July 6, 2015
By Mike Killeen
For the second year in a row, Tiffany Xiong and Mai Tong Vang will be attending the Korea-America Student Conference (KASC).
This year, however, the College of Saint Benedict senior and 2015 graduate, respectively, played a leading role in the eighth annual conference.
Xiong and Vang are members of the 10-person executive committee, made up of five students representing the U.S. and five students representing Korea. Xiong is chair and Vang secretary of the American Executive Committee.
Saint John's University junior Jonathan Nguyen (communication major, St. Paul, Minnesota) and CSB junior Hli Vang (Asian studies major, St. Paul) will also be delegates to the conference, which runs July 1-30 at four colleges across the United States. There are 42 delegates at the conference — 28 from South Korea, 13 from America and one from North Korea.
Both Xiong and Mai Tong Vang were selected for the executive committee by election of their peers at the conclusion of the 2014 KASC. The executive committee choose the conference theme, topics of roundtable discussion, day-to-day programming, contacting lecturers and speakers, and working with the host universities to plan logistics for the conference.
"One thing that drew me to KASC was the exchange of dialogue and knowledge I would have with students who have backgrounds different than mine," said Xiong, a social science major from St. Paul, Minnesota, on the KASC website. "During the 7th KASC, I learned so much about the Korea-America relationship, which gave me a deeper understanding of Korea and the U.S. beyond what is presented in media or textbooks. I also learned a great deal about myself and was able to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone."
"KASC has been a life changing program for me," said Mai Tong Vang, who graduated in May with a degree in elementary education. "The reason why I joined the 7th KASC was for the opportunity to travel (to South Korea) and indulge myself in the Korean culture in an academic aspect that I would not obtain from simply studying abroad. Through this conference, I went beyond my comfort zone and gained many new experiences, qualities and friendships that I would not be able to achieve doing something else."
The KASC, which began in 2008, aims to build closer ties between young leaders. The conference explores the relationship on multiple levels — politics, trade, culture and news media — while gaining knowledge and confidence to discuss, debate and co-create bilateral and international relations.
The roundtable topics include security relations, environmental sustainability, technology and ethics, business and communication and immigration and social justice. The security relations roundtable will discuss the Korean peninsula, including issues between South Korea and North Korea, facets of the U.S.-Korea relationship and the impact of China and Japan on the relationship.