A Team of Hanyang University International Students Win Big in the LG Global Challenger
Veganism in Korea unfolded by team Begin (비긴)
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Hanyang University’s Begin (비긴) team was recently awarded the grand prize at the LG Global Challenger, an exhibition program and competition hosted by LG. “비긴,” which is a blend of both begin and vegan in English, is a four-person-all-international student team whose aim is to explore veganism in Korea. The team is made up of four students: Kejie Feng (Department of Mechanical Engineering, 4th year) from China, Julia Barlund (Department of Business Administration, 4th year) from Finland, Saira Tahsin (Department of Computer Software Engineering, 3rd year) from Bangladesh, and Nirmal Acharya (Department of Biomedical Engineering, 3rd year) from Nepal.
Feng, who is the team’s leader, said that he met the members through clubs and school organizations. Having participated in the LG Global Challenger in 2018 with Barlund, Feng proposed that they enter, this time, with the goal to make a social impact. Each of the team members had a different goal in mind: air pollution, protecting the environment, health, and protecting animal rights. Combining their interests, the team decided to explore veganism.
The team started its journey in May, which was when they had their interviews with LG. Since then, the team researched and presented their findings to the LG Global Challenger. In the end of August, the team went on an 11-day trip around Korea to explore veganism in Korea. Starting with Seoul, they expended their journey to Gyeonggi-do, Daejeon, and Jeju Island. The team visited several vegan restaurants, businesses and temples, and interviewed professors, CEOs, animal rights activists, and monks. They learned that there were many challenges for vegans in Korea.
They mentioned how there were occasions where they had to eat a few chunks of meat during get-togethers, which the team believed is a type of social pressure that is an obstacle for practicing veganism in Korea. The challenge also expands to products as well, especially make-up. “If it’s a big brand, it is really hard to be vegan because, usually, if they sell those to China, they have to do animal testing,” said Barlund. “So, in order for a brand to be completely cruelty free, they have to be out of China, which is a big market, and it excludes a lot.”
The team experienced firsthand how hard it was to practice eating vegan during their journey as they tried to commit to all-out vegan eating habits. “There were no vegan restaurants,” said Acharya. “So, we ended up eating bibimbap for three, four days, continuously. That, of course, was quite hard because there are no varieties of menus for vegans.” Acharya added that there was an occasion, during a get-together with other LG Challenger teams at a restaurant, where the team could only eat cooked mushrooms. It is rare for regular restaurants to accommodate vegan dishes.
Some team members have already taken the next step to promote veganism in Hanyang. Barlund, Tahsin, and Acharya are part of a group called HEAL (Hanyang Environmental Activism Leaders), which seeks to introduce vegan menus in the Hanyang cafeteria. Until now, vegetarians needed to either pack their food from home or ask for meats to be taken out of their meal. Barlund said she would eat kimbap with meat taken out, and Tahsin confessed that she ate mapo tofu, a Chinese style dish with spicy tofu, thinking it had no meat in it. Looks can be deceiving because it is sometimes hard to tell whether dishes are entirely meat-free, as meat can be dissolved in oils, broths, and seasoning.
However, the team agreed amongst themselves that Korea certainly has potential for improvement. “I see the future very bright in Korea,” said Acharya. “Because Korea is good at catching on to trends that are going on in the world, especially in the Western world, I think that after some years, Korea will have the infrastructure which will provide vegan stuff for vegans.”
As Grand Prize winners, all the team members are guaranteed internships at LG. Feng and Barlund said that they plan on doing their internships in April, while Acharya and Tahsin plan on doing theirs later.
Jung Myung-suk firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Kim Ju-eun
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