“An African American’s Perspective of the Korean Wave” (Emanuel Pastreich in Chosun Ilbo English Edition)

An African American’s Perspective of the Korean Wave”

Chosun Ilbo English Edition

July 9, 2013

Emanuel Pastreich

I received an unexpected email in February 2013, from a young woman who was studying public health at Harvard University. Mariesa Lee Ricks explained that her mother was Korean and that she had a great interest in Korean culture. Mariesa said that she hoped to find out how K-Pop and Korean social media can play a role in bringing positive messages to youth around the world. 

Mariesa added that she hopes to visit Korea to carry out research. I wrote back to her telling her that I would be in Boston soon for a business trip and we agreed to meet up while I was there.

I did not recognize her at first. I was taken aback for a split second when she introduced herself because she turned out to be African American, and I had imagined a half-Korean, half-Caucasian woman who looked like my daughter Rachel. I was impressed that Mariesa did not display the slightest sense of discomfort or uncertainty in the few seconds that it took me to get over my embarrassment. She was clearly an extremely mature and composed woman with a strong sense of herself.

We sat down at the café for a cup of coffee and muffins and Mariesa started to tell me how her research was far more than academic interest, but part of a vision for her own cultural and ethical mission and an extension of her experiences since childhood. The Korean Wave was an essential part of a search for greater diversity and acceptance of both herself and others. She imagined it as something far larger than just the catchy songs of Psy.

“When I heard about social issues like bullying and suicide among young people in Korea, I was deeply concerned as someone who has cousins at middle school in Korea. But I was also aware of the increasing ethnic and cultural diversity of Korea, and of the explosion of innovation and cultural vitality to be found in that country,” Mariesa said.

She wanted to learn about how youth issues in Korea were being addressed and the potential for serious innovation. She sees in the Korean Wave a chance to reinvent the experience of youth, whether in Continue Reading


Seminar on KFEM and the state of the environment in Korea (July 6 2013)

Seminar on KFEM and the state of the environment in Korea (July 6 2013)

The Asia Institute joined the Korean Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM) for a discussion about environmental issues in Korea on July 6, 2013. The discussion was led by Kim Hyunji, director of international relations at KFEM and included Arthur Michalak (communications director of the Asia Institute), Yoojin Jung (managing director of the Asia Institute), Murim Choi (associate of the Asia Institute) and Emanuel Pastreich (director of the Asia Institute).

The program started with a 50 minute presentation by Kim Hyunji about the history Continue Reading


The Asia Institute Hosts Michael Gehret, Associate Director of the Institute for Advanced Study

The Asia Institute was host to Michael Gehret, associate director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton New Jersey, for two days (June 27 & 28) as he visited Korea’s important research institutes to discuss future cooperation and introduce the outstanding practices of the Institute for Advanced Study.

The Institute for Advanced Study has drawn attention as a unique research center that allows scholars to concentrate on their research in a quiet and supportive environment. Best known for one of its first members, Albert Einstein, the Institute for Advanced Study remains a major center for research, especially in physics and mathematics, and boasts a remarkable collection of Nobel Prize winners today.

Associate director Gehret met with members of the Asia Institute on June 27 for a discussion about the role of the research institute and the particularities of Korea. Present were associates of the Asia Institute Professor Choi Murim (Seoul National University School Continue Reading