Chuseok: A Celebration of Korean Thanksgiving (September 2019)
A spirit of gratitude and a spirit of connection infused Korean Connection's first-ever Chuseok event from start to finish.
Chuseok, which means autumn eve in Korean, is a major, three-day harvest festival that has been celebrated for centuries in Korea as thanks for the year's good harvest. Korean Connection chose in 2019 to formally celebrate Chuseok for the first time in thanks to West Michigan for its many years of support and participation in the organization's Korean language classes, cooking classes and more.
Held at the Goei Center in Grand Rapids on Thursday, September 12 (the same day Chuseok began in Korea), "Chuseok: A Celebration of Korean Thanksgiving" began with opening remarks from event co-hosts and Korean Connection board members Catherine Behrendt and Sungjin Yoo who welcomed the sold-out crowd of 180 people to an event they said was intended to be "a delightful cultural exchange."
That intent was fulfilled at every step of the way over the next two hours.
David Roden, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Korea, greeted attendees first in Korean and then made note of the Korean War Veterans and Korean Defense Veterans present at the event, saying: "I met a couple of the veterans here on the way in, and all of us here have to pay a debt of gratitude to you for your service. The relationship between our two countries (the U.S. and South Korea) remains very strong and most important are the people ties. That's what's really important. So thank you."
Subsequent speakers sounded those same themes of thanks to the veterans present (veterans who had been specifically invited to attend free of charge by Korean Connection) and recognition of the strong cultural ties between the two countries.
In fact, part of the evening's proceeds will be headed to KKOOM, short for Korean Kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission, a Michigan charity that works in Korea to provide access to education for Korean orphans and sponsors and hosts holiday celebrations, summer activities and other events throughout the year that help the children have fun and learn life skills. KKOOM (pronounced "koom") is now working on a scholarship program to help disadvantaged Korean students come to West Michigan for study and cultural exchange.
Aimee Jachym, KKOOM president and co-founder, was born in South Korea and adopted by a Detroit-area family as an infant. She gave attendees a brief introduction to her organization (which has its roots in her first return to Korea in 2004 on a Fulbright teaching grant) and to the new scholarship program. She was visibly moved as she began her remarks, noting that her grandfather also served in Korea, adding: "I wouldn't be here but for that sacrifice."
And Doug Voss, a Korean Defense Veteran, brought greetings, and a small history lesson, to those in attendance on behalf of his fellow veterans, while adding to the evening's theme of gratitude and solidarity.
"There is a saying among both Korean and American military," he recalled, "that is 'Katchi Kapshida,' meaning 'we go together.'"
The evening also included fantastic food (a variety of Korean favorites provided by Emonae Korean BBQ), amazing entertainment (K-Pop, taekwondo and an emotional rendition of Arirang, a Korean folk song and unofficial anthem of Korea, all by students from Calvin University's Korean Student Association) and a bounty of door prizes to conclude the festivities.
Sponsors included: Eastern Floral, Calvin University, WZZM-TV, West Michigan Asian American Association, NorthPointe Family Dental and Implant Center, Meijer, and the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Chicago.