By Vivian Miezianko
Northwest Asian Weekly
What do you think when you hear kimchi, bulgogi, Psy, Chang-rae Lee, Park Chan-wook and Oldboy, or Jeju Island? It’s likely that a teenager in Seattle can say that Gangnam is in South Korea, but where in South Korea is Gangnam located?
This month, Seattle’s Consulate General of the Republic of Korea, together with a number of Korean community organizations, has put together the inaugural Korean Cultural Weeks — a variety of cultural events that take place across the State of Washington throughout June.
It’s the first event to bring together the entire Korean community to celebrate their culture.
“We want to show the collective power of the Korean communities and Korean culture,” said Da Eun Kwan, vice consul of the Korean Consulate General in Seattle.
“We have so many Korean cultural events throughout the year, but the sizes of the events are small. This year, we want to put them together … We want to promote Korean culture to the locals in a more effective and powerful way.”
In planning the event, the Korean consulate ensured that there would be activities suitable for anyone interested.
“If you are a teenager and love K-pop, I recommend you to go to the K-pop contest,” said Kwan. “If you are interested in economic issues, go to the business forum. There will be people from Idaho and Seoul who come here to present and discuss economic issues … If you love flower arrangements, go to the flower show … The teacher of the hosts is very well-known and you will [learn about] Korean emotions in the flower arrangements. The war memorial event is very meaningful too.”
Kwan highlights some events of the Cultural Weeks:
The K-Pop Contest is held on June 30 in Federal Way. It is co-hosted with Radio Hankook, a Puyallup-based radio station serving the Tacoma area with Korean pop music and news. Kwan says that the contest is in its third year and is “very popular.”
“The winner will get $1,000 in prize money,” notes Kwan. Only non-Koreans are eligible to take part in the contest. “If you win, you will be able to go to Seoul in South Korea for the final competition. It is hosted by the Korean government and the KBS (Korean Broadcasting System).”
Fans of Korean cuisine may be interested in the Kimchi Workshop, which takes place on June 29 in Tacoma.
“You will learn how to make kimchi and try it,” said Kwan. “There is a registration fee of $20 and you need to register first.”
The Korean Music Association Benefit Concert
The Korean Music Association Benefit Concert will be held on June 28 in Edmonds. “We are so proud to have KMA here in Washington,” says Kwan. “The singers are very professional. Many of them have performed in operas and concerts.” In this annual event, the profit “will go to the people” who are in need of money.
Korean War Memorial Event
The Korean War Memorial Event is held on June 22 in Olympia. 2013 marks the 60th year since the Korean War ended in 1953. “We are honoring the Korean War veterans this year with the Korean Peace Medals…. You may participate in the ceremony if you are in Olympia,” said Kwan.
Shoreline Arts Festival
One of the highlights of the Cultural Weeks is the Shoreline Arts Festival that takes place June 29–30 at the Shoreline Center. It is co-presented by the Korean American Historical Society and the United Seattle-Bellevue Korean School.
“Shoreline Arts Festival is an annual event [which promotes] arts and culture from all over the world,” said Dr. Julie Kang, principal of the United Seattle Korean School. “… A few years ago, we set up a Korean Room to share the culture, language, art, and history of Korea with the public. Shoreline has a big Korean community.”
The Shoreline festival will feature performers, art activities, calligraphy, Korean rice cakes, and Korean American history in Washington. Visitors will be invited to join in the activities.
“[They] have students there to teach participants how to write Korean writing, how to draw the Korean flag, and about the meaning of the flag,” Kang said. “So the event is for the whole family.”
What is special about this year’s Korean Room?
“This year’s theme is ‘Where’s Gangnam?’ and we have well-known Korean musicians like Eyvind Kang and Hyeonhee Park performing,” Kang said. “We also have K-Pop Variety Hour with students and Korean Percussion Music Workshop with Peter J. Park.”
Moreover, Kang says that visitors “can learn how to do the drumming, interact with the musicians, try Korean rice cakes and traditional drinks.”
Kang stresses that historical elements presented at the festival do not cover just the history of Korea, but also the local history. “We try to share the Korean American history in Washington with the public,” explains Kang. “We want to have an opportunity to honor the Korean Americans in our community.” A historical timeline and a video presentation will be displayed.
Asked what Kang particularly would like residents of Washington to know or experience in the events of the Cultural Weeks, she answers thoughtfully, “Korean Americans have over a hundred years of history in the United States. We hope people understand that Korean Americans are part of the community. And in Shoreline, Korean Americans represent one of the largest Asian American sub-groups. Among the cities in Washington with a large Korean American community presence, Shoreline stands out. It is a thriving hub for local Korean American businesses, and it has started building bridges with Korea both past and present.” (end)
Events of Korean Cultural Weeks are being held at different venues in Washington throughout June. For more information, visit: http://usa-seattle.mofa.go.kr/english/am/usa-seattle/information/culture/index.jsp.
Vivian Miezianko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.