As with a number of people these days, Korean popular culture served as a gateway to Mia’s growing interest in Korean studies. With the spread of Hallyu (the Korean Wave), Korean popular culture has been able to act as a key phenomenon in exposing Korean culture to a global audience, to which Mia’s Japanese family was no exception. While her personal interests stemmed from Korean music, this quickly led to other areas of popular culture, such as Korean TV shows and movies, allowing for the tip of exploration in the area of Korean society and culture. Coming in to Penn as a freshman, Mia decided to engage with Korean on a more academic level, first by enrolling in Korean language courses, leading to a semester abroad at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea during her junior year. Engaging in Korean society first-hand while taking various courses on Korea, such as Pre-Modern Korean History, Media Communications in Korea, and Korean Film and Society, has shown her that a personal attraction to a culture and its people can lead to so much more, even on a major academic and professional level.
The James Joo-Jin Kim Program is yet another way that Mia has found the ability to cultivate her interest in Korea and pursue her studies in an area she feels most passionate and excited to continue learning more about. As an undergraduate fellow, she is excited to work closely with faculty and peers of the Korean studies department to bring awareness and drive interest towards Korean studies through various lectures and events. Korean studies is not limited to the history of Korea and its people and can be an avenue by which you discover your goals and aspirations for the future. As she looks towards graduation in the spring, Mia hopes to spend more time uncovering various aspects of Korean studies, and finding a path for the future that incorporates such interests (perhaps graduate studies or work in Korea).
For a glimpse at how Mia has connected her attraction to Korean popular culture to an academic setting, check out her paper titled, “K-Pop: The South Korean Spin on Foreign Relations,” in the Spring 2016 issue of the Penn Asian Review (https://issuu.com/pennasianreview/docs/par__1_)