Korean American Day showcases cultural pride

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Performers on stage dance to native music in honor of the Korean Culture Show.

Portlanders celebrated Korean American Day with bibimbap and a culture show on Jan. 13 at the Old Church downtown. The holiday honors the first arrival of Korean immigrants into the United States in 1903 and their contributions to American culture.

Joy Foods, originating in Seoul, South Korea, catered the event. In his opening speech, Joy Foods President Justin Hwang expressed his honor to be part of the Korean-American community and to share the culture and pride of his country. This sentiment continued when the national anthem of Korea began to play and those within the church, young and old, began to sing along.

President of Korean Society of Oregon David Kang prepared a speech in Korean. This created an authentic and direct address to the Korean community.

Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann spoke after Kang. Stegmann—the first Korean and Asian-American woman on the board of Multnomah County—told the history of the first Korean immigrants.

These immigrants worked on plantations in Hawaii and railroads in Montana. They were subject to prejudice after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, building their lives in the U.S. and contributing to American society along the way.

Greg Caldwell of the Honorary Consul of Korea focused his speech on the contributions of Korean-Americans to American society. From food and fashion to music and architecture, Korean culture has power of influence.

Following the formal speeches, Oregon Korean Performing Arts commenced the festivities with a performance of Buchaechum, a traditional Korean fan dance. Five performers danced with large folding fans flicked expertly across the stage.

Guitarist Khoa Le and saxophonist Michael Do performed “River Flows in You” by Yiruma, “Bogoshipda” by Kim Bum Soo and “Arirang.”

The show featured Portland State students who danced to various K-pop songs, showcasing the growing popularity of modern Korean culture in the U.S. today.

To finish off the event, Oregon Korean Performing Arts held a Hanbok fashion show. The fashion featured a vast array of colors and glittering headpieces.

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