Although founded in the midst of political and racial friction, KASA’s current goals focus more on education among Korean and non-Korean communities. “Our greater goal is to enhance cross-cultural respect,” said Yoon. “We just want to celebrate the culture and to celebrate Korean-American achievements, issues and presence.”
In the spirit of commemoration, KASA holds many events, like the annual banquet for chusuk, a harvest celebration day in Korea similar to Thanksgiving. “It’s a really important holiday in Korea, and last semester we celebrated with a banquet and by reenacting a traditional memorial ceremony to the ancestors,” said Yoon. “The idea is to represent that we are offering food, the harvest, to the ancestor for our appreciation for a great harvest.”
KASA is currently planning a conference at Amherst for April 20-22, “Reconciling the Past, Embracing the Future,” which will deal with the recent efforts to increase communication between the two Koreas. Speakers include Helie Lee, author of “Still Life with Rice” and granddaughter of one of the few people that was selected last year to be reunited with her family in North Korea, and Il Pyong Kim, professor of international political science and president of the International Council on Korean at the University of Connecticut.
All Five-College students are invited to the conference as well as other East Coast colleges. “We hope first that students will leave knowing a little more about the facts and to think about the complexity of the situations,” said Yoon. “But overall, we want students to realize that it’s not just a Korean issue but a global issue.”