We have planned a conference that will methodically and critically examine the various identities and communities Korean-Americans are immersed in, to enable the participating students to become aware of the various forces that shape their lives in the hope that they will question and challenge assumptions and beliefs and create strong opinions of their own. We have structured the conference so that it flows like any good academic work—beginning with an examination of the method itself (how does the ethnic-specific framework affect the very attempt to critically examine society and ourselves?), and ending with the “so what?” question. We have selected speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences in order to create programs and execute a program of workshops, lectures, panel discussions, and seminars that will speak to the various interests and aspirations of our attendees. Through these interactions, we hope that the students will be exposed to a multitude of topics, from trying to understand our past, reflecting on our identity as minorities in America, identifying present global problems, to expressing human questions creatively. There will be four sessions at KASCON XXVI.: (1) [ROOTS] Engaging the Past; (2) [IDENTITIES] Breaking Down the Walls; (3) [PASSIONS] Grasping the Present; (4) [VISIONS] Imagining the Future.
Taking a comprehensive look at our history as Koreans as well as Korean Americans and how this historical heritage impacts our present. Do we really understand our history? If not, why? And what does this have to do with second and third generation Korean Americans and our lived experiences?
- Curtis Chin, Filmmaker, “Vincent Who?” — Vincent Who?: Why Vincent Chin Still Matters for All of Us
In the summer of 1982, a twenty-seven-year-old Chinese American, Vincent Chin, was murdered by two disgruntled white autoworkers, who blamed him for Japan’s success in the auto industry. Chin’s killers were ordered to pay $3,000 and sentenced to three years of probation, spending not even a single day in jail. The outrage from the Asian American community was powerful, emerging as the first movement to successfully galvanize and unite Asian Americans of all backgrounds to defend their rights. Today, Vincent Chin has been all but forgotten by the public. Join filmmaker Curtis Chin for a screening of his documentary, “Vincent Who?”, to learn why Vincent Chin still matters today. The screening will be followed by a Q+A session.
- Kublai Kwon, Hip Hop Promoter, Founder of Red Mountain Agency — History of Koreans in Hip Hop
This workshop traces the history of Koreans in hip hop culture, with a focus on rap. Rap existed in ancient Korea and is present in traditional Korean music, but rapping as we understand it now was introduced to South Korean popular music in 1989. In 1992, the two pioneers of the modern K-Pop style—Shin Hae Chul in rock and Seo Taiji in rap—establish South Korea’s mainstream music industry. In the 2000s, the Asian Hip Hop Summit movement, founded in Los Angeles by promoter/activist Kublai Kwon, cousin of Shin Hae Chul (and leader of this workshop!), gives rise to Korean American rappers such as Dumbfoundead, members of Far East Movement, and the Yellow Boyz. In 2012, South Korean rapper PSY, the protegé of Shin Hae Chul, becomes the first bona fide A-list musician of Korean descent in America after the success of the crossover smash hit “Gangnam Style.” Mr. Kwon’s presentation concludes with a discussion of Shin Hae Chul and PSY’s controversial song “Dear American”.
- Iris Shim, Filmmaker, “The House of Suh” — The House of Suh: The Story of Andrew and Catherine Suh
In 1993, nineteen-year-old Andrew Suh shot and killed his sister Catherine’s boyfriend—at her own behest. The crime shocked the nation, and as details leaked out about the Suh family, a picture formed—two orphaned Korean American siblings, one the loyal model student who tried to be a good son and brother, and the other a manipulative, even evil, influence. Filmmaker Iris K. Shim met Andrew in 2000 as he was serving the sixth year of his 100-year prison term, and the documentary which arose from her interactions with him, “The House of Suh”, tries to go beyond the superficial elements that made the Suh murder so sensational and examine the internal conflicts that broke the Suh family down from the inside, including issues of cultural assimilation and conflicts over traditional family roles. Join Iris for a screening of the film, which will be followed by a Q+A session.
- Dr. Minsuh Son, Foreign Affairs Analyst at the U.S. Dept. of State and former Assistant Professor of the History of Science and Technology at Johns Hopkins University — Electrified Seoul: Understanding Modern Korea
This workshop will look at the transformation of Seoul from a once sleepy 19th-century walled capital to the dynamic technological and cultural metropolis it is today. How did it get there? How do we understand Korean modernity? What are the stereotypes we hold about Korea, and how does this inform our construction of Korean American identity? In this session, join foreign affairs analyst Dr. Minsuh Son for a discussion that will hopefully break through some of the inherited misunderstandings surrounding Korea, Korean culture, and the foundations of Korean nationalism.
- Mark Ro Beyersdorf + Rej Joo, Committee Members at the Dari Project, an LGBTQ support community — “There Are No Gays in Korea”: Challenging Homophobia and Transphobia in Korean American Communities
For many LGBTQ Korean Americans, coming out to our families and to our Korean American communities is a hurdle that seems insurmountable, even for those who have been “out” in the general public for years. From our own experiences, we know that Korean American families and communities often don’t have the tools and language to understand LGBTQ identities, and many simply believe that there are no gay people in Korea. Consequently, Korean families and communities end up alienating or rejecting LGBTQ people, while families who embrace their LGBTQ children often face discrimination and isolation from the greater Korean American community. Led by Mark Ro Beyersdorf & Rej Joo, who work as LGBTQ Korean American activists from New York City, this workshop will provide tools for building inclusive communities and bringing LGBTQ Korean Americans and allies together for support and community. We will share our strategies for fostering greater visibility and community support for LGBTQ Korean Americans and explore ways we can work together to create a Korean American community that is inclusive for all.
- Katherine Chon, President Emerita and co-founder of Polaris Project — The Legacies of Abolition
As the United States celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, what can our communities learn from the legacies of historical slavery? How does modern-day slavery affect the Korean American community, and how have echoes of the past shaped human trafficking schemes in the 21st century? In this workshop, Katherine will present case studies on how human trafficking has changed over time, describe the very real impact of trafficking on Korean Americans, and provide practical tools so that students know what they can do today to stop the cycles of slavery.
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Where does the concept of a “community” fit into our conceptions of ourselves? How are we created and/or influenced by the identities that are pre-produced for us, and how do we build our own?
- Pauline Park, Transgender & Gender Rights Activist — Dignity for All: The Journey of a Transgendered Woman
Pauline Park is a transgendered woman of color—an Asian American of Korean ethnicity and American adoption who writes and speaks for gender rights as chair of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA) and president of the board of directors of Queens Pride House. Join Pauline for a talk and round-table discussion about her personal journey, her view on the intersections between the Asian American and LGBTQ communities, and the work left to be done in achieving equal rights for all, regardless of gender or sexuality.
- Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Writer-in-Residence & Lecturer at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Brown University– ”We’re Doing This For Your Own Good” – But Who Defines “Good”?: The Filial Son and Daughter’s Guide to Becoming a Novelist
After Marie Myung-Ok Lee became an established writer, with a novel under her belt and publications in numerous distinguished media outlets, her parents asked her, “How did you know to keep on writing, even when we tried to discourage you from it countless times?” Marie had her first essay published in Seventeen magazine when she was in high school, and since then she has made writing her living, with a new novel coming out with Simon & Schuster. In this workshop, join Marie as she shares her story about paving her own life path as a writer. What kinds of struggles did she have to overcome? What is it like to be an Asian American writer? And furthermore, how does her Korean identity color her writing? What inspires her? How does she think? Why does she write? Find out all this and more in an intimate discussion with her about what it took to become a writer, and what it means to be an Asian American writer today.
- Sophia Hong, Director of Business Development and Operations, MTV — Work Your Identity, Gangnam Style!
Love K-pop? Join MTV media executive Sophia Hong in an intimate roundtable discussion set to explore the exploding Korean music scene, and the transformative effects of the Korean-American experience over the last decade. Engage in a lively Q+A session with Sophia, as she shares her insights on identity, how it has informed her career in media and how this millennial generation has the power to impact business like never before. Want to be more effective at work? Want to be the next host on MTV? Come meet Sophia Hong to learn all about her personal secrets for success.
- Yuri Tag, Dancer & Designer, Member of Kaba Modern — Morning Dance Session with Yuri Tag
If you’re itching for a fun morning workout, come join Yuri Tag for a dance session and sweat it out! Yuri is a former member of Kaba Modern, a dance team originally from UC Irvine that gained worldwide recognition in the first season of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. She’ll be teaching a hip hop/groove routine, and the session is open to all levels, including beginners! So don’t be shy—slip on some sneakers, bring a bottle of water, and get ready to impress all your friends with your newly discovered talent for dance!
- Miru Kim, Artist & Photographer, well-known for “Naked City Spleen”, an exploration of urban spaces — Bodies & Boundaries: The Explorative Art of Miru Kim
In pursuit of her artistic work, NY-based Miru Kim has excavated the late-night world of abandoned urban underground spaces, traversed Sahara, Gobi, Thar, and Arabian deserts, and spent time in a pig sty amongst hundreds of pigs—fully nude—for her photo shoots. Join Miru for an intimate talk and multimedia presentation of her work, as she explains the path that took her from a young pre-med in college to her current work as an artist and photographer who has been featured in the NY Times, the Financial Times, and TED. She will also walk you through her process as an artist and the philosophies behind her bodies of work thus far—Naked City Spleen, The Pig Therefore I Am, and her current work, The Camel’s Way, which involves video and performance in an exploration of different desert cultures and the meaning of camels. There will be time for Q+A after the presentation.
- Jamie Lew, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers, Scholar of Immigrant Families and Academic Achievement — Korean Community and Identity Construction: What Class, Race, Ethnicity Mean For You
You may be from a Korean neighborhood. If not, you probably attend a Korean church. You know where the Korean grocery stores are, and you probably run into people that you know there. In college, you may be involved with a Korean student association, you generally know the other Koreans on campus, you may even spend most of your time with Koreans. Like it or not, many of us we are immersed in what we casually call a “Korean community.” But what exactly is a community? How does it form, and how does it operate? And how does it influence who we are? Professor Jamie Lew, a sociologist specializing on issues of immigration, academic success, identity construction and Asian American families, will begin to tackle these tough and often sticky questions in this workshop. Join Prof. Lew for an insightful talk on the relationship between the self and the community, the community and the world, and what it means to form an identity at the intersection of these spaces.
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Viewing how Korean Americans are making inroads into industries today in entrepreneurship and their various other professional fields and industries. A look at how people are following their passions in what they do, whether it be computer engineering, finance, textiles, politics, whatever. Does being Korean or Asian American influence where we stand in social and economic institutions today? Is it limiting? Is it empowering?
- Esther K. Chae, Award-winning Actor, Writer — The Actor as Artist and Innovator
Curious about what it’s like to be a Korean-American actor? Hear from Esther Chae about her life as an actor in commercial Hollywood and an innovator in the artistic world, featured in shows such as NCIS, The West Wing, and 24. In this session, join Esther through her upbringing as a Korean-American, born in America and educated in Korea, and learn how her identity has influenced her journey, from studying French Literature at Korea University to transplanting herself back to the U.S. to study theater and drama before traveling the world as a stage and film actress. You will hear how her creative work thrives within the “bibimbap culture”, where various characters, languages, images and stories mix together in one dish to be served as a nutritious and thought-provoking experience.
- Rosally R. Sapla, VP of Communications/PR & Min Kim from DramaFever — The Rise of Hallyu?: Korean Media Abroad
The media has been reporting about Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, which describes the international spread of Korean culture, since 2005. Over the past year especially, the popularity and influence of Korean pop culture on the American mainstream seems to have grown considerably, with the explosion of PSY into global consciousness. In this talk, you’ll meet Rosally Sapla and Min Kim of DramaFever, a leading online global TV network for primetime TV from all around the world. DramaFever has grown rapidly from its roots working with Korean networks to bring K-Dramas to American viewers and has grown to serve 3.5 million monthly US viewers on DramaFever.com, 85% of which are of non-Asian descent. Rosally and Min will draw on their professional experiences and conversations with media, corporations, and unexpected K-Drama fans to speak about the growing international presence of Asian media, especially dramas and movies, and the impact of ventures like DramaFever on the Hallyu wave. There will be some time at the end of the workshop for a discussion in which you can share your thoughts.
- David L. Kim, VP of Multicultural Markets & Engagement, AARP — What is Marketing?: Learning the Skills to Succeed
Marketing is an often used term that is less than often fully appreciated as an integral part of personal branding, corporate reputation, and local and global communications. Join David L. Kim, who has worked in the corporate, government and nonprofit sectors, including prominent organizations as Anheuser-Busch, AARP and the U.S. Mint, to hear about how marketing can create unbounded opportunities for realizing personal and professional success. Mr. Kim will share his personal story, his own unique approach to integrating marketing with community action, and his tips on building a successful career, using marketing as a tool.
- Christine Yoo, Director & Producer, “Wedding Palace”, an upcoming romantic comedy filmed in the U.S. and Korea — Wedding Palace: An International Affair
Opening in April 2013, Wedding Palace is the first film to be directed and shot in both the US and South Korean production systems. The film tells the story of Jason, an eligible Korean American bachelor who embarks on a high-tech, cross-cultural quest to find “the one.” The result is a modern love story that also speaks to what it means to be Korean, what it means to be American, and where family and community fit into the picture. Join Christine Yoo, writer, director, & producer of Wedding Palace, for an exciting behind-the-scenes sneak peek into the film and a discussion of the Asian American entertainment market in Hollywood. A Q+A will follow the discussion.
- John J. Kim, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist at the Chicago Sun-Times — A Picture’s Worth…
Pulitzer Prize winner John J. Kim will discuss the winding road that led to his career as a photojournalist at the Chicago Tribune. His outlook as a grown-up was a blinking question mark in college, moving from one major to another, to another. But just like life, things sometimes fall into place, and Kim’s place was in a newsroom with super-curious people who ask a lot of questions and like to tell stories. In this workshop, he will share some stories and try to answer the question he often asks himself: “What is a picture’s worth?”
- Karen Chung, Founder & CEO of Special Learning, an autism education project — Breaking the Glass Ceiling: A Guide to Succeeding as a Minority in Business
As a Korean American or Asian American candidate, have you ever wondered what attributes you need to become a senior-level corporate executive in a F1000 company? Corporations turn a blind eye to this fact, but it is a harsh reality that minorities face greater challenges in moving up the corporate ladder. Understanding the thought process and motivations behind the decisions that are made regarding candidate selection within major corporations is critical for minorities who want to succeed in a corporate world largely controlled by a white majority. In this workshop, entrepreneur and business expert Karen Chung will aim to share her knowledge and experience, gained from running a successful executive search firm that has succeeded in placing senior-level minority executives at companies including Microsoft, Chase, and Boeing.
- Paul PK Kim, founder of Kollaboration, co-founder of LiNK, stand-up comedian — #DreamBig: The Bigger your Why, the Smaller your How
A man of many trades, Paul PK Kim is a stand-up comedian, MC, and life-long dreamer who founded Kollaboration, an annual Asian talent show, now in its 14th year, and co-founded the non-profit organization Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), dedicated to bringing awareness to the needs of North Korean refugees. Hear PK (PK = Preacher’s Kid, as well as Paul Kim) share his experiences founding these two nationally recognized organizations, as well as his journey into the world of comedy. You’ll also get the chance to articulate your own dream and begin paving the pathway to make it real in the interactive second part of this workshop.
- Eddo Kim, Founder & President of The Supply, an organization that builds secondary schools for slum children — The Road Less Traveled: A Guide to Turning Good Intentions into Real Actions
There’s that little voice inside all of us that dares us to feel. We live today in an era in which for many of us, degrees from good colleges and high paying jobs just don’t satisfy; they are only a means to a greater end. We seek meaning in what we do. We want to make a difference. We want to change the world. Yet, the outside din shrouds these epiphanies and realizations. “Study hard. Go to a good college. Go get a good paying job. No time to waste!” For a lot of us, this tension (or more like a contentious battle) is real. We tippy-toe the line, pulled one way by our intentions, yet our feet move in the opposite direction. How do we begin moving in the right direction? Through this workshop, Eddo Kim, founder & CEO of non-profit organization The Supply, which builds schools for slum children around the world, will share his experiences working in the international development space and challenge future leaders to stop living a life of merely intention, but one filled with stories, meaning, and purpose.
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What can we do to create change at a global and local level? Who are we (Who am I?), and where do each of us belong in this envisioning of the future? An exploration of visions, goals, and hopes, diverse and sometimes disparate, and the bigger picture they create of a living, evolving community.
- Steven Choi, Executive Director of Minkwon Center for Community Action — We March, We Vote, We Act!
How can young Korean Americans really get involved? Make social change happen? This workshop, led by Steve Choi, Executive Director of the NY-based MinKwon Center for Community Action, explores some of the issues faced by Korean American and Asian American communities, examines why political realities often stop change in its tracks, and looks at different ways to push for social change. A brainstorming session will then urge workshop participants to explore different ways to get involved in their own communities around today’s critical issues.
Franny Choi, Brown ’11, Award-Winning Spoken Word Artist & Grassroots Organizer — SPEAK UP!: Spoken Word Poetry for Justice and Love
We regret to announce that due to last-minute conflicts, Franny Choi will be unable to speak at KASCON26.
- Keish Kim, Undocumented Korean-American Immigrant & Co-Founder of Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance (GUYA) — ”There Are No Illegal Human Beings”: Breaking Free of Fear as an Undocumented Immigrant
Immigration reform has been a highly-charged political issue since day one under the Obama administration and continues to be a thorny problem on both the national and the state level. Though the issue of illegal immigration of Koreans doesn’t often come up in national news, there are nearly a quarter-million undocumented Korean residents in the United States. What are the different variables involved in talking about immigration reform? How does it impact the US in shaping the political and economical spheres? And how do we define citizenship? Hear first-hand from Keish Kim, a 21-year-old freshman at Syracuse University from Georgia and an undocumented resident and activist, about her experience as an active voice calling for expansion of educational opportunities for undocumented residents.
- Hannah Chung, Co-founder of Design for America, Co-founder & Chief Creative Officer of Sproutel, a startup that creates interactive toys for children with chronic illnesses — Creating Change Through Design: From Doodling to Doing
Have you ever seen something and thought, “That would work so much better if __________________”? Hannah Chung had the same thought as a freshman at Northwestern University, where she launched Design for America, a nationwide network of student teams using human-centered design to create local and social impact. Now based in Providence, she is using art, science, and technology to build designs that will impact the way children with chronic illnesses will live. As co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Sproutel, she provided the impetus for the production of Jerry the Bear, a robotic teddy bear that makes the process of learning how to manage childhood diabetes more intuitive and less intimidating. Join Hannah to hear about her journey from dreamer and doodler to creator and change-maker, and for a conversation about how you can make a difference through design.
- Mark Ro Beyersdorf + Rej Joo, Committee Members at the Dari Project, an LGBTQ support community — Queerean (LGBTQ Korean American) Town Hall
This session is a space for LGBTQ Korean Americans to meet and build a community with each other. We’ll get to know each other, discuss the issues we face as “Queereans” in both the Korean American and LGBTQ community, and brainstorm how we can effect change in our communities. Participants will be encouraged to share personal experiences and perspectives if they are comfortable, but are also welcome to just attend and listen. Note: This town hall is intended to provide a confidential safe space for LGBTQ Korean Americans only. We’re grateful for our allies in the heterosexual community, but ask you to respect this safe space and attend our workshop on homophobia and transphobia in Korean American communities (“There are No Gays in Korea”), which is open to all.
- Adrian Hong, Managing Director of Pegasus Strategies LLC, a strategic advisory firm — Creating Change – In All Fields
Whether one works in for profit or non-profit ventures, the world is more accessible and changeable than ever before. Join an open conversation with Adrian Hong, who has founded, co-founded or advised many disruptive efforts, from non-profit foundations and innovative social ventures to for-profit companies and startups, to ask your questions on how you can make an impact, how better to develop your vision for the world, and most importantly, how to translate your vision into real action.
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Please check back for updates on confirmed speakers and workshops. Thank you!