Three-drum dance and Tae Kwon Do demonstration highlight Korean Culture Night

"Gangnam Style" may be the hottest Korean crossover right now, but La Cañada High School teacher Sun Choe is on a mission to forge long-lasting ties between La Cañada Flintridge's fast-growing Korean population and the community at large.

On Saturday night Choe and others hosted the second Korean Culture Night at the La Cañada High School auditorium, with Korean food, music and dancing wowing a crowd of 300.

Performances ranged from Korean and modern K-pop dances to a martial arts demonstration.

“We started this trying to teach the children, but it became a community [project],” La Cañada High School Korean-American Parents’ Assn. President Sun Chung said. “Since Koreans are the largest population of Asians in La Cañada, we want [others] to know this is how we are and this is where we came from.”

Roughly 26% of La Cañadans are Asian and 14% are of Korean background, according to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau figures. In 2000, the figures were 20% and 11%, respectively.

Two of Saturday’s acts riveted the crowd.

The first was the three-drum dance, in which four female performers surrounded by three drums posed and played in unison.

The second was a Tae Kwon Do demonstration put together by the Lee Shin Tae Kwon Do studio on Foothill Boulevard.

At one point seven performers got on their hands and knees as one of the smallest martial arts students prepared to break a board held by his teacher at the other end of the line.

The audience held its breath, unsure if the child would make it across. But the child walked across the other performers’ backs and broke the board to the audience’s delight.

Korean Culture Night grew from a presentation Choe made to the Crescenta-Cañada Rotary Club. She was encouraged to expand outreach efforts, and it was a natural fit to focus on the La Cañada schools.

La Cañada High Principal Ian McFeat said, “We have a large Korean-American population at our school, and the big message is that culture matters and that Korean culture is vibrant.”

Added Choe: “The more you know about other people’s culture, it helps understand each other more. We can live in harmony.”

Though the festivities ended with performers dancing to pop sensation Psy’s song, “Gangnam Style,” Choe emphasized that one hit song doesn’t say it all.

“‘Gangnam Style’ is not the only thing we have,” she said. “We have deep-rooted traditions. That’s what [people] should take away.”

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