Being Korean doesn’t necessarily mean being from Gangam District, which is the kind of popular notion the upcoming Korean cultural celebration is aiming to change.
For the first time ever, Edmonton is having its own Korean Cultural Festival, which will blend old tradition and K-pop in an evening of live entertainment.
The Fall Korean Cultural Festival: A New Generation is hosted by the University of Alberta’s Department of East Asian Studies in partnership with the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Vancouver.
Acts include a performance by the Samulnori Drumming Team, a traditional Doraji dance, a traditional play, a K-pop dance by the Convergence Dance Crew, a K-pop song, a traditional choir and a Taekwondo demonstration. Catering will be provided by Bi Bim Baab Korean Restaurant.
Many performers are current students at the U of A, and the event also features many guest speakers from the Edmonton Korean Canadian Association.
There’s a growing interest in Korean classes, which can be attributed to the “K-pop revolution,” happening all throughout Asia. Demographics of Korean classes have changed from mostly people from Asia to a mosaic of different backgrounds — the general interest in K-pop has led to a number of people wanting to learn the language. With a waitlist extending over 200 students, the Korean department has one of the fastest-growing language programs at the U of A, Lee said.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “My mom is a professor, she’s the co-ordinator for the Korean department. And literally when she just started her job it was one night course. And now, within six to seven years, it’s a full department.”
Awareness is important for the growing Edmonton Korean community, which is quite a bit smaller than that in Vancouver. Edmonton has no direct flight to Korea, making it a more distant frontier. The Korean Cultural Festival acknowledges that community, which can seem invisible sometimes, Lee said.
“Even when people see me, they’re like, ‘are you Chinese?’ or ‘are you Filipino?’ They don’t really think Korea. But I think it’s good to know that there are other cultures from Asia,” Lee said.
A large portion Korean Cultural Festival volunteers are international students. Volunteering in the Korean community and showing others their support for Korean culture is important, event co-organizer Joe Yong-il Cho said. Learning the language is one thing, but culture is something that can’t be taught, he said.
“We have modern culture now, but we like to share all of those things at the same place,” Cho said.
“We share old generations’ thinking of Korean culture and new generations’ thinking about Korean Culture.”
The event currently has over 500 confirmed guests, many from the Korean and university communities.
Having the opportunity to showcase so many aspects of Korean culture is “huge” for the co-organizers. The Korean Cultural Festival will give the Koran community recognition for their cultural presence in Edmonton and the U of A, Lee said.
“We’re a very small population,” Lee said.
“It’s a huge deal because we’re actually acknowledging Korean culture and saying how awesome it is.”
The event will run from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 6, entry granted with a minimum donation of $5. Attendees can expect an evening of entertainment followed by a complementary Korean dinner.