One of Mercyhurst’s newest clubs, the Arirang Culture Club, fills a unique void in the campus extracurriculars scene.
“I spent nearly the past six years in Korea, a lot of my work focused on Korean culture, language, people,” said Michael Lamm, assistant professor of Intelligence Studies. “At Mercyhurst, there is no Korean-Japanese-Chinese related culture club, so I worked with the students to start one.”
Lamm is in his first year as a professor at Mercyhurst. A former student, he served in the United States Army in South Korea before working for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Arirang Institute. He formed the club with a group of interested students, of whom several are graduate students at Mercyhurst, to continue their path in higher education.
“We were working on some research together, then we had the idea for the club. It sort of happened organically,” Lamm said.
When the club had its first meeting on Oct. 27, it became clear that there are quite a few directions that the club could go.
“There’s a group of students who want to learn Korean, the language, and then there’s another group of students who are interested in the pop culture, the music,” Lamm said.
Despite the large number of influences from the intelligence program, Lamm emphasizes that this is a club open to all students.
“This (club) provides an outlet into Asian/Korean culture,” Lamm said.
The club recently had a movie night where they watched the Russian documentary “Under the Sun” on North Korea.
They also hosted Hyun Song of the No Chain for North Korea group via Skype, where students were allowed to ask him questions about his work with North Korean defectors and his efforts to sneak USB sticks into the country.
Lamm has made several initiatives so far to grow the club.
“Some books were donated and I reached out to Mr. Park who runs Park’s Tae Kwon Do (located on Peach Street). He’s also interested in working with the students,” Lamm said.
The club, which shares the name of the Arirang Institute he works for, also appears on the institute’s website in an article.
It is not a coincidence that the club shares the same name as the organization that he works for. Lamm hopes that he can establish connections with people overseas for students through the promotion of the club online.
“This is to show that Americans are interested in Korean culture,” he says when referring to a brief piece on Mercyhurst students’ interests in Korea on the site. Through sharing the article on
Arirang’s website, Lamm was able to find a Korean friend who is interested in donating “crates of books for language learning.”
“It’s all about not only doing the activities but letting people know that you are doing the activities,” Lamm said.
The Arirang Culture Club is more than just a club for some students.
“There is a group of students who are interested in not only learning Korean language, but going abroad to study after they graduate. We’re working with them to help them apply to these Korean government programs,” Lamm said.
The students are getting hour-long sessions once a week to learn the language better so that they can pass the South Korean government’s language test. From this scholarship, students are given a full ride to a year at a language school, followed by two years of graduate school in South Korea.
“These are kind of your Korean Mania folks,” Lamm said.
Josie Meagher is the president of the Culture Club. She works with Vice President David McDonald to host language cafes for interested students. It helps fill a void according to her, due the retirement of Keiko Sensei last year and the subsequent elimination of the Japanese beginner classes.
“David and I teach Japanese,” said Meagher. “Professor Lamm teaches Korean and we have a few other students who have expressed desire to teach Mandarin and possibly Hindi.”