In memoriam: Kari Bowerman
Karin Joy Bowerman was born on May 13, 1985, in Illinois, U.S., and grew up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, with three sisters and one brother, whose parents are deceased. Upon graduating from Winona State University in 2008, she moved to Korea to teach at Ansan Elementary School in Gyeonggi Province. After teaching in Korea for two years, she went home temporarily and returned this spring to teach at a kindergarten private academy around Gangnam, southern Seoul.
Friends say Kari was a loyal friend with an easygoing, Midwestern vibe, and loved to bring people together and have a good time. “She knew more about professional sports than most guys,” one friend said, evidenced by her undying allegiance to the Chicago Bears and Bulls and her affinity for Korea’s Doosan Bears. One of her and her friends’ goals was to watch Doosan play at every Korean baseball stadium. She was notorious for wild dance moves, catchy one-liners and seizing any opportunity to cheer on her Chicago team, “Da Bears.”
They recalled her goofiness and sense of humor. “We were gonna go to the Eminem concert (in Seoul on Aug. 19) and wear big, baggy wife beaters and maybe -- probably not -- bleach our hair and be ridiculous,” a friend said, laughing. “It was an idea that was tossed around.”
“She was always up for a new adventure and she had these special, secret powers that could convince everyone else to join her in those adventures,” another friend said.
She was also a fan of Will Smith as well as country music, according to a friend who has known her since high school. She loved the Country Thunder annual festival in the U.S. and looked forward to every time it came to Wisconsin. Upon Kari’s return to Seoul after a year-long absence, she dragged all her friends to the country-themed Grand Ole Opry bar in Itaewon and stayed until closing.
Karin Joy Bowerman (May 13, 1985 - July 30, 2012)
Friends of Kari Bowerman and Cathy Huynh were invited to share their thoughts, memories and photos. All contributions were subject to editing for length and clarity. The staff of Groove Korea would like to thank all of Kari and Cathy’s friends in Korea, Canada and the U.S. for their help in this tribute. Our thoughts and well-wishes are with you and the girls’ families. — Ed.
“Kari and I met over three years ago in Ansan and grew to be close friends. She always had a way to brighten the mood in the room. She was always up for a new adventure and she had these special, secret powers that could convince everyone else to join her in them. She loved sports—DA BEARS! She is known among our friends to have these one-liners or chants to get people excited about whatever was going on. Any time it came to doing something new, I can hear her say so clearly, ‘I’m not afraid’ (from a popular Eminem song). She was such a strong woman, the most amazing friend anyone could ever have. I speak for all our friends in saying that our hearts are truly broken for the loss of our lovely Kari. We will never forget! Saranghae forever Kari!” -Deanne Colbert
“When I think back on my memories with Kari, it’s hard to envision her without a smile on her face. We spent most of our conversations joking and talking about sports. She had a great sense of humor. She invited me to join her fantasy football league named ‘Cutler Haters.’ The password was, of course, DA BEARS. She loved wearing her Bears jersey on game day for a chance to gloat about her team’s victory. I feel privileged to have known her. I really got the feeling she truly was having the time of her life in Korea.” -Nate Coleman
“Kari and I hit it off right away. We were introduced by a mutual friend, who later said she regretted it as Kari and I became ‘thick as thieves.’ Once I went away for a few days and when I came back Kari had posted a card on my door. Another time she was standing, waiting with flowers — tulips are my favorite but she couldn’t find any, so she made paper ones. Kari became like a sister to me. Even after Korea, we remained the best of friends. She was my good angel voice, the person I went to for advice. We shared stories we couldn’t with anybody else.” -Debbie McCarron
“Everyone who has had a night out with Kari can tell you that she was a demon on the dance floor. Her spaghetti-like hair would show her excitement when her favorite tracks were played: swaying from side to side, up and down, flying in all directions—followed by that legendary one-armed fist pump, getting the music with everything she had! We attended all the dances together in high school, the Halloween dance being our guilty pleasure. Kari once decided on a costume months beforehand and wouldn’t give the slightest hint about it. The night of the big dance, there she was, dressed as her idol — Will Smith, suited up ‘Men in Black’-style even with a replica mask. I shook my head in disbelief until she took off the mask. My mouth hit the floor, followed immediately by uncontrollable laughter. Kari: the international woman of mystery.” -Jason Von Seth
“Kari could turn any ordinary day into an adventure. On my last birthday, 12 days before she left home, Kari called me while I was at work and asked how much free time we had “right now.” We had to meet my family for dinner in an hour. She said, “That’s pushing it – but get in the car.” I went outside and found her waiting in the parking lot. She handed me a hand-drawn treasure map of our city and said, “Surprise birthday treasure hunt!” Kari drove as I guessed where each of her hilarious, creative clues led us to. She took us all over the city, to our favorite places and popular landmarks. She also made a birthday playlist of all our favorite songs. As we stopped to find each clue, Kari had me complete “rites of passage” before we could continue. Needless to say, we all ended up being a bit late for dinner. It was worth every second.” -Carrie Meiners
“If 'awesome' was a product Kari would’ve been on the billboard. From the first time I met her I knew we would be great friends. We first met at a bar in Ansan where a live band was performing. The whole bar was cheering and clapping for them; Kari and I looked at each other wondering if we were even hearing the same band. So she decided that we ditch the concert with our friends, and go to a noraebang to make our own bad music. We stayed there and sang until our throats were sore. And that was Kari: always making the best out of the worst.” –Jaryt Montgomery
“I’ll always remember her as the girl who couldn’t resist joining the Super Junior flash mob, the girl walking around Mud Fest with only one lens in her sunglasses, the girl who made friends with every Korean she met despite speaking no more than five words of Korean, the girl yelling ‘need to be answered DA BEARS,’ the girl who found out every event happening and invited (or forced...DMZ Marathon) everyone to go, the girl who wrapped herself both in an American flag on July 4th and a Canadian flag on Canada Day. Kari, you were my country music buddy and the best darts partner in the world. As sad as I am to have lost you, I’m just so lucky to have known you. Thanks for making Korea an awesome place to be.” –Sandra Durinick
“I met Kari on a trip to Deokjeok-do, where my first impression was, ‘Who is this curly-haired girl dancing and singing outside my room at 3 a.m.?’ That was Kari: full of positive energy and ready to make the most of every day. She challenged me to break out of my shell, to take chances, and to dance all night long if the music was still playing. I will always keep her in my thoughts and remember to celebrate life every day, just as she did.” –Stephanie Hoggan
Supporting the families
Friends in Canada and the U.S. have set up online fundraisers to help the girls’ families with transport, funeral and related expenses. “Kari’s Army,” created Aug. 3, surpassed its $10,000 goal on Aug. 21. Kari’s high-school best friend Jason Von Seth also collected $3,000 for the family through a PayPal account.
Cathy’s high-school friend Jason Gallant set up “Bring Cathy Huynh home” to raise $40,000. Created Aug. 2, the project raised over $25,000 as of Aug. 22.
Meanwhile, friends in Korea plan to throw a party to raise funds on Friday, Sept. 14, at Sin Bin Sports Pub in Itaewon, Seoul. There will be a 50-50 raffle and beer pong tournament, and 50 percent of the sales of all Long Island Iced Teas purchased throughout the night will be sent to Kari and Cathy’s families.
“Anyone and everyone is welcome to attend. Kari and Cathy were both very social and had so many friends, and would definitely say, ‘the more, the merrier,’” said co-organizer Megan McAfee.
Friday Night Fundraiser for Cathy and Kari
Where: Sin Bin Sports Pub in Itaewon
When: Friday, September 14 from 8 pm
Featuring: 50-50 raffle, beer pong tournament, 50% of Long Island sales to go towards the families
For information, search the fundraiser’s name on Facebook.
For the fundraiser dedicated to Kari Bowerman, visit giveforward.com/Karisarmy.
For the fundraiser dedicated to Cathy Huynh, visit gofundme.com/z81i8.