Taylor University has found a new heartbeat in the form of the Korean Culture Club. Led by Professors of Korean Language Kang Hyehweon and Oh Jiyeon, the club has rapidly become a focal point for students seeking to explore and immerse themselves in Korean traditions.
Kang and Oh have been instrumental in fostering an inclusive environment within the club.
"It is a very open opportunity,” Oh said. “Students can join any topic they are interested in, whether it's food, crafts or history. Everyone is welcome."
The club has seamlessly connected students with the diverse facets of Korean culture. From cooking classes to explorations of Korean history and language, every session serves as a gateway for students to dive into the rich tapestry of Korean heritage.
"Anytime, any student can come, anyone is welcome to enjoy the food, history, cultural games, crafts and treats,” Kang said. “We really enjoy it and look forward to every Tuesday.”
Senior Jeong Yena is an exchange student from Handong University in South Korea.
Her involvement with the Korean Culture Club stemmed from her connections with Oh and Kang from their time at Handong, where all three studied at.
"I'm an exchange student, and the professors are the university's graduate students, so I know them before Taylor and they also teach at the Sejong Institute," Jeong said.
The King Sejong Institute is a foundation established by the South Korean government that encourages Korean language learning around the world, with a chapter in Indianapolis. Jeong’s volunteer work at the Sejong Institute paved the way for her involvement in the club.
Jeong said she enjoyed the bibimbap cooking event, which showcased her dedication and passion for sharing Korean cuisine. She expressed pride in contributing to the event and enjoying Korean food.
"I helped them with some ingredients,” she said. “I think it's the most significant event they had this semester."
One of the club's defining features is its ability to build relationships across cultural boundaries.
"We've met students like Anna, who are passionately interested in Korean culture, music and dramas,” Oh said. “Her consistent presence and enthusiasm have been inspiring. Every week, we're thrilled to meet new faces and extend a warm welcome."
Kang echoed this sentiment, expressing gratitude for the diverse community the club has cultivated. She said one of the students, Zoey, is planning to take a Korean course next semester because of the club.
The instructors, both graduates in Korean studies, bring a wealth of knowledge and passion to each session. From Oh’s background in Korean law and education to Kang’s expertise in visual communication design, they offer multifaceted insights that enrich the club's experiences.
"Through this club and other Taylor experiences, we learn how to live in this global generation.”
Kang said. “I think it's really important these days to communicate with other people who have different cultural backgrounds.”
As the club continues to flourish, Kang and Oh aspire to expand its reach and encourage more students to explore the Korean language and culture. Oh said she wanted to introduce the Korean characters to every Taylor student.
Their dedication extends beyond the club meetings, with both instructors teaching various levels of Korean language courses at Taylor University.
"Korean language classes range from four times a week for beginners to three times a week for higher levels," Kang said.
Kang and Oh have not just taught about Korean culture but have woven a tapestry of inclusivity and cross-cultural understanding within Taylor University's campus.