Simon Huynh

With thesis project, student discovers Korean culture through ASU school


Gabriel Sandler

The Korean department at Arizona State University's School of International Letters and Cultures (SILC) is one of the college’s fastest growing programs, with more students benefiting every year. Senior Simon Huynh, in pursuit of his thesis project, found out exactly what that growth and energy meant.

“I originally got involved with SILC on a recommendation to find an honors thesis director,” Huynh said. "SILC has a very open faculty, willing to help you. Their level of expertise is very high.”

Huynh’s thesis project for Barrett, The Honors College, analyzes how Korean popular culture, or K-pop music, is influenced by videos, livestreams and reality television.

“The goal of my thesis was to see how various social media tools generate a very interactive, very invested fan base for K-pop. Something very unique about K-pop is how organized the fans are around a particular group,” Huynh explained.

He said this ranges from active fan clubs to wide-scale donations in a band’s name. Huynh himself has listened to K-pop since middle school, but realized his interest had thesis potential after learning about Professor Jiwon Shin’s class on Korean popular culture. Shin became Huynh’s director.

“Studying culture enables you to obtain and widen your lens of perception,” Huynh said. “You’re able to see people for who they are. In my study of Korean culture, I’ve come to appreciate both the differences and the similarities between my original culture … Vietnamese American.”

Huynh credits his thesis and Shin with helping him become more aware of other cultures and more empathetic of cultural differences. In the future, students can get even more out of the Korean department than Huynh was able to, thanks to the addition of a Korean minor to SILC degree options.

The Korean minor will empower students to explore technological, economic and political realities tied in with Korean language and culture. Korea is at the center of geopolitical, security and global conversations. SILC wants students to be part of those conversations.

“My professors are actually trying to help me publish my thesis,” Huynh said. “I think that’s a huge step I didn’t consider, but they want to help me build that step. … It’s important for me to share my culture and understand other people’s culture.”