Last month, President Barack Obama addressed the nation in his second inaugural speech and said, "America’s possibilities are limitless." It was not just American citizens who were listening to him; but his words resonated with the rest of the world as well. People of different backgrounds, cultures, and countries all tuned in to see what President Obama had to say about the next four years. One of those spectators that day was Oxford College sophomore Won Chung.
Chung was born in Seoul, South Korea. His father worked for an insurance company and his mother was a classically trained pianist. When Chung was 5, his parents made the tough decision to have him and his mother move to New York City so she could further pursue her studies while his father stayed in Korea to support them financially.
During this time, Chung attended various schools in New York, California and South Korea. Even though the separation was difficult, his parents always looked to what was best for him. While it was financially difficult to send Chung away for school, his parents knew that it was a worthwhile investment for his future.
Between his schooling in Korea and America, Chung developed a love for American politics and history. "I always had an invested curiosity towards history and politics since I was little. When I was in the second grade, I even memorized all of the U.S. presidents in order!" Chung said.
As Chung got older, he began to pay more attention to politics. His boarding school challenged him to develop his own views from the school’s intellectually stimulating environment. He was particularly inspired by President Obama.
At Oxford, Chung is carrying out his passion by studying history and economics. He is certainly taking every opportunity to further his learning and understanding of the world before he has to go back to South Korea. "Being in a community full of such brilliant people is not a chance that you get too many times in a lifetime and I intend to learn as much as I can from others. I hope by the time I graduate, I can learn to appreciate and truly understand and find my place in this world."
After Chung graduates, he is set up to serve in the South Korean military, which is mandatory for males ages of 18 to 35. Chung tries not to think about it because he just wants to have a normal college experience for now. If given the choice, Chung wishes he did not have to serve, but does understand the need for doing so.
"I recognize the importance of doing my service for my country. I don’t particularly agree with the way Korea’s handling the service, but I certainly understand the precautions that they are taking. We are still technically at war with our northern neighbors so I guess the need for a big and strong army is there. I love my country and serving will certainly be the least I can do."
North and South Korea have been in conflict since before the Korean War in 1951. Their conflict extends to more than just border problems these days. North Korea recently threatened to test its nuclear weapons on the United States. North Korea’s increased hostility has not only been a problem for South Korea, but all of the Pacific region and international peace all together.
Although Chung tries not to focus on his future in the military, he cannot help but pay attention to events back home. While he has spent a lot of his time in America, he still identifies as a Korean. The threats towards his home from the north are a reality he must face in the future, but for now Chung is not a solider, but a student.
During President Obama’s inaugural address, Obama said, "My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together." As a student attending an American college, Chung holds to these words and is trying to enjoy every moment and pursue every opportunity he has here at Oxford College before he has to go back home to South Korea.