Tag Archives: Korea

Flushing school combats bullying through martial arts


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Chris Bumbaca

CHRIS BUMBACA

As schools nationwide implement anti-bullying tactics, the Veritas Academy in Flushing is combating bullying in an innovative and unique way.

While most schools lecture their students about bullying, the Veritas Academy has started a new way to repel bullying in school: taekwondo.

A moving-up ceremony was held Monday afternoon in the school’s auditorium for students who participated in a Korean elective class, in which taekwondo was held three times a week after school as a supplement to the class. Most students graduated from a yellow belt to an orange belt, while a handful ascended from a white belt to a yellow belt.

The class emphasized Korean heritage and tradition, and as much as the presentation was part of the anti-bullying campaign, it was also a celebration of Korean culture.

The ceremony included a showcase of an early childhood bullying-prevention performing arts program performed by the Korean Traditional Dance and Music Team. The musicians and dancers taught kids about the signs of bullying through an engaging performance filled with music and emotion. The dance, integrated with taekwondo moves, told a story about a girl being bullied by her peers and how she was able to overcome the obstacle through self-fortitude and the help of others.

“If students are educated and feel good about themselves and have self-esteem they won’t feel the need to bully,” founding principal Cheryl Quatrano said. “They’ll know what to do about it and help other students that are being bullied.”

Aside from the self-defense aspect of taekwondo, there is a large mental facet of the art. Regina Im, the executive director of “Korea Taekwondo,” the taekwondo school that taught the program at Veritas, stressed the importance of self-change to her students and the crowd.

She asked the children questions that correlated with the five main principles of taekwondo: respect, humility, perseverance, self-control and honesty, which are all traits essential in the battle against bullying.

“Are we able to change others?” Im asked. “Are we able to change ourselves?”

 

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Flushing resident to co-produce Asian rapper documentary


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Jaeki Cho


To Flushing resident Jaeki Cho, rap lyrics were his textbooks.

Born in Korea, Cho immigrated to Elmhurst as a child. He didn’t speak English well, but listening to hip-hop music on media outlets, such as Hot 97 and BET’s 106 & Park, helped with the language adjustment, while inspiring his love of rap.

His attraction to hip-hop ballooned as he grew older.Eventually, he started writing about rap and urban music, most recently as an editor for XXL magazine.

Like Cho, people of various ethnicities besides African-Americans are engrossed in hip-hop, even as performers. Although the genre is heavily dominated by blacks, rappers of other cultures have broken mainstream American and international hip-hop charts, but Asians have yet to have a champion in the U.S. Cho is co-producing a documentary entitled “Bad Rap,” aiming to explain why Asian rappers have not gained that attention.

“For the international spectrum, hip hop has become more global than other [genres],” Cho said. “If you go to Korea, you are going to see Korean rappers; if you go to France, you’ll see French rappers. In terms of how it is in America, there are limitations for rappers that aren’t African-American.”

The film will be directed and produced by hip-hop writer Salima Koroma, who originally reached out to Cho as a student at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. The pair talked about the field of Asian musicians, which progressed to the idea of the film.

In a year and a half, the pair has completed a 40-minute feature and teasers. They have raised more than $14,100, as of press time, on crowdfunding site indiegogo.com, and are seeking to raise $25,000 to complete a full 70-minute documentary, which they hope to premiere later this year in New York.

The film features four Asian rappers, including Queens’ own Awkwafina and Rekstizzy, on the brink of exploding in mainstream hip-hop, but for various reasons haven’t become household names. Cho said the movie will explain the complexity of being an Asian rapper through the characters, as well as their individual struggles. He believes it could get the conversation started on a large scale.

“I think this film could shed light on a lot of things,” Cho said. “If it does well commercially, I’m sure the artists in the film will get recognition from more people.”

He added, “The kids that are going to be watching this of Asian descent … they are probably going to feel, ‘This is the same kind of issue that I face.’”

 

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The Accidental Idol: Heejun Han talks with The Courier


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Michael Becker / FOX

Heejun Han landed in “American Idol’s” Top Ten by accident. The 22-year-old from Flushing auditioned for the show as a means to propagate his organization – a group called Milal that assists special needs children. He sought to spread the word, hopefully help the kids he adored. He never thought music, something previously regarded as merely a hobby, would become his life.

He now sings weekly for an audience of millions.

Originally from Korea, Han moved to Queens with his family when he was 12. As a kid, he performed songs in front of his parents and practiced singing in the bathroom, but never received any professional vocal training.

Han’s musical influences include a lineup of legendary balladeers — Michael Bolton, Billy Joel and Michael McDonald. For his first “American Idol” audition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Han sang Michael Bolton’s version of “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” – a performance so moving, it brought Jennifer Lopez to tears.

As he advances to the semi-finals, Han is beginning to feel the pressure. The show keeps its contenders on a rigid schedule. Training sessions consume a majority of their time, strengthening participants’ voices and practicing their song for the following week with mentors and coaches. Han says the contestants do not interact with the show’s three judges — Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson — outside of the few minutes following their performances, when the officials offer their critiques.

Han says the biggest challenge of competing on “American Idol” is holding your ground and remembering yourself in the spotlight.

“It’s hard to know yourself and not act like a star,” said Han. “The circumstances can make you bigheaded. You need to just focus on who you are.”

Regardless of how he wound up a semi-finalist on “American Idol,” Han is ecstatic.

“When I tried out, it was to help my organization at home,” said Han. “Now, I’m in a position where I can help a lot of people. The fact that I get to do stuff for other people, it’s amazing.”

“American Idol” airs Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on Fox 5.

 

Two Queens contestants make it to American Idol’s top 24


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of Fox

Hundreds of thousands of “American Idol” hopefuls were narrowed down to 24 over the past month, with two Queens crooners making the cut.

Heejun Han, of Flushing, and Astoria’s Creighton Fraker both withstood the auditions, Hollywood and a trip to Las Vegas to make it to the shows semifinals round, and now have the opportunity to sing live in front of America, hopefully earning the viewers’ votes.

Fraker grew up as a preacher’s kid in South Dakota, finding his voice in church choirs and local boys’ singing groups. He took private lessons throughout the years and eventually joined a touring choir, serenading audiences across the nation.

The 28 year old moved to Astoria eight years ago.

For his turn in front of the judges, Fraker belted out Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Lovin’ You,” as well as an untitled original piece.

“[The judges] had only good things to say. They were shocked at how unique I was,” Fraker told The Courier.

READ CREIGHTON FRAKER’S INTERVIEW WITH THE QUEENS COURIER

Han, 22, originally from Korea, shocked the judging triumvirate with his audition performance of “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” by Michael Bolton.

“You have a beautiful tone,” Jennifer Lopez told Han, who said he loves singing Soul and R&B.

Han’s Facebook fan page already has nearly 8,000 likes.

In their final performances before the judges, both Fraker and Han paid homage to their hometown singing Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.”

The semifinalists will be sliced in half during next week’s round. The men will perform Tuesday night with the women singing for the “Idol” lives on Wednesday. Viewer votes will determine the 12 finalists who will compete to become the 11th American Idol on Thursday.  Each show airs on Fox 5 at 8 p.m.

Additional reporting by Alexa Altman