Columbia’s Korean Festival growing in popularity

Columbia party drawing visitors from far and wide

mlucas@thestate.comNovember 11, 2012 

— You didn’t have to be Korean or know who Psy is to enjoy the Korean Festival held in downtown Columbia Saturday.

But it didn’t hurt to at least know the Korean pop star’s No. 1 smash hit. It was on everyone’s lips Saturday afternoon.

“Gangnam Style! Gangnam Style!” called out a group of fashionably dressed young people as they stood in front of a stage set up on the steps of the Korean Community Presbyterian Church overlooking Richland Street.

Even the pastor of the church, which hosted the event, knew who the Korean pop star was.

“You’ve heard of Psy, right?” said the Rev. James Lee, laughing.

And while both Lee and others who attended the festival were marveling at the attention the pop sensation has brought Korea, many were quick to point out there is so much more to Korean culture than just barbecue beef and the latest dance craze.

Saturday’s event featured everything from traditional folk dances, music and singing to such delicacies as bulgogi, or beef rib marinated with homemade sauce and hoddeok, a doughy pancake filled with brown sugar.

The event, now in its eighth year, is a way for the church to mix and mingle with the greater Columbia community while showcasing the best of what Korean culture is all about.

It’s also a fundraiser. Each year, the church’s 400 members work to raise money for area charities, such as Harvest Hope Food Bank and Oliver Gospel Mission, and the Thornwell Home for Children in Clinton.

The event, which started as a simple cookout, has grown a little each year. Last year, the festival raised about $20,000, compared to the $5,000 it raised in its inaugural year.

Whatever the outcome, the festival seems to have become a hit with the community as well as those outside of Columbia.

Beverly Ross drove from Sumter with her husband, Dwight, and 13-year-old daughter, Maya, to attend the festival.

Ross, who was studying a menu with more than a dozen specialty items listed, said they thought it would be something fun to do on a Saturday.

Was it the food or the culture that attracted her to the festival? “A little of both,” Ross said.

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