Mason Korea senior discovers his passion for peacebuilding and opera


After several leadership camps in the United States and the U.K. during junior high, Seung Gyo Kim felt that pursuing college abroad was the best way to express his unique identity and broaden his knowledge.

Seung Gyo Kim performing
Seung Gyo Kim. Photo provided

“I wanted to break away from the fixed framework of Korean success and be at a place where I can freely chase my interests,” said the George Mason University undergraduate.  After being introduced to the extended campus of Mason Korea through an admissions event in 2015, he realized he could still stay near his family and develop his English skills by receiving the same quality instruction in Korea.

While he was considering taking over his parents’ business after college, he enrolled in management courses at Mason Korea. However, a turning point came when Kim enlisted in the Korean Air Force military band as a singer for his mandatory service.

“After thinking about how I could integrate different fields with my passion for opera singing, I realized my devotion to creating my artwork, which would only be possible through an interdisciplinary field,” Kim said. This thought was the beginning of Kim not only changing his major to conflict analysis and resolution, but also taking advantage of Mason Korea as a platform for his career aspirations.

After taking classes on interpersonal dynamics, speech communication, and international conflicts, he realized he was interested in public diplomacy. With help from the Career Development Center at Mason Korea, he was able to secure an internship with the United Nations Office of Sustainable Development (UNOSD) and in a policy advocacy program of the World Federation of United Nations Association (WFUNA).

“I would have never imagined being able to intern at these institutions,” said Kim. “These opportunities provided by Mason Korea showed me that I could do valuable work.”

Kim brought these experiences and ideas to Mason’s Fairfax Campus, where he has been preparing for a Korean Art Song event at the 2024 Peace Week hosted by the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution in September. Through the event, he aims to share the stories and struggles of many Korean immigrants and international students by bringing Korean opera singers and the local community together. He hopes to bridge generations and share the diversity of the Korean diaspora through the event, ultimately reaching the goal of merging peacebuilding with opera singing.

“Seung Gyo epitomizes the caliber of young leaders who are indispensable in shaping our world for the better,” said Roland B. Wilson, program coordinator and term faculty member for the conflict and resolution program in Mason Korea. “Moreover, like countless other students who have graced our unique and highly sought-after program, Seung Gyo's journey underscores the importance of nurturing talent and fostering leadership among our youth."

Kim plans to graduate in December and hopes his story will inspire other students to forge their own pathways. “Mason Korea as an environment is a place for students who have not yet discovered their true passion, but have the will to pursue their unknown dreams, to be shaped by faculty, staff, and their peers,” he said.

“Mason Korea is people who were interested in who I was as an individual and were eager to give me a chance to see my worth in this world.”