Korean Fest this weekend: Reasons I keep going back

The Hawaii Korean Chamber of Commerce puts on the 16th annual Korean Festival this weekend and I’m pretty sure I’ve attended every single one. Besides the fact that I always volunteer, there are things I look forward to that draw me back year after year.

Just like the homeland of South Korea, the Festival embraces contemporary culture while honoring the rich traditions of the past, meaning you’ll always find a fun blending of old and new. Here are just a few highlights:

I’m a frequent shopper at Honolulu’s Korean supermarkets, but there’s just something about the Products Tent that makes me feel like I’m back in a crowded Seoul street market — the plethora of Korean snacks, the creative clothing, the Korean ladies yelling and pushing. Just don’t ask the vendors here to “gga gga jusaeyo” (give a discount). You only going get the stink eye.


With the popularity of K-dramas and K-pop, the traditional aspects of Korean culture can easily be forgotten. But the Korean Festival does an excellent job of representing and reliving Korea’s rich history. There will be beautiful traditional dance performances, high-flying taekwondo demonstrations as well as a Korean wedding march that’s always fun to watch.


Last year’s experiment of holding the Festival at the Honolulu Hale Civic Grounds was a huge success as there was plenty of space for all the offerings. Not to mention … shade! I can’t think of many more pleasant ways to spend a Saturday afternoon than chowing down on some delectable mandoo under the shade of a tree while watching some fine entertainment.


Speaking of entertainment, the Festival has really outdone itself this year. Singer Jo Eun headlines the Saturday evening concert with his melodic voice that has been featured on K-drama soundtracks such as “What Happened in Bali.”

In the mood for K-pop? Rookie girl group Fantastie performs both Friday and Saturday nights. That’s right, I said girl group! After many years of boy bands, the Festival finally invites a girl group to Hawaii, much to the delight of teen boys and ajushis (uncles), I’m sure.


But honestly, I’m most intrigued by South Carnival, a band from Jeju Island with an original Jamaican Latin twist on Korean music. Check out this video from a recent concert!


Korean Festival 2017
Honolulu Hale Civic Grounds
530 S. King St.
Friday, Aug. 11: Korean entertainment and food offerings from 5 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 12 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Admission: Free
Parking: Free in garage under Civic Grounds