ULKS (The University of London and Oxford University Korea Society)


The University of London and Oxford University Korea Society (ULKS) is the largest Korean student organisation in the United Kingdom, and is made up of the Korea Societies from within the various Universities of London. ULKS was formed over a decade ago, but it has only really become one of the key Societies for the Universities of London and Oxford in recent years: its membership has steadily been expanding, and therefore, its reputation has also become more renowned.
ULKS has a number of aims central to its existence: principally, ULKS creates a backbone of support both for those Korean students who have come to the UK as international students, and for Koreans who have grown up in the UK but wish to keep in touch with their cultural heritage. For many Koreans coming to study in London and Oxford for the first time, being separated from their home culture and language can be a daunting experience. ULKS aims to provide these students with a network whereby they can meet new Korean friends in similar circumstances, and where they can seek advice about life in the UK from other students in the know.

However, ULKS does not just focus on supporting Korean students in London and Oxford. ULKS is also one of the key points of contact between the Korean and Non-Korean communities. ULKS essentially aims to create a public forum where Koreans and Non-Koreans can meet, thus promoting better cultural understanding and exchange. It is important that Korean culture and history is recognised and understood in the UK: often Korean culture can seem overshadowed by the better-known and understood Japanese culture. In the UK, Japanese language and cultural symbols are well-recognised, whilst Korea can seem more obscure for the majority of British people. ULKS is keen to change this: the Korean community in the UK is growing fast, and more and more Korean businesses are becoming established here, while Korean films become increasingly shown on British television. It is important that a good understanding and a good relationship is built between Koreans and Non-Koreans in the UK, so that Korean culture can continue to grow and thrive and Non-Koreans can share in it as well.

Over the past academic year, ULKS has organised a number of events to help promote cultural exchange and support Korean students in London and Oxford, in co-operation with a number of other organisations, including the Korean Embassy in London. One of the most popular events was the Korean cultural show at the Thames Festival in September in London, which was organised by the Korean Cultural Centre in London and staffed by ULKS volunteers. This event was attended by thousands of Londoners, who sampled Korean culture as part of a whole day of celebrations of the various cultures from all around the world represented in London today. At the Korean booth, Londoners could try their hands at playing traditional Korean games, for the first time experiencing a centuries-old tradition from Korea.

“I loved the game called ‘peng-gi’,” said Annabel Tara, aged five from Southwest London, “I had to try to hit the ball with the stick. It was hard, but I had lots of fun…and I won a tiny prize as well!”

The fun continued across the Thames Festival weekend, with Tae Kwon Do demonstrations, and traditional Korean singing, culminating in the grand parade along the Thames to mark the end of the festival. ULKS volunteers dressed in Hanbok, the Korean traditional clothing, marched with the crowd as representatives of the Korean communities in London and across the UK.

Another important ULKS event so far was a conference concerning Korean History at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London on the 3rd of November, and at Oxford University on the 4th, in partnership with Amnesty International. This conference addressed perhaps one of the darkest ages in Korean history: the Japanese occupation and the Korean women forced into sex-slavery during this period. The seminar was attended by various students and academics, both Korean and Non-Korean, and included a spoken testimony by former sex-slave Won Ok Gil. It was a very moving experience for all those involved.

Of course, ULKS is not all about the serious side of life for Koreans in the UK: at the beginning of October, ULKS organised an immensely popular event evening at the prestigious venue Number One Leicester Square, including the world-champions breakdancing/B-boying team T.I.P especially from Korea. This was an opportunity for Korean students to socialise, and to see some of the finest breakdancing performance that the world has to offer. The event was also attended by Non-Korean students from the Universities of London, who wished to see the show as well. “I was so amazed by the breakdancing,” said Ahmjad Ghafoor, photographer for studentbox. “It was really an incredible performance. The ULKS party was so impressive and was quite different from any other student socialising event I’ve attended before, because they organised such a spectacular show as well.”

So what comes for ULKS in the future? Well, currently ULKS is helping to raise funds for a Korean Charity called ‘Community Chest of Korea’, a charity looking to help out the most vulnerable in Korean society today. ULKS has been helping individual Korea Societies in London and Oxford Universities to mastermind their own schemes to effectively raise money for this campaign, as well as organising all-encompassing ULKS fundraisers.

 

There is no doubt however, that whatever ULKS is doing, it will continue to grow in size and popularity along with the Korean community in the UK, and continue to be an excellent forum for Koreans and Non-Koreans alike to enjoy all that Korean culture, both traditional and modern, has to offer.

For more details, please contact:
ULKS (Universities in London & Oxford University Korea Society )
President Banya Hwang
Korea society, SOAS,Thornhaugh streetRussell sq. London, WC1H 0XG
Mobile : +44(0)78 2807 7858E-mail :207018@soas.ac.uk

 

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