By Julia Munslow
Mention North Korea, and many people will immediately conjure up images of political unrest.
However, Emory’s student-run chapter of Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), who recently hosted their annual benefit concert, takes the attention off of the politics and places it on the people, focusing on rescuing refugees.
LiNK’s fourth annual Benefit Concert took place last Friday at 7 p.m. in the Cox Hall Ballroom. The event included an educational presentation about LiNK’s cause, performances from student groups such as No Strings Attached, Adrenaline and Solar Sun and delicious Korean food.
LiNK President and College senior Vincent Vartabedian described LiNK as a national human rights organization with two central goals.
“The first [goal] is to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in North Korea,” Vartabedian shared. “And the second [goal] is to raise funds so that refugees get relocated and resettled.”
The Benefit Concert sought to meet both of those goals.
The concert began with an introductory video that asked audience members to imagine living in North Korea: surviving without basic freedoms, such as the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech, and suffering from famine.
Members of the LiNK Executive Board kicked off the performances, dancing to Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.” The lighthearted performance featured, to the dismay of College sophomores John Lee and Shawn Kim, Lee and Kim wearing bright red dresses and attempting to move their hips as fluidly as possible to the music.
Following the Executive Board’s performance, No Strings Attached sang Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” featuring College senior Fei Gao, and Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” featuring College sophomore Brian Steinberg.
Though Steinberg had to fight through some technical issues, the group did their best to work around the faulty sound system.
The Mulan Dance Group followed the a cappella group, dancing in beautiful synchronization. The precise gestures and elegant hand movements from the Chinese dance troupe were impressive, although the group had trouble filling the room with their presence.
Also on tap were LiNK Nomads, who spread the word about the non-profit organization, traveling the country and educating as many people as possible about the plights of North Korean refugees.
LiNK Southeast Nomad Tom Harrington, a national representative of LiNK, followed the dancers with an educational presentation that sobered the mood, sharing videos of refugees who escaped from North Korea as teens.
However, the stories of the refugees managed to end on a hopeful note, as the three refugees who shared their stories in the video reminded audience members of their ability to save other refugees.
Following the presentation, Emory’s belly dancing group, Zeebah, performed. Though a few girls had trouble balancing the golden swords on their heads, the expertise of others was clear, evidenced by those who managed to finish the performance without rebalancing their swords.
Next up was Solar Sun, a duo comprised of College sophomore Sol Lee and College senior Erin Sun. The pair slowed down a medley of Beyonce hits, creating a captivating acoustic medley including songs such as “Drunk in Love” and “Single Ladies.”
While the mere idea of an acoustic Beyonce medley had me excited before their performance even started, the pair still completely met my expectations. Sun’s soft and clear vocals, supported by Lee’s vocals and guitar, managed to fill the room, eliciting positive reactions from the audience throughout the performance.
Following Solar Sun was the AV Club, who performed a cover of Bastille’s “Pompeii.” Comprised of College senior Andrew Navia and Vartabedian himself, the duo showed off their strong vocals and enthusiasm.
After the AV Club came beatboxing duo Arjun and Kevin Lu, made up of College junior Arjun Patel and College freshman Kevin Lu. The two managed to stand out from the rest of the program, improvising their performance and astonishing the audience.
It was only in witnessing the pair of vocal percussionists with my own eyes that I accepted that the two were solely responsible for the nearly perfect musical simulations.
After the beatboxers, musical trio Jenny, Steven and Jae, featuring College senior Steven Song and College juniors Jenny Park and Jae Lee, sang a remix of songs from Korean pop group Big Bang.
And Adrenaline, Emory’s co-ed hip-hop group, ended the show with a bang, easily filling the room with their intense presence.
The entire concert felt casual and relaxed, focusing on raising awareness for LiNK’s cause instead of concentrating on perfecting the performances.
Multiple LiNK members, equally knowledgeable about North Korea, shared their insights about why LiNK is important.
“When people think North Korea, there’s stigma against it, they really just focus on the politics,” LiNK Secretary and B-School sophomore Soo Min Kang said. “But they don’t think about the people who are actually suffering from that government, and I think it’s really important to help spread the word, [and] also to help raise money for those refugees.”
Though a relatively young chapter on Emory’s campus, LiNK has found much success on other college campuses around the country.
“We’ve rescued over 300 North Korean people,” Harrington shared proudly. “Over half of [the rescues] have been fundraised by college students.”
The performers were also aware of the importance of giving back to their community.
“When [performers] stick close together and work toward something, it’s beautiful,” Patel said.
Lu agreed, adding, “Hopefully we just bring more attention to the cause and show people what LiNK is about.”
While LiNK’s Benefit Concert concert was hardly a professional production, the event succeeded by raising awareness and funds, as well as by showing the enthusiasm and talents of the performers â€” which is exactly how a benefit concert should be.
â€” By Julia Munslow, Staff Writer