Korean Women’s Hockey Writer Seth Berkman Speaks at Penn State

Story posted November 21, 2019 in CommRadio, News by Jack McCune

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Seth Berkman grew up the way a typical American kid would grow up in the New Jersey suburbs. The sports journalist was adopted from South Korea when he was just 3 months old, and he never planned on returning—until he was given the perfect opportunity to cover athletes in a similar situation.

Berkman was asked to cover the Korean National Women’s Hockey team for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, which inspired his new book, “A Team of Their Own: How an International Sisterhood Made Olympic History,” detailing the story of the first Korean hockey team in the history of the Olympics.

He visited Penn State Tuesday to talk about his book to a handful of students in the Paterno Library.

Although the team, which had both South and North Koreans, failed to win a single game in the Olympics, Berkman highlighted the odds the team overcame throughout the process. Hockey isn’t very popular in Korea and there aren’t many opportunities for girls to play at all, most of the players were “imported” North American players who had at least some Korean heritage. Berkman was especially intrigued by these players who were complete foreigners just like him. He enjoyed being around the team so much that he knew he wanted to write more than just a news story about them. 

“When writing a newspaper article, you have 800-1200 words to work with. There’s a limited space,” Berkman said.

He then went on to talk about one of the native players, who gave up her career as a successful concert pianist to play for the team.

Berkman also emphasized the fact that North Korea agreed to send its own players for the team. The diverse group bonded quickly to form a tight-knit squad that enjoyed doing everything together.

Occupied by the unique story he was putting together, Berkman said he wasn’t able to fully embrace the country while he was there. He plans to return again soon, but this time as a vacation to learn about his heritage.

“Before I went, people I know who have told me about their first trip back told me that they had an epiphany with all of these different feelings, and I actually didn’t have that,” Berkman said. “I didn’t really have time to digest Korea.”



Jack McCune is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jxm1237@psu.edu.