COLUMBIA - MU senior Jake Hong manned the grill with some friends at a kickoff picnic Sunday in the South Quad. The picnic was part of the fourth annual Korea Week, which runs through Thursday.
“Today we’re making burgers, but usually it’s kimchi burgers,” said Hong, referring to the popular Korean food typically made with cabbage.
Hong, a native of Champaign, Ill., moved to South Korea with his family when he was seven years old, returning to the U.S. his senior year of high school. He is one of many students on campus who has found a niche through the Korean Students Association.
Red, black and blue balloons, signifying the colors of South Korea’s flag, swayed in the wind behind him as he reminisced about his experiences.
“When I first got here, I wasn’t sure who to hang out with, and KSA helped me meet a lot of people just like me,” Hong said. “We’re all in the process of learning the American culture, and we can tell those younger than us what we’ve been through.”
About 200 people attended Korea Week festivities Sunday. The eighth annual Truman Conference, which is being held today, is Korea Week’s headlining event.
“We have a group of six Korean delegates from South Korea that are coming as part of the Truman Conference,” said Sang Kim, director of the MU Asian Affairs Center. “We wanted to give them some time to see the MU community and notice how Korean students and scholars are playing a role in the organization of the campus.”
Established in 1989, the conference is held every two years and alternates between Seoul and the MU campus. It is named after former president and Missouri native Harry S. Truman, who enabled Korean students to receive free tuition in the aftermath of the Korean War.
The conference will welcome numerous speakers and presenters, including Congressman Heung-Kil Ko, president of the MU Korean Alumni Association, which is the largest international alumni group outside the United States. It comprises about 1,000 MU graduates residing in South Korea.
Sunday’s program included speakers Chancellor Brady Deaton, Mayor Darwin Hindman and KSA president Hyun-Jeong Kim.
“This event really brings alumni and current students together,” KSA president Kim said. “It shows how the spirit of the tiger always remains within us.”
The ceremony also included a presentation of a check for more than $2,000 from the Rev. Chang-Yeol Lee of the Columbia Korean Baptist Church to Phyllis Chase, superintendent of Columbia Public Schools, to benefit the English Language Learners program. Other events throughout the week include a Korean movie night, a children’s talent show and a panel discussion about possible unification prospects for North and South Korea.
The conference will be held at the Reynolds Alumni Center and is free and open to the public.
For more information, go to asia.missouri.edu.