The Daily Gamecock

Korean Student Association hosts sports tournament, promotes diversity through friendly competition

<p>Participants of the KSA Cup pose for a photo on March 30, 2024. The Korean International Student Association organized the K-Cup tournament for students to compete in a variety of sports, including badminton, dodgeball and basketball.</p>
Participants of the KSA Cup pose for a photo on March 30, 2024. The Korean International Student Association organized the K-Cup tournament for students to compete in a variety of sports, including badminton, dodgeball and basketball.

Second-year international business and entrepreneurship student Chris Park is one of many University of South Carolina students with an international background. While Park was born in Lexington, South Carolina, both of his parents are from South Korea.

By the time Park arrived on campus, a club called the Korean International Student Association existed previously, but was no longer active. He decided to create the Korean Student Association, known as KSA, in the fall of 2023 to fill the void of Korean representation. 

“It felt like there was a gap in Korean culture here,” Park said. “We came in and just started a brand new organization because that Korean culture wasn’t really present on this campus.” 

Park, who serves as the club's president, said the club aims to promote Korean culture to the student body. He said the members of the club do this by cooking traditional Korean food for other students, educating them about Korean pop culture and hosting events such as a campus-wide scavenger hunt each semester. 

One of the recent ways the Association has worked to fulfill this goal is by hosting the K-Cup, a tournament in which students can compete in a variety of sports. The tournament connects members of the Asian-American community on campus and aims to makes everyone feel welcome by demonstrating the importance of cultural diversity on college campuses, Parks said. 

The K-Cup took place on March 30 at Seven Oaks Park in Irmo, South Carolina. The event featured basketball, badminton and dodgeball as possible sports students could compete in. 

The Association overcame multiple obstacles that made it difficult to hold the event.

The club originally wanted to host it this past fall at the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center, third-year biological sciences student Andrew Juhn said,who serves as the club's treasurer. 

"We were planning to do it last semester, but ... they told us they didn't have staff for us, I want to say like one to two weeks before we were intending to have the event. So it was kind of a last-minute cancellation," Juhn said. 

When the event was rescheduled for the spring, the organization again wanted to host the event at the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center, but the cost  made it necessary to find a venue elsewhere.

“We wanted it to be on campus at first, and then we found out the huge price tag. It was four times the cost of what we paid at Seven Oaks,” Park said. “We couldn’t do on campus anymore, so we went off campus.”

Other Asian-American student organizations, such as the Asian and Pacific Islander Activism Association and the Chinese Cultures Association, made up a majority of participants in the K-Cup.

The tournament's badminton competition included two teams from the Korean Student Association, one team from the Chinese Cultures Association and one team from the Filipino American Student Association. 

First-year aerospace engineering student Elian Gonzalez, a member of the Filipino American Student Association, competed in the tournament.

After making friends with Filipino students during his first week on campus, Gonzalez said he attended a few of the club's interest meetings and decided to join in the fall of 2023. When the K-Cup was brought up at a Filipino American Student Association meeting earlier this semester, Gonzalez said he knew he was interested in competing. 

Gonzalez not only competed in the tournament but left as a champion when the Filipino American Student Association beat the Chinese Cultures Association to become the inaugural K-Cup badminton champions.

He and his teammate, first-year accounting student Maia Dantes, are both members of the Badminton Club on campus. Gonzalez said that made them well-prepared for this event.

While Gonzalez said he was proud to win, he said the most valuable part of the tournament was getting to meet new people. 

“I think the best part about the tournament was just how it was different organizations, and it wasn’t the same people you see at Badminton Club," Gonzalez said. 

Park said he hopes that future years of the K-Cup and the Korean Student Association as a whole will allow students on campus to feel more welcome and included, no matter their backgrounds. 

“When we’re trying to think of a diverse campus, we don’t want to view it as a political thing," Park said. “We just want to go off the principle that everyone is welcome. We want everyone to feel welcome and that all these opportunities to dip into multicultural things ... should be open to everybody.”


Opportunities to join different organizations have the potential to help students meet new people and stay motivated throughout the school year, Gonzalez said. 

When you join organizations, you’ll find things to do, things that you’ll love doing, with people that you love doing it with, people who understand you and your beliefs,” Gonzalez said. “Going out and finding those groups, those organizations, those clubs, is one of the best ways to network and find your position in college — find your reason to keep going.”


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