The Daily Gamecock

Korean Festival explores traditions, supports local charities

The city of Columbia got a colorful display of Korean culture at this year’s South Carolina Korean Festival. Hosted by the Korean Community Presbyterian Church, the festival gave guests the opportunity to experience the food, music and art of traditional Korean culture. 

Established in 2005, the family-friendly festival attracts thousands of South Carolinians, many of whom are experiencing Korean traditions for the first time. Rebecca Collins, a second-year nursing student, was among the first-time attendees this year.

“I’ve never really gone to one of these festivals before,” Collins said. “I just really liked seeing all the different culture and trying the different foods."

Brian Shelton, the co-host of the festival, has learned a lot about Korean culture from his wife, who is from Seoul, South Korea. An active member of the host church for almost 20 years now, he has helped host the festival for the last five years. Shelton enjoys teaching his community about aspects of Korean culture every year. 

“Korean culture is not something a lot of people know about and the event gives those who attend a wide variety of artistic performances,” Shelton said. 

The festival hosted performances all day, including taekwondo demonstrations and a traditional taepyeongmu dance, or “dance of peace.” The dance is performed to wish a great peace for the country. The popular music genre K-Pop was also represented with a performance from a local Korean youth group. 

“Korean culture is steeped in great tradition and this festival focuses on the artistic contributions that Korea has made to society,” Shelton said. 

The festival is most famously known for its wide variety of delicious food. Vendors offer traditional cuisine including bibimbob, a spicy rice and beef meal, and hoddeok, sweet dinner rolls topped with brown sugar and ground cinnamon. 

The impact the festival has on the community extends further than just the cultural exchange. All net proceeds from the festival go to local nonprofit organizations such as Harvest Hope, the Oliver Gospel Mission and Thornwell Home for Children. 

Shelton sees this festival as a great chance for Columbia to come together and partake in a new cultural experience with friends and family.

“[I enjoy] just being around the wonderful people of Columbia, those that have been to the festival many times and those coming for the first time, and watching them enjoy the performances and the food."