hear my stomach growling. It’s almost time to eat! I have made it a tradition to ask each class I teach directly before lunch, “What’s on the menu today, folks?”

This question is typically met with a variety of shouts. “Bulgogi.” “Pizza toast.” “Bananas” “Rice.” “Bibimbap.” “I don’t knowwww!” And without a doubt the majority of my students (especially those who have no clue what comestibles are slated for today) will shout, “KIMCHIIIIII!!!!!!!.”

It never fails. Rain or shine. Winter or summer. Friday or Monday. There will be kimchi. Sometimes more than one type of kimchi is served. When I was a fresh transplant at Jangdeok Middle School, I didn’t know this about kimchi. I thought there was only one kind, the red kind. Until one period before lunch, the class captain, Chan In, plucked the scales of ignorance from mine unknowing eyes and revealed to me that today there would be kimchi, but not the red kind.  Gasp. Today we would be feasting on one of kimchi’s peers, the water kind.  

“Jenna Teacher,” Chan In said with a reverential tone one would use when revealing knowledge of utmost importance, “kimchi has really many friends.”

So the red kimchi, formally known as “whole cabbage kimchi” does not stand alone. Instead, its popularity simply reigns supreme over its hundreds of colleagues. Yes, hundreds. More than 100 known varieties of Korea’s national food exist, including water kimchi and radish kimchi.

A legend is born…

According to the Journal of Ethnic Foods, the first written record of kimchi can be dated back to 500 BC. Korea is known for its cold winters and little fertile area, therefore kimchi was first created to extend the life of vegetables. Normally, vegetables would spoil rather quickly, but if you add a mixture of special ingredients, the growth of putrefactive bacteria slows, while the lactic acid bacteria, which changes into a form humans can eat, grows- YUM.

Illustration of Kimchi on Coffee Sleeve by Monica Heilman (ETA 2014-16)

Illustration of Kimchi on Coffee Sleeve by Monica Heilman (ETA 2014-16)

The first kimchies looked much different than what we see today, as they were mostly different types of radish dipped into a salty paste. It was not until the Chosun Dynasty that the infamous red cabbage kimchi, which we know and love today, was presented to the Korean diet.  According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs in Korea, at this time Chinese cabbages were introduced as the main ingredient for making kimchi. Around the same time, hot red peppers were imported from Japan, but it took roughly 200 years until they were actively used as a staple ingredient in the kimchi-making process.

So just how much does Korea love Kimchi?

Well, for starters, Koreans like kimchi so much they figured out how to send it into space. And space kimchi is born (a new friend to add to the list)! Wherever Koreans go, kimchi must also go.

According to the New York Times, the Korean astronaut Ko San believes that space kimchi will not only help him combat homesickness, but it will also allow him to facilitate cultural exchange thousands of miles from earth. Space kimchi also has 1/3 the smell of normal kimchi in the hopes that other astronauts will feel comfortable trying it.

The homesick astronaut reaching for kimchi to comfort himself reminds Jenna of her host father, Yu Hoon.

Jenna explains, “He told me a story about kimchi my first night at his apartment. Yu Hoon lived for 12 years in America working on his PhD. He recalled a time when he was living in Florida without his wife. He was so homesick, he tried to make kimchi. He chuckled as he told me how miserable his kimchi tasted, but he ate it all anyway. Why? ‘Because bad kimchi is better than no kimchi.’”’

For Ji Yoon Noh, kimchi is a very matriarchal food. When she thinks about kimchi, her mind conjures up images of the faces of important women in her life: her mom, her grandmother, her aunts, and the women at her church.

Ji reminisces, “Kimchi is such a staple in Korean cuisine; meals would not be the same without it, yet only about half the population knows how to make it.” Her memories and thoughts of kimchi represent a distinctly female power vehicle. She chuckles as she thinks to herself, “Korean women could control men by withholding the most prized possession in the Korean culture: kimchi.”

So how do current ETA’s feel about kimchi?

Our current class of ETA’s has a range of feelings about the taste of kimchi. Victoria Su discusses the nuances of kimchi’s flavor, writing, “Some kimchi is really good, and some of it is really bad. My host family makes theirs once a year. Host mom said this year’s batch was not so good, but we have to eat it anyway, because we have an entire fridge full of it.”

Monica Mehta honestly reflects on her complex relationship with kimchi, writing, “I finally admitted to myself that I don’t like kimchi. Kimchi bokkeumbap is heaven, but kimchi itself just doesn’t do it for me.”

Grilled or cooked kimchi in a variety of forms seems to be a favorite amongst most ETA’s, but not all.

Abigail Bard admits, “If I don’t eat kimchi every day, I get sad.”

Maggie Johnston concurs, “I love kimchi and will miss it terribly when I go back to the States.”

One thing ETAs can agree on: kimchi is synonymous with community.  Whether you are on the fence about the spiciness, prefer it cooked, favor your host mom’s kimchi to your school cafeteria’s kimchi, or love it just the way it is, kimchi brings people together.

Jenna Smith reflects, “Raw kimchi is too spicy for me (though I love it on the grill), but I will never forget when I got home around 10pm on a Friday night and my host father was spreading newspaper all over the living room floor. He beckoned me over, ‘Let’s make some kimchi, Jenna!’ My host mother supervised from the couch and we got to work. Our batch turned out ‘so, so,’ according to my host mother but I feel particularly inclined to eat it, knowing the effort that we put into that batch.”

Rachel Brooks concurs, “Making kimchi with people is such a great bonding experience.”

Esther Kim had the opportunity to make kimchi from the cabbages her school staff had grown in their own school garden. She reflects, “To grow, make, and eat food together as a community is really beautiful and also celebrates the countless generations of Korean people who’ve taken part in this cultural tradition surrounding kimchi.” kimchi1

What Jenna finds so interesting about kimchi is how ubiquitous it is in Korea especially at mealtime and in the kitchen, given the presence of a fridge devoted solely to it. Jenna waxes rhapsodic, “Meals don’t seem complete without it and I am hard-pressed to think of any food I have a similar relationship to. Though I love my Dad’s cheeseburgers, it’s not the same. I noticed that everyone I spoke to about kimchi: my students, co-teachers, host siblings and parents, ETAs, and even those who are impartial to the taste used a reverential tone when sharing their thoughts.”

Esther Kim notes, “Regardless of how other people may view kimchi (and by extension, Korean Americanness), I think I’ve come to be proud of and celebrate my Korean Americanness – for myself, my family, and not for the acceptance/approval/comfort of others.”

Kimchi is so much more than a food. Its pungent flavor represents an even richer culture and people. Kimchi’s smell does not go unnoticed much like the strength, integrity, and work ethic of the Korean people.  Kimchi, not only has other vegetable friends, but it also counts millions of people as its loyal comrades worldwide and even in space.

Current ETAs: Our Favorite Foods

July 12th, 2016
2015-16 ETAs' favorite Korean dishes

2015-16 ETAs’ favorite Korean dishes

Spring 2016 Newsletter

April 17th, 2016

Fulbright Korea Alumni Relations Newsletter, Volume 2 Issue 3

Spring 2016

In This Issue

Upcoming Events

  • Running 4 Resettlement: R4R is a fundraising initiative started 2 years ago by former ETA Eric Horvath. By pledging to run in the Kim Dae-Jung Peace Marathon while raising money for NKHR’s Rescue Fund, runners help ensure that refugees can safely leave China without either being sold into human trafficking or expatriated back to the DPRK. The journey is long and can’t be done without your help. Commit to fundraising by filling out this form by April 30th. Then register to run here. Instructions to set up an individual fundraising page can be found here.
    **While not officially affiliated with Fulbright Korea, R4R was inspired due to personal experiences facilitated by the NKD program**
  • 3rd Annual Black History Month Festival: Due to recent setbacks, this year’s Black History Month Festival will be held in Seoul on June 4th, 2016. Diving into the theme “I am more than my skin,” the festival will explore music, talent, and practices rooted in Black culture through various workshops and performances.

Spring 2016 Stateside Gatherings

Fulbright Korea alumni across the country are getting together this spring to catch up with old friends, make new connections, and find out what’s new with the program. Meet-ups have already happened in San Diego, Denver, and Boston, with more in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Seattle to come! If you live in the area or are passing through, please join your fellow alumni for a fun night of Fulbright Korea memories. For more information, contact us.

Forum Schedule

  • Lost Baggage II: A Documentary, Changhee Chun
  • How Civic Education Impacts Adjustments of North Korean Youth Defectors, Joyce Kim
    May 13th, 2016
  • On-line Multilingualism and the Korean Language, Ana Smith
    June 3rd, 2016
  • The Impacts of Westernization on South Korean Elderly Suicides and Aging, Nhu Ngoc Pham
    July 1st, 2016

**Note that dates and presentations are subject to change.
All Junior Researcher forums are held on the 6th floor of the Fulbright Building in Seoul.
For a full list of the Fulbright Forum Series, click here.

March Featured ETA: Arria Washington

March 1st, 2016

Arria_headshot_cropMarch in Korea heralds the coming of spring, with winter temperatures slowly melting away and flowers blooming throughout the peninsula. For Fulbright ETA’s, it also means the beginning of a new school year – which often proves to be a whole new teaching experience! To kick the new semester off to a great start, FKAR is delighted to feature second-year ETA Arria Washington.

If you’ve heard her name before, it’s probably because Arria is heavily involved with several of Fulbright’s most prominent initiatives in addition to being a rockstar teacher! She is a Managing Editor for the Fulbright Infusion magazine and has been a key contributor to the success of events such as the Black History Month Festival in Daegu.

Read on to learn more about her experience as an ETA!

FKAR: Arria, tell us a little bit about who you are and where you come from!

I grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It’s a small eastern city known for its defunct steel mill or its universities, if it’s known at all. I love the mid-Atlantic region, and everything from New York to Virginia feels like home. After graduating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in English Literature, I spent a couple years in Pittsburgh doing technical writing and a few other jobs. I didn’t mind it, but there weren’t enough kids involved. After while, I started babysitting just for the fun of it.

Featured Alumni: Chelle Jones

February 13th, 2016


Chelle Jones entered her Fulbright grant with a curiosity for learning – learning the Korean language, Korean history, and about human rights movements in the Korean peninsula. As an undergraduate in history at the University of Chicago, Jones became interested in the Gwangju Uprising of 1980. Embracing her placement in Gwangju as an ETA, her motivation to pursue graduate studies on Korea intensified.

Jones remained in Korea and went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Korean Studies from Seoul National University. The opportunity to continue to study the Korean language and participate as an observer in contemporary social movements  allowed Jones access to additional relevant background knowledge. As she became more confident in the language, she dug deeper into other civil rights movements throughout Korea, learning from the adoptee, unwed mother, and queer communities.