K-Pop Dreamers bring Korean culture to Columbia


Erin Dickson

Gabby Watkins and Xin Xin Wang, the president and vice president of the KPOP Dreamers club, talked about wanting to spread love for Korean culture to Columbia at 33 E. Congress Pkwy on Feb. 13.

By Olivia Deloian

K-Pop Dreamers, a student organization at Columbia, celebrates the many facets of Korean culture, especially K-Pop music. 

Gabby Watkins, president of K-Pop Dreamers and a freshman cinema and television arts major, said when she came to Columbia last semester, she was eager to join Columbia’s Korean club Hangook, which was one of her reasons for attending the college. 

After discovering the group no longer existed, she contacted the former president who told her she could take over. She revived the club with a new name—K-Pop Dreamers—and became its president. Its first official meeting was in October 2017. 

“I was so excited because I love K-Pop and Korean culture,” Watkins said. “I was like, ‘Sure, I’m going to become president.’” 

Watkins said she was first drawn to Korean music when she discoverd it at about 12 years old, but it truly resonated with her when she was going through an unfathomable loss during her junior year of high school. 

“One of my best friends passed away, and I fell into a deep depression,” Watkins said. “For months, I didn’t laugh.” 

After discovering the music video “Just One Day” by popular South Korean group BTS, Watkins said she finally felt relief after months of grieving.

“I was watching their music video and it spoke to me because their words were so true to my story,” Watkins said. “They were speaking about all of these life challenges that they’ve been through; it [really]  helped me get past that depression.”

Jorge Solis, a student at Harper College and DJ at Harper College radio, is a co-host of K-Hits, which features K-Pop music on 88.3 FM. 

Solis explained that he had gotten into the genre of K-Pop about six years ago and hopes the club fosters a greater awareness of the unique genre. 

“Hopefully, [students can gain] some kind of knowledge on K-Pop stars,” Solis said. “[The organization is] more of a reason for me to want to transfer there.” 

Watkins said she needed three additional members to form the club and brought in her roommate Xin Xin Wang, a sophomore business and entrepreneurship major, who is now vice president. 

Wang said her background in arts management enables her to help with the club’s marketing. She was able to recruit one of her friends from Beijing who is now  associate secretary. 

Watkins said the group holds meetings every Friday and consists of discussions on what is new in the K-Pop world, and other aspects of Korean culture. 

This semester, Watkins plans to teach members some Korean and collaborate with the Asian Student Organization to organize a spring dance battle. 

Watkins said their main goal is to spread Korean culture and get more students involved. 

“Music is a universal language, so K-Pop is so different and it’s on the other side of the world,” Watkins said. “I want people to have an open mind, to try something new, because Korean culture is different from any other culture.”