Thousands of Korean-Americans turned out last weekend for the 20th annual Koreatown Festival and parade, a celebration of cultural heritage and an expression of community pride, unity and hope.
Ardmore Park was transformed into an outdoor market reminiscent of Seoul's giant Namdaemun Market, with tents covering eating stalls filled with Korean favorites, household products and other goods from Korea.
Festival-goers found a steady supply of potato pancakes, rice cakes, barbecued ribs, dumplings, kimchi and red bean sauce over shaved ice to quench their appetites, and stalls sold various natural health foods, including one proclaiming the "new birth of the garlic culture."
Local businesses and community groups offered information about their services while elderly men squatted in the shade playing yut-no-ri, a traditional Korean game similar to Parcheesi.
Several large companies promoted their ability to offer services in Korean, but Kathy Kim, who works for a communications company representing the Korean-American Grocers Assn., said the Korean-speaking population is still underserved. "There's still a lot of misunderstanding between different ethnic groups," Kim said. "We need to educate each other. It would be great if events like this could be more multicultural."
A highlight of the event was a program of traditional dances and music by the Korean Classical Music and Dance Company and the Zadonu African Music and Dance Company.
Angie Kang, one of the Korean performers, said dancing with the African group was "a great experience. The movements of the dances are different, but some of the drum sounds are very similar."
"This kind of festival strengthens the sense of unity in the Korean community and gives us a chance to show others some of our traditions," said Kristine Sohn, a reporter with KTE-TV Channel 18, a Korean-language television station.
Gene Kim, founder of the festival and the Koreatown Assn., said he hoped the event boosted the spirits of Korean-Americans whose businesses were destroyed in last year's riots.
Kim added that the multiethnic parade, led by Mayor Richard Riordan and featuring floats, marching bands and more than 100 entries, was a demonstration of the Korean-American community's efforts to forge links with other ethnic groups.