On Feb. 24, Wellesley’s Korean Students Association (KSA) hosted the Coachella-themed event, Koachella, to spread awareness about Korean culture through showcasing a mix of modern and traditional performances and serving delicious food. Uvin Ko ’23 and Michelle Lee ’23, co-presidents of KSA, explained the importance of this year’s culture show within the Wellesley community and what it means for future shows.
This year’s culture show was inspired by a staple of US pop culture, Coachella, a popular LA summer festival. With the festival inviting more and more Korean performers, especially with BLACKPINK headlining this year’s event, the KSA wanted to bring a celebration of Korean culture and food to Wellesley, with a dash of warm summer vibes.
Both co-presidents noted that, in contrast to previous years, the culture show chairs and the KSA e-Board decided to put a twist on its usual programming and focus on “introducing an equal balance of [the] contemporary and classic aspects of Korean culture” to the audience.
According to a recently published Instagram post, KSA’s mission is to “cultivate and promote an interest in the culture, history, and issues of Korean and Korean-American experiences.” Following that principle and the desire to continuously surprise guests with new acts, KSA wanted to diversify the entertainment selection and invite new performances that the audience may not have seen before.
Ko goes into the topic a little further, noting that “when people think of Korean culture, they think ‘K-Pop,’ which is not necessarily a bad thing,” but the KSA wanted people to be more aware of the traditional elements in Korean culture, rather than simply focusing on mainstream topics.
In previous years, the fan dance was the only traditional act performed during the culture show. That was not the case for this year’s show, where the Boston Traditional Korean Dance Group performed a drum sequence dressed in Hanbok, traditional Korean garments, Oh Junghee sang and played a Korean folk song on the gayageum, a Korean plucking zither, and Harvard Taekwondo spun a modern take on the fighting style.
“I’m very happy that the culture show chairs decided to focus on a wide range of Korean culture rather than just going for the more conventional route,” said Lee. “I’m also excited that the attendees were able to participate in our sharing of Korean culture.”
However, a culmination of factors have led to a decrease in the popularity of campus events, an issue that KSA (and many other campus organizations) have been facing. During the pandemic, many students grew accustomed to attending virtual events. In addition, Lee noted that “it is harder to get the word out about [the KSA’s] campus-wide events, like Koachella, because student associations are no longer able to publicize events on all-school emails.”
The KSA has been trying to counteract falling attendance rates by hosting smaller and more intimate weekly events, like K-Tables. During these meetings, Korean professors join their students for lunch, engaging them in conversations about Korean culture and helping them learn the Korean language outside of class. Despite the hardships of the past few years, the KSA wanted Koachella to be an event to welcome and inspire people.
“I think that is the main reason why so many people attend these sorts of events and that’s why we plan these things,” said Lee. “Even since the culture show, one sophomore has reached out to the KSA about starting a traditional drum group next year and that came out of the drum sequence that was performed at the show. I hope that everyone who attended this year feels inspired to join next year’s culture show as well.”