Crosslake to host Korean culture camp July 12-16
Celebrating 40th year, Kamp Kimchee moves from Brainerd-Baxter
When Dan and Wynter Hopson had their twin boys, it was important to them that their sons learn about their Korean heritage.
Dan is half Korean, and the Pequot Lakes couple’s sons - Ben and Carter, who are now 8 - are a quarter Korean. For their first two years, Ben’s and Carter’s cultural education came from their grandmother - Dan’s mother - who immigrated to the United States from Korea and lives in Big Lake.
Then the family learned about Kamp Kimchee, a weeklong day camp that focuses on Korean culture. They’ve been attending every year ever since.
"To have something in Brainerd to teach them about culture is cool. There are so many cultural differences between my family and his (husband Dan’s) family."
— Wynter Hopson, Pequot Lakes
“To have something in Brainerd to teach them about culture is cool,” Wynter said of the camp that is celebrating its 40th year. “There are so many cultural differences between my family and his (Dan’s) family.”
Kamp Kimchee is “an inclusive Korean Family Kamp focusing on self-esteem, family education, and common identity,” according to its website. After being based for 39 years in the Brainerd-Baxter area, Kamp Kimchee will celebrate its 40th anniversary Monday-Friday, July 12-16, with a move to Crosslake.
Weeklong camp activities will be based at Crosslake Community School, with many families staying at Whitefish Lodge & Suites, just a short walk away from the school. More than 40 families from across the country attend Kamp Kimchee with their children.
“The Kamp Kimchee experience goes beyond Korean language, art, music, and traditional Korean food. At Kamp Kimchee we strive to provide healthy connections and empowerment to children and families with Korean ties,” the website says.
"Doing this definitely is a great way to teach them the culture. Benefits are they learn the culture and make great friends and have a great time."
— Dan Hopson, Pequot Lakes
Created for children adopted from Korea, Kamp Kimchee also caters to children with Korean heritage.
“Kamp Kimchee provides Korean-American children with a sense of common identity. It fosters positive self-esteem, and allows their families - siblings, parents, relatives, etc. - to connect with other transracial families,” the website says.
Dan likes that his sons can learn about where their grandmother came from, and what their father experienced growing up.
“Doing this definitely is a great way to teach them the culture. Benefits are they learn the culture and make great friends and have a great time,” he said.
Campers attend daily classes in Korean art, recreation, Korean culture and language, taekwondo, Korean music and dance, Korean drums and self esteem. There are also classes for parents.
Asked what they like best about camp, Ben said: “Taekwondo, because I can learn really cool tricks.”
“My favorite part is the snack room,” Carter said, referring to the Korean Store where they can buy Korean candies.
Both boys also enjoy playing with other kids, and this year they look forward to having a friend from the Twin Cities join them at Kamp Kimchee.
"I’ve never felt discrimination here towards me or towards my family. Pequot Lakes is a great place to live and raise kids whether you're white or Asian or Black."
— Dan Hopson, Pequot Lakes
Wynter first learned about Kamp Kimchee when her family moved to Pequot Lakes, where she was born and raised, in 2014. Wynter was a student teacher at Harrison Elementary School in Brainerd, and a secretary who had adopted Korean children told Wynter about the camp.
Now Wynter, a special education teacher at Brainerd High School, volunteers all week at Kamp Kimchee. Dan, an integration specialist at GrowthZone based in Nisswa, attends camp on Friday, when the Korean Heritage Festival takes place.
After a special Korean lunch, the festival highlights various events of the week and campers perform traditional Korean songs, dances and taekwondo. This event is free and open to the public.
Dan’s mom visits the week before camp to cook kimchi - a spicy fermented cabbage dish - that’s served during the week of camp.
“I grew up with all the food they serve,” Dan said.
While families with Korean children from other areas may encounter unkindness at times, the Hopsons said they feel welcomed in this area.
“I’ve never felt discrimination here towards me or towards my family,” Dan said. “Pequot Lakes is a great place to live and raise kids whether you're white or Asian or Black.”
Wynter also said teachers at Eagle View Elementary School are supportive of their sons, whose friends love when they bring Korean candy from their grandma to share at school.
The Hopsons hope to visit South Korea within the next couple of years, and to visit Dan’s grandmother, aunts and cousins there.
Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.