K-pop and a taste of home at 41st L.A. Korean festival

Korea festival
Chef Juan Alvarez sprays marinade on sizzling Korean barbecue ribs at the L.A. Korean festival Sunday afternoon.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The 41st annual Los Angeles Korean festival is pumping with K-pop music and teeming with shoppers looking for the herbal remedies and seafood from their native land.

At Seoul International Park, in a shaded tent winding up Irolo Street, vendors from locales all over South Korea have come to sell their regional specialties: dried seaweed, soybean paste, bamboo salt, sliced plum pickles, dried mussels, pickled octopus, clerodendrum wood chips, milk vetch root.

Tae Jun Chang is selling seafood from Jeollanam-do. He said he attended a similar festival in New York, but it was not nearly as successful as this one regularly is.

“The elderly people from Koreatown come here to get things from home,” he said Sunday. “And the teenagers like to check out the main stage and see what new music is coming out of Korea.”


At the Lucky Ball Korean barbecue stand, Korean and Guatemalan chefs -- a true reflection of the polyglot neighborhood -- worked feverishly to keep up with orders. Esther Kang, 29, helped her family at the cash register, and spoke English to the customers who didn’t understand Korean.

She said the event helps keep their culture strong across an ocean: “Here people are getting more Americanized, and people in Korea are Koreanized. It’s a mash-up here.”

The four-day festival, in the park near Normandie Avenue and Olympic Boulevard, is scheduled to run until 11 p.m., with performances throughout the afternoon.

The K-pop (Korean pop which Westerners mostly know through Psy’s runaway hit “Gangnam Style”) and electronic dance party rounds out the night’s musical events from 9 to 10 p.m.


Twitter: @joemozingo

Get our Essential California newsletter