Susie Suh performs for Korean benefit concert

Yi-Chien “Itch” Hung, senior in LAS, poses as just another faceless person during a dance and skit performed by members of Covent Fellowship Church at the Korean Cultural Center Benefit concert, September 23, 2006. Treva Ellison, The Daily Illini

By Brian Mellen

Susie Suh keeps her shades on while indoors, looking like a true musician.

She sat and ate a Subway sandwich a few hours before performance time in one of the dressing rooms of Foellinger Auditorium. Her busy schedule hadn’t left much time for her to eat. The flight she took to Chicago got into O’Hare six hours late. Then she had to make the trek down from Chicago to Champaign.

Tired, she spoke in a relaxed, laid-back tone.

“I didn’t really have very many Asian role models growing up and so I feel that if I can do that for other people it’s cool,” Suh said.

Saturday night, Suh, a Korean-American singer/songwriter, played at Foellinger Auditorium as part of the Korean Cultural Center’s benefit concert. She played alongside dancers and other musicians that showcased Korean culture. Mike Frerichs, Democratic candidate for state Senate, also spoke at the event.

The celebration at Foellinger highlighted the Korean Cultural Center’s official grand opening after it was created by University students last spring. The Korean Cultural Center, located at the University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright St., hopes to promote and raise awareness of Korean culture within the Champaign-Urbana community.

After performing at the University last year, Suh explained why she chose to come back again this year and help the Korean Cultural Center’s cause.

“I love it here,” Suh said. “I had a really good time last time. I actually didn’t realize there was a big Asian American population on campus.”

Suh is from Los Angeles, but what makes her unique as a artist has little to do with where she grew up. Three years ago Suh signed a deal with Epic Records making her the first Korean-American singer-songwriter signed to a major U.S. label. She has made appearances on MTV as part of TRL and her music was featured on the show “One Tree Hill” and the “Must Love Dogs” soundtrack.

She considers being the first Korean-American singer/songwriter to sign to a major label an honor, and she’s very proud to represent Korean-Americans. But she also said the music she creates isn’t particularly representative of Korean culture. Her goal is to appeal to a more general audience.

“I don’t write specifically for Asian people, I just happen to be Asian American,” Suh said.

Dave Lee , senior in LAS, said Suh has a strong fan base. He said Suh drew a lot of the crowd that showed up Saturday night.

“She has her own style,” Lee said. “It’s very universal, appealing to all crowds. That’s what I love about her music. She’s the greatest.”

Sunny Jeong, director of the Korean Cultural Center, said some students even have Suh’s music as a cell phone ring tone. Jeong described Suh’s music.

“It’s kind of misty,” Jeong said. “I like the mysterious aspects of her songs. It’s not really mild and soft like classical music, but also it’s not really loud. Suh sounds like a mixture of jazz and folk reminiscent of Norah Jones.”

Jeong encouraged anyone, not just Koreans or Korean-Americans, to check out the Korean Cultural Center and learn more about Korean culture.