Student is 'double agent' of history, music

By Hal Jacobs | Quadrangle | March 11, 2013

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Emory College senior Hyeok Kang

When Tonio Andrade, associate professor of history, talks about the accomplishments of Emory College senior Hyeok Kang, he could almost be describing a young faculty colleague. Kang has four academic articles under review (one in collaboration with Andrade and another student, another potential one after he finishes his senior thesis). He's received ten grants and fellowships in the last three years, presented papers at several conferences, and made impressive contacts with senior scholars in his field. His linguistic skills are off the charts: native Korean, near-native Spanish, as-good-as-native English, Chinese, Classical Chinese, and a smattering of French and Japanese.

As if that's not enough, Andrade adds one other characteristic that sets Kang apart: humility. "People like and trust him," says Andrade. "He's remarkably good at forging relationships with others."

Perhaps that comes natural to a "third-culture kid." Kang has spent his life navigating different cultures. He was born in Korea, then moved with his family to China at the age of 11 and to Guatemala during his high school years. His father is in the shipping business, and his mother manages a small academy that teaches Korean to second generation Korean-Guatemalan.

When he arrived at Emory as a Kemp Malone scholar (attracted to "Emory's environmental-friendly atmosphere and amazing faculty"), he admits he was a self-doubter at first and vacillated about what to concentrate on.

"I came to Emory thinking that I would major in environmental studies and business, and make a living as a green businessman," says Kang. But during his freshman year, he started exploring other fields such as economics, political science and East Asian studies. Then he met his "life-long mentors," Andrade and Tong Soon Lee, associate professor of music, and realized that his real passion was for both music and history.

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