Conversations at Shun Hing — Junbeom Lee

You can find Junbeom Lee everywhere. On the court shooting hoops, standing behind the podium, or playing chess in the virtual world — you’ll surely find him. As a second-year undergraduate student living in Shun Hing College for his second year, Junbeom serves as both co-captain of University of Hong Kong’s English Debate Team (HKU EDT) and the captain of HKU’s Korean Basketball team, the Orcas.

I had the pleasure of speaking to him as he returned from basketball practice.

Junbeom debating at the Grand Finals of the Hong Kong Pro-ams 2018 Debate Tournament

Can you tell me about your background?

I was born in South Korea, but when I was four, I moved to California for seven years as my dad was studying for his PhD. We returned to Korea once he finished his education when I was in the sixth grade. I completed my secondary education there.

Why did you choose HKU?

I was always interested in finance and business, and in my opinion, Hong Kong has the best prospects for asset management and trading. A lot of my friends wanted to go to the U.S., whereas I thought Asia is a very interesting and booming market, and I wanted to be part of its continued success. Also, HKU has a very prestigious debate program.

Were there any expectations you had before coming to Hong Kong and were they met or did they disappoint you in any way when you arrived?

For expectations that were exceeded…I like dim sum a lot more than I thought I would. I thought I wouldn’t like shrimp (dim sum), but now I really like shrimp (dim sum).

For expectations that weren’t met…I don’t think Lan Kwai Fong is as fun as it is in Korea — my definition of fun is getting drinks and hanging out at bars. It’s alright, but it’s very expensive. I also didn’t realize how few people speak English here so that was a little hard in terms of communicating with people.

What’s the most difficult topic you’ve ever debated on?

When I debate, the hard topics are obvious — things that I don’t know about such as international relations or law principles.

But I think the harder debates are when your opponents are people who are very invested in that area.

For example, I once had a debate about feminism and my opponents were very active in the feminism community — those who’ve been to multiple rallies and parades. Compared to them, I only had cursory knowledge and I wasn’t a student of the subject so I felt out of place.

How do you overcome these difficulties?

I guess the way I try to overcome it is to realize that in any discussion, not everyone has to be an expert.

Because most people in the society aren’t experts. This means the viewpoint of someone who has cursory knowledge could be extremely valuable because the majority will share my viewpoint, and not that of a law professor.

So, in debating, while it helps to have a lot of knowledge, it’s always fair because in the end, you’re not speaking to someone who’s very smart, but rather someone who’s more like you.

From what I hear from your peers, you are an extremely hard worker. Where do you find your grit?

I’m a very big believer in that second chances don’t come often.

So I try to work hard at every moment I can. At times, I really like to think about what I would do if I were three years in the past. If I had this knowledge and if I could go back to high school, I imagine all the things I could do. I would be such a better debater, and I would be so better at basketball. I’d also know that I should be studying Cantonese, I would try to learn coding and programming, and I would research HKU’s canteens before I came here.

But I can’t do that.

I always try to approach each day reminding myself that I am probably going to be mad at myself for not doing all these things. So that’s why I work hard in debate, basketball, and everything. Because I know that three years in the future, I will be thinking, “Man, if I read an article every day, or if I shot a free throw every day, I would be so much better now.”

Junbeom during his basketball match against the City University of Hong Kong

You’ve mentioned about HKU’s canteen. Did you have any difficulties adjusting to the food in Hong Kong?

A lot of the spices they use in Hong Kong don’t really fit with me because I like very bland food. I’m not too used to some of the more exotic spices. I enjoy eating the various dishes at the Chong Yuet Ming canteen though.

I would also like there to be more international food, but maybe I feel that just because I haven’t been in Hong Kong for too long. I just miss eating Korean food, such as bossam (sliced boiled pork belly).

What are your thoughts on Shun Hing College’s High Table Dinner?

It’s like the only time every year I get to eat steak because steak is so expensive. So I look forward to High Table Dinners. I also appreciate how the champagne is free. But maybe they shouldn’t give out too much because I think I drank like six glasses in the last high table? That’s probably not a good idea.

What made you choose Shun Hing College?

I heard Shun Hing College doesn’t have any of those weird rituals that all the other HKU halls have.

To be fair, whie I think such team building rituals are great, they are also very restrictive because they only embrace a certain type of person who’s very okay with group mentality.

I think the reason why people come to university isn’t to find a group to be part of but to find individualism within each group.

I think Shun Hing College is great, because it allows us to have multiple chances to gather and hang around, have fun, and eat food together, hence we have the open pantry. But at the same time, we respect that there are people from different cultures and ethnicity with individual customs, and we try to do our best to mesh together. That’s why I think Shun Hing College is unlike any other college.

Also, I didn’t choose any of the other Jockey Club Student Village III colleges because I heard the food at their high table dinners aren’t as good as that of Shun Hing.

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The interview was lightly edited for clarity

Written by Alvin Youngsoo Roh

Edited by Juwon Park

A place dedicated to writers of Shun Hing College (HKU) — Hong Kong. https://www.shunhingcollege.hku.hk/