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Students arrange K-Pop event as final exam

UCPH students from Korean Studies are arranging a big public event to convey modern South Korean Hallyu culture as their final course exam. University Post talked to the student coordinator about combining academia, practice and dancing to K-pop music

Dancing to K-pop, analyzing TV-series and indulging in Hallyu culture at Nationalmuseet outside of its normal opening hours. This is just a typical day of exam studying for students from the Korean Modern Culture course from UCPH. University Post dropped in to take a look. See our photo story here.

The final exam for the students from the Korean Modern Culture course at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies is taking place at Nationalmuseet (Danish national museum) next Sunday, June 24. For the exam, the students must prepare a public event in collaboration with the museum curator, to convey modern South Korean pop culture, named ‘Hallyu’. University Post talked to the project’s student coordinator Julie about mixing academia, practice and having an exam at Nationalmuseet.

»To have this project as an exam was our course coordinator, Martin’s (Petersen, ed.) idea. We all thought it was interesting – and so, here we are,« Julie tells University Post, »but I am very nervous about how this final exam will go.«

Hallyu in Denmark

»As a student, you must show a deep theoretical knowledge to get a good grade, but as a culture conveyer you must explain academia on a simple level to people who are not familiar with the theories. This balance is tough,« Julie admits.

For the event on Sunday, the students will show modern South Korean Hallyu culture from several sides including history, dancing, music, internet, gaming and food. They are also responsible for the publicity of the event. Julie reveals that the strategy is about balancing similarities and differences.

»We have been a bit late with publicity, but getting interest for this project has not been too difficult. Hallyu is not completely unknown in Denmark. It has for instance been covered in the major Danish newspaper ‘Politiken’ last April, and we have discovered a nationwide fan base of around 1,200 people,« says Julie.

Poetic K-pop

Julie is the coordinator of the project, and is giving University Post a tour of the big preparation day at the museum. As some students are behind computers, others are in deep discussion. A common thing however seems to be blue-dyed hair.

»I think I probably started that trend,« Julie says with a smile. »For me, it started with the Hallyu boyband ‘Big Bang’ where one of the singers has blue hair.«

Julie, however, is quick to reassure me that blue hair is not part of Hallyu culture. According to her, it is much more important to notice the poetic lyrics in K-pop (Korean pop, ed.) for example.

Translating culture

»When my friend first showed me Korean TV drama series, I was hooked,» Julie admits. »You just don’t find that much romance in Western culture. I am a hopeless romantic.«

According to Julie, everyone can find love and interest in Hallyu culture. It’s all about balancing the similarities and the differences between the two cultures.

»One example of this is food. Both Danish and Korean traditional dishes are based on pork. However, the taste is different. When our guests on Sunday get to taste Korean food, we will focus on the similarity of the ingredients,« Julie explains. »In this way, we will translate the Korean culture to our Danish audience.«

Pretty boys and tomboys

But not everything is as easy to translate to a Danish audience, Julie reveals.

»One of the most difficult things to explain about Korean culture is the different relation to gender roles and beauty ideals compared to Western culture.«

»This can be seen in the close relationship between members of K-pop boy and girl bands. The band members are not afraid to caress each other and this has been termed ‘skinship’ as an abbreviation of skin and kinship,« Julie explains. »Another thing is the different beauty ideals. Pretty boys and tomboys are much more looked up to than in the West.«

Headed for South Korea

To present Hallyu music, the students are also preparing a surprise performance for the Sunday event. As they showed off some of their moves in the big museum atrium, one might mistake them to being more Korean than Danish.

»Well, I really love Korean culture, but I am still a Dane,« Julie admits. »I think I have to go to South Korea and really learn the language before I truly become Korean.«

»But eight of us from the course are going on exchange studies in South Korea next year,« she adds with a smile.

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