I recently received a note from two individuals in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who have engaged in an in ambitious project to build a center for Korean culture in Grand Rapids that could serve as a hub for introducing Korea to Americans. Tragically, although Americans drive Hyundais and watch Samsungs, many know more about North Korean missiles than they do about Korean history and culture. The approach put forth is very innovative and inspired. Dr.Deborah Havens, a scholar who has taken a deep interest in Korean culture since her son Haight married an Korean woman (and she was blessed with three grandchildren with Korean roots), has teamed up with the Korean-American Professor Arthur K. J. Park to launch a new initiative for education about Korea in the United States. Professor Park has already started his own effort to introduce Korea to Americans through his Morning Crane Tea and Morning Earth Korea projects (including cultural tours to Korea).
One striking aspect of Dr. Haven’s and Dr. Park’s work is their focus on introducing Korean culture to Americans, rather than just Korean Americans. I feel their pain. When I worked with the Korean Culture Center of the Korean Embassy in Washington D.C. (2005-2007), I was constantly frustrated by the overwhelming emphasis on engaging with Korean American groups only, to remind them of their Korean roots. Often the rest of the United States was engaged with only through Korean American groups. There is so much room for Koreans to engage with African Americans, Hispanics, Korean adoptees and other groups in America, each of which will have a different take on what is Korea. In fact, I was most proud of our program at the Korean Cultural Center to bring in Korean adoptees for cultural events.
Dr. Haven’s son Haight has lived in Pusan for twenty years and now lives in Guam with his three, half-Korean children. Haight recently translated a collection of poems by the Korean monk Ch’o Eui (1786-1866) with the assistance of the scholar Taeyoung Ho. Dr. Havens has made great efforts to introduce this book to a broad audience in the United States. That activity led her do consider the possibility of a Korean culture center. What is novel about this request for a Korean cultural center is that it is not driven by Korean national policy, but rather by American interests in the full complexity of Korean culture.
American Mom says Renew Ties with Korea
Plans for Korean Culture Center in Michigan and Book Tour Introducing Korean Tea
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., USA, May 13, 2012 – American Mom Deb Havens chose Mother’s Day to call for stronger ties with South Korea. “My son, Ian Haight, married Hwang Jungson in 1995. Thanks to our Korean connections, our American family has learned to love and appreciate Korean culture,” said Havens, 64. “I want my grandchildren Henry, Brennan, and Henna to know their Korean heritage is valued here in America.”
Havens announced an ambitious drive to create a Korean Cultural Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan: a place where Americans can learn more about the history, culture and philosophy of Korea, one of America’s most important allies. Havens said her son’s interest in Korean culture over the years sparked hers as well. But the time spent with her grandchildren was the decisive wake-up call for her to acknowledge the traditions the family shared as a result of their American and Korean heritage. “I was fortunate to have the special guidance regarding Korea from our daughter-in-law Jungson and her family. They welcomed us into their home and taught us a great deal about the beauty and tradition of Korean culture. We learned about what the Korean War meant to them and we learned just how profound the Korean connection is,” Havens explained. “It is clear that now that the alliance with Korea has reached a new level of maturity with the signing of the Korean-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) that we need to understand more about that remarkable country—not just the brand names Samsung, Hyundai, and LG, but the legends and the wisdom of Korea.”
Havens has become something of an activist of late for closer ties to Korea in Michigan.
She remarked, “The 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War in 2013 is a fitting time for us to remember what our American and Korean soldiers fought to defend.” She added that “continued concerns about the volatility of North Korea prove that the Korean War was critical to our national security. We need to understand Korea more completely.”
Today, Havens is forming a task force to explore regulations and secure funding to promote the construction of a Korean Cultural Center in the western region of Michigan. “Most cultural centers in the US strive to remind Korean-Americans of their cultural heritage. This center will educate other Americans about the beauty of traditions such as the green tea ceremony, Korean dance and art forms such pottery and calligraphy. The center will also explain the history of the Korean War and the evolving nature of the US-Korea alliance,” adds Havens.
Havens said her own father-in-law, Charles “Chuck” Limbaugh, fought in the Korean War, a fact that suddenly became important after her first visit to her son’s family living in Busan, Korea. “We met Koreans who offered my husband gestures of deep respect when they heard of his father’s service in the war. My father-in-law was moved to tears when we shared that story, and so were we.” That moment was a critical development in her awareness of Korea.
The facts are on the historical record: American soldiers fought with the South Korean forces to defend the democratic Republic of Korea (ROK) during the Korean War, which lasted from June 25, 1950 until July 27, 1953. American casualties numbered 36,940 dead.
The U. S. sponsored the first resolution in history to the United Nations Security Council for a globally unified military force just two days after the Communist North’s invasion into South Korea. Approximately 35,000 soldiers from nearly 20 nations were directed to repel the aggressor, signaling a new direction for the U.N.
Havens’ father-in-law, Charles Limbaugh received Bronze Stars in the European theater. He returned to the US to complete airborne training in 1949 and parachuted into Inch’on during the early days of the Korean War, earning Bronze Stars for his service there as well. He served in the 25th Division of the Military Police Company where he escorted tanks to and from battle lines, among other duties. “We never talked about his experiences until we realized how much his service was valued by the people of South Korea. We were actually pretty ashamed,” Havens recalled.
Havens is determined to remind other Americans of the contributions made by Korean veterans. “Too many Americans have no idea how closely we are tied to South Korea. Our relationship is special and we need to cherish those bonds forged in blood and honor, and family” she said.
Havens’ own son, Ian Haight, was the only tenured American professor at the Busan University of Foreign Studies where he taught English for a number of years. Haight is a published author of a number of original poems as well as translated works of Korean poetry. He has received grants from the prestigious Korean Literary Translation Institute, the most recent to support Homage to Green Tea, the translated works of the ancient monk Ch’o Eui, co-authored with Taeyoung Ho of Busan. Haight currently teaches for the US Department of Defense in Guam, and in the Asia Division of the University of Maryland. (www.ianhaight.com)
Havens is currently planning a national book tour for her son and his co-author to read excerpts of Homage to Green Tea at Korean Consulates around the US. Havens has joined with Korean-American Dr. Arthur Park, of Morning Crane Tea, to present samples of Korean Green Tea to participants at the book tour readings. “This is the perfect opportunity to introduce Americans to South Korean culture,” said Havens. “We want to present a traditional Korean Tea Ceremony after the readings of Homage to Green Tea. We expect to draw in members of Korean green tea clubs and other cultural groups who would like to share Korean traditions with their American friends and neighbors. Our cultural and commercial ties strengthen every year and we should know each other better than we do,” she stated.
Havens noted that in the fall of 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a memorandum of strategic cooperation agreement with Governor Kim Moon-Soo of the Gyeonggi province in Seoul, South Korea. The agreement outlines a plan to encourage economic development agencies to work with universities, research and development centers and the private sector to help identify business opportunities, leverage and advance areas of expertise and promote the export of technologies, products and services between Michigan and the province. Governor Snyder also recently appointed new members to the Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission in Michigan (MAPAAC), established in 2009 and chaired by Dr. Sook Wilkinson, “To advance the full and equal participation of Asian Pacific Americans in the building of a greater Michigan.”
Havens recently graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a doctorate in Educational Leadership. Dr. Havens currently serves as adjunct professor in scriptwriting at the Grand Valley State University Department of Film and Television Production. She has an extensive background in secondary education, television production, and community leadership. In 2005, she founded the West Michigan Film Video Alliance, a 501c3 non-profit, to further the creative and economic development of the filmmaking and media production community in Michigan.
Dr. Arthur Kyung Jae Park is a 3rd generation Korean American who grew up in a small Pennsylvania town without knowing his Korean roots. “I have children and grandchildren carrying the Korean name Park,” he stated. “I want them and all other Korean children to grow up being proud of who they are – being proud of being Korean.” Park, who earned his doctorate from Penn State University, took his sabbatical year (1978-79) in Korea studying ceramics. On his return he changed the name of his pottery to Morning Earth in honor of his grandparents who lived in the Land of the Morning Calm.
Formerly a professor and Chair of the Art Education Program at Wayne State University, Dr. Park created Morning Earth Korea to promote Korean arts and culture after he retired in 1997. Dr. Park and his wife, Mary, now conduct tours to Korea to promote both Korean tea and Korean ceramics. An accomplished ceramic artist himself, Dr. Park distributes Morning Crane Tea products and travels extensively to demonstrate Korean ceramic forming processes as well as Korean teas and techniques for tea brewing. Arthur and Mary Park are official Ambassadors for the City of Gangjin, Korea, coordinating the invitations for international artists to the Gangjin Celadon Festival each year.
All event planning and tour information for Homage to Green Tea are managed by Christine Morse, President, Avid Marketing, llc. Morse brings over 15 years of project management, customer service, marketing, and communications to this project, as well as a long standing reputation for excellence with four of the largest corporations in West Michigan, Herman Miller, Amway Corporation, Amway Grand Plaza, and Blodgett Hospital.
For more tour or event information contact Christine Morse: Cell: 616.581.5876