Korean American Kids Find Community at Summer Camp

On Camp Naru’s sprawling 640-acre campus, each day started with conversations about the Korean American experience. Campers then participated in activities like taekwondo and cooking authentic Korean dishes. Chloe Kim, the Korean American snowboarder and two-time Olympic gold medalist, even stopped by one day.

“Our upbringings may be unique; however, there’s a lot of cultural components that tie us together. I think when we’re able to cultivate a community that really understands that, it really allows us to feel more comfortable and secure,” the camp’s director, Benjamin Oser, said. A Korean adoptee who grew up outside Princeton, N.J., he attended an immersion camp himself in the mid-1990s and estimates that Naru is now one of about 15 such camps in the United States.

This year, the camp will be held in East Stroudsburg, Penn., on the eastern side of the Poconos. Bringing the campers together in these unique natural spaces, away from their everyday homes, “builds that sense of security, and, in a way, it’s like building a bubble,” he explained. And within that safe harbor, the campers find the freedom to explore.

“I didn’t really know Korean that well. And I only went to the country once. I felt like my whole life has just been spent in the U.S. — that I’m not, like, Korean Korean, I guess,” Ryan, at right, said.

Five young people sit on a carpeted floor against a wood paneled wall, below a projector screen with an English and Korean lesson projected on it. Three of the children wear red T-shirts that say Camp Naru. The fourth, who is older, wears a red Camp Naru polo. The fifth, on the end, wears a white T-shirt with pink, green and yellow flowers on it.

Camp Naru, and the community she found there, helped her bring that discomfort into focus, and start to dismantle it. “It helped me realize that I am who I am, and I don’t think I should have to choose,” she said.

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