Sunday, October 2, 2011

A mini tour of Korean Culture at the LA Korean Cultural Festival

Would you like a taste of Korea in America? I know I sure do. You're about to get a mini whirlwind tour of Korean culture.

Last Saturday I set out with a friend on my very first trip to K-Town LA to catch a bit of the Los Angeles Korean Festival. This annual week-long cultural festival seeks to promote understanding and cultural enrichment to Koreans that grew up in America as well as promote the sharing of cultures with those of other diverse cultural backgrounds.  The festival consists of food (yes, I love food), vendors of all sorts, art-like fun, cultural presentations, performances, and shows. I only caught a couple of hours at the festival since I do not live in LA, but it was well worth the momentary feeling of being in Korea again.  If you have been in Korea, the festival and the market-like atmosphere have a Namdaemun Market-esque feel to them.

The day started out a little gloomy weather-wise. The overcast clouds are not your typical southern California sunny weather. Eventually the sun brought in a small heat wave midday.  The overcast weather reminded me of the hazy, somewhat cloud-covered skies of Korean summers.  However, no humidity and little rain kept my brain grounded here in California.  Asia is known for it's monsoons and thankfully we haven't had much of that in California.

On the ride up I had the opportunity to read  this months KoreAm magazine while my friend took charge of the wheel knowing her way around the streets and highways of southern California.  A little Tim Kang, a Korean American actor on the show called The Mentalist, eye candy and some insight into the work the wonderful NGO known as Mercy Corps does in North Korea kept my eyes busy.  Both the actor and NGO do some pretty cool work. Check them out if you have a spare minute.

We eventually arrived in K Town and headed straight for the festival.  Since I had never been to Korea Town or in the heart of LA for that matter, I had a grandeur image of what K Town might look like. I half expected lights, high rise buildings, and lots of fun things to do. I also partially expected  unpleasant street-side activities as friends warn the importance of personal safety in K Town and LA. K Town was not short of interesting things to do, but it wasn't the same as walking the streets of Seoul. A few people said their first experiences in Korea were similar to walking the streets of K Town. Seoul is definitely one-of-a-kind. You will have to visit yourself.  Nevertheless, there were enough similarities such as the flood of Koreans walking by speaking rapid-fire Korean and the Galleria department store that put me at ease.  Not to mention, the festival itself redeemed any strange feelings. It was a great place to get lost in a sea of Koreans and cultural fun.

What did I do for less than five hours in K Town? Come and take the whirlwind tour with me.

There were many vendors, booths, and activities to observe and interact with. I started by visiting some booths I was familiar with and others that were new to me.

Checking out the market.

I love tea! The containers are cute, too!

Ready for business. She happily modeled for me, ready to sell her teeth cleaning kit and supplies.
Korean pear (or Asian pear) is undoubtedly the sweetest tastiest pear ever. Try some!  
A little overcast weather didn't bother anyone. 
Rice cake snack.
I explored a little more.  It was rest time for this couple and a great time to eat some delicious food! 

The next stop was the Koean Cultural Center of Los Angeles (KCCLA) booth. No official representative of the center were available to speak with me, but I found some cool materials and crafty things to do nearby.

The awesome post cards!

Next to the KCCLA table I observed the art of making Korean rice cake (떡 or tteok). Korean rice cake is a snack eaten in many forms and often found during celebrations or holidays. Some of its well known forms are found in tteok guk, a soup eaten on New Year's Day, and in a sweet covered eaten during birthdays or other celebrations.  Songpyeon, the sweet colorful shaped rice cake eaten during Chuseok, is also a formed type of this tteok or rice cake.  How do they make it? 
Pound and pound. Then knead and pound some more.  Watch out for his fingers!

Roll it up and shape it. 

Cover it up in something tasty and shape it some more. 

Then onto the art of origami: 

And my favorite stop at the Korean festival was at the hand made lantern table.  I spent a good hour   (yes, that's at least 1/5th of my whole time at the festival) observing the lanterns and creating a mini lotus flower lantern of my own. 

My turn:
The making of the lotus flower lantern. 

The final product and its reflection. 

After the fun arts and crafts I went on a few more ventures....

Water purifiers. These are in most homes in Korea.

Woman dressed in traditional wear and selling traditional souvenir gifts.  The traditional hanbok is beautiful.
Wood carving.

Many performances including the traditional salmunori were held on this stage. 
Finally,  it was parade time! The two hour parade consisted of local marching bands, representatives from Korean businesses and professionals, military men, clubs, and more. 

Even Ronald made an appearance!  

Live tae kwon do action!
When the parade drew to a close, I visited the Hanmi bank booth and won a signed baseball. I honestly have no clue who signed it, so if you know, please tell me!

I concluded my day in the streets of the Korean Cultural Festival by visiting a few more booths and eating some delicious Korean rice dishes. I also purchased a special gift at the hand made souvenir/gift table for my mother's birthday!  Overall, I enjoyed being surrounded by Koreans trying to make me take their fliers, taste their food, and buy their goods. That's what I came to do!  My ears were happy hearing Korean and my senses were satisfied with the taste of Korea all around. It was a wonderful way to spend a weekend after a year away from Korea.  

There you have my whirlwind mini tour of Korean culture during the Los Angeles Korean Cultural Festival in Korea Town, Los Angeles, California, USA.   Thank you for joining me!  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice opinion.. thanks for sharing....