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Colorful Korean culture flourishes in Suwanee

Staff photo: Chelsea Thomas The Energy Taekwondo Organization STORM Demo Team performed martial arts forms, weapons demonstrations, boardbreaks and scenarios set to music Saturday at the Korean Festival in Suwanee.
 Staff photo: Chelsea Thomas The Energy Taekwondo Organization STORM Demo Team performed martial arts forms, weapons demonstrations, boardbreaks and scenarios set to music Saturday at the Korean Festival in Suwanee. 

Staff photo: Chelsea Thomas The Energy Taekwondo Organization STORM Demo Team performed martial arts forms, weapons demonstrations, boardbreaks and scenarios set to music Saturday at the Korean Festival in Suwanee. Staff photo: Chelsea Thomas The Energy Taekwondo Organization STORM Demo Team performed martial arts forms, weapons demonstrations, boardbreaks and scenarios set to music Saturday at the Korean Festival in Suwanee. 

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SUWANEE -- Sizzling rice cakes, steaming beef skewers and tasty rolls attracted crowds of hungry festival attendees, while music, games, a train ride and shopping kept visitors entertained throughout the cloudless, autumn Saturday at the third annual Korean Festival at Suwanee Town Center Park.

Traditional Korean food such as kimchi, kimbap and bibimbab, was prepared on site and served to festival goers.

Early in the afternoon, a crowd gathered to watch bibimbab being made. A vegetarian substitute for the popular Korean meat dish bulgogi, bibimbab is composed of rice, eggs, sesame oil and vegetables. Ten people stirred 500 servings worth in a huge bowl and then offered free plates to the public.

"We want the public to get a taste of Korean dishes," said Jung Wook Lee, Duluth resident and co-host of the bibimbab demonstration. "Most people are used to eating the meat base, bulgogi. This is a good alternative because if you wanted to leave the beef out it's an excellent vegetarian dish. It represents what is iconically Korean -- eating a lot of vegetables and rice. It's easy to make, convenient and very accessible."

Also accessible was the diverse performances, from pop singers to traditional Korean music including drums and costume. There were taekwondo demonstrations and even a staged Korean wedding for spectators.

"This is my second Korean Festival. I really hope that this will be an ongoing tradition," Lee said. "It's an opportunity for us to showcase the Korean community (and) our very rich culture. We can share what we have and let (everyone) know we are a very important part of the community."

Lea Bay, President of Gwinnett Medical Center (Duluth), was working a booth with fellow co-workers. She said that the center has been trying to become a "more comfortable place for our Korean American community members." This is her second year partaking in the festival and was invited to participate in the opening ceremony.

"When (Gwinnett Medical Center) found out about the Korean Festival we thought it was such a wonderful opportunity to really embrace Korean culture and be part of the local Korean American community," Bay said.

Bay said the skills and talents exhibited by the Korean community on Saturday were diverse and accomplished.

"The things I am really enjoying is the music, the traditional costumes, the different instruments, the food ... you can't walk up here without being overwhelmed by the delicious aroma from the food," Bay said. "It is the opportunity to experience the Korean culture and their version of food, song and dance."

The Korean Festival was hosted by the Korean American Coalition Atlanta Chapter, Korean American Association of Greater Atlanta and Atlanta Radio Korea.