Korean American performers hit campus

By Yuri Ozeki

The Korean American Student Association is hosting “A New Frontier: Korean Americans in Entertainment” at the Illini Union Courtyard Cafe Tuesday night at 7 pm. With free admission, students can listen to the Ken Oak Band and comedian Paul Kim.

Korean American Student Association president Andrew Han, senior in LAS, specifically chose the title to communicate the event’s goal.

“Asian Americans are not really exposed or portrayed in a main role or positive light in entertainment,” Han said. “So these performers are basically kind of pioneers into the entertainment industry.”

Beyond the entertainment, the event hopes to open discussion of bigger issues.

“Let’s face it, we don’t find Asian Americans playing roles that are outside the stereotype,” Han said. “By throwing this event, we’re trying to help people understand that Asian Americans are more than just the martial arts guy or the nerd guy. We’re as well rounded as any other person. But sometimes in terms of mass media it’s not really portrayed that way.”

Part of the event line up is the Ken Oak Band, making their first appearance on the University campus. A relatively new band, they recently released their debut album “Symposium.” Independently selling CD’s and other merchandise, the Ken Oak Band is halfway through their self-booked college tour. The band consists of lead singer Ken Oak playing the cello and guitarists Ed Gorski and Chris Ramos.

Ken Oak described the band as not your average rock band.

“Instrument wise, we don’t have a drummer or a bass player that’s kind of like one of the unique things about us,” Oak said. “Lyrically we’re like “Lifehouse.” Musically, the band to compare us with is “Nickel Creek” since they’re a three piece acoustic trio also.”

Along with music, the event will supply some laughs, as comedian Paul Kim, also known as PK, will also be performing.

“I do a whole comedy set on being an Asian man in America,” Kim said. “I talk a lot about growing up as a Korean American and my childhood.”

Front man Ken Oak speaks very highly of PK.

“I’ve known PK for probably like 11 years,” Oak said. “I was friends with him in church way back when we were both in college. He’s been doing comedy for a while now and he has gotten really good. He gets better every time I see him.”

Kim hosts Asian Nights at Los Angeles’ comedy club the “Laughing Factory” and acts as the executive director of “Kollaboration” on its sixth year.

“Kollaboration is kind of like a variety show meant to give exposure to Korean Americans,” Han said. “It also brings unity within the Asian American community.”

Ken Oak knows personally the benefits of “Kollaboration.”

“I performed at the fourth (Kollaboration) back in 2003,” Oak said. “It was kind of a big break for what I was doing. It brought a lot of exposure and winning the vocal competition helped a lot.”

Kim is also known for co-founding another organization called Liberation in North Korea.

“What that organization does is it increases awareness about the situation in North Korea and how we can help promote peace,” Han said.

Han said he hopes that many people come out to enjoy the free entertainment.

Jessica Horn, Courtyard Cafe manager, was equally excited about the event and hopes for a big turnout.

“We always want to support the various student organizations and multicultural events,” Horn said. “When the Korean American Student Association approached us about this idea, we thought it was very interesting. The idea also fit right along with our goal to provide innovative, inexpensive entertainment for students.”