At different points in her life, Do-Hee Morsman has been a citizen of South Korea, Canada and the United States. She appreciates all three cultures and hopes her children will, too.
“As biracial children of an international couple, they are going to have to learn to embrace the various sources of their heritage,” Morsman says.
As the center administrator for the Nam Center for Korean Studies at the University of Michigan International Institute, Morsman helps children of all ages to learn about Korea. “I serve as a conduit for helping the center promote Korean activities and events to the K-14 education sphere, especially in making information and knowledge about Korea accessible to teachers and students, mostly in Michigan but all over the continental U.S., too.”
Morsman helps organize Nam Center events like the annual Quiz Bowl competition, where students in grades 5-12 can compete for prizes by testing their knowledge of Korean culture. She also works to promote the Nam Center’s e-School, a program that increases the reach of Korean studies by making video lectures and other resources available, including faculty from U-M and the rest of the Big Ten.
“What we find as a challenge for Korean studies is that people don’t have a good notion of what Korea is, despite the fact that Korea is the U.S.’s seventh largest trading partner, a close U.S. ally, and that U.S. veterans served there. One of the best ways to get people excited about Korea is to use events to drive curiosity,” Morsman says. She’s been working on the upcoming Korean Film Festival and the events for the center’s Colloquium Series. She acts as liaison for visiting scholars, speakers and participants.
Since Morsman joined in 2010, the Nam Center has added new programs and outreach activities. “Our undergraduate students are very, very passionate about Korea — that’s one of our bragging points,” says Morsman. The center works with more than seven different student organizations that are focused on Korea, including the Korean Business Club and Sinaboro, a traditional Korean drumming group. In addition, Morsman oversees the Center’s Undergraduate Fellows program that holds an annual exchange conference with the University of Southern California.
Korean culture isn’t just a part of Morsman’s job, it’s something she values in her own life. Born in Korea, she moved to Canada when she was 5. “I had very little interest in Korean culture when I was young, which is kind of ironic now, as I try to teach my two children Korean. I suppose my mom is laughing the loudest,” says Morsman, She returned to Korea for a couple of years at an international high school, but did her university schooling in Canada, and after graduate school in linguistics, went back to Korea to spend time with her family.
“I was able to experience and interact with the country and culture in a way that was on my terms as it is today. I grew to really love it,” Morsman says. She stayed in Korea for a few years, and met her husband there. While teaching English to university students, she took a traditional Korean folk art painting class with her mother, which ended up turning into a passion.
“I like the practice of painting. If you make a mistake, there are limited ways to correct it, so often it’s better to work with the error and move on. Not a bad principle for living, either.”
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Do-Hee Morsman, center administrator of the Nam Center for Korean Studies, on living in Korea: “I was able to experience and interact with the country and culture in a way that was on my terms.”