Manna 24

“Turtle Warship and Kukkiwon at the National Independence Day Parade”

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On Monday morning, July 4th, brightly-colored floats and American flags fill the road from 7th to 17th Street. But above the cheering of the crowd, another sound can be heard: the cheerful clanks and booms of Pungmulnori, a type of Korean folk music.

Following rows of musicians beating drums and handheld gongs, a group of women in brightly-colored skirts appear, fans twirling as they dance to the beat. Behind them is a model of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin’s turtle warship, a key symbol in Korean history.

Every year, many organizations take part in DC’s National Independence Day parade, co-hosted by the National Park Service. This part of the parade was organized by the Korean American Association of Greater Washington with over 220 members of the Korean community stretched out over one third of a mile. This included thirty people from Kukkiwon, the World Taekwondo Headquarters, and fifty people who came all the way from Los Angeles  St. James Episcopal School to perform the Pungmulnori demonstration.

Photo by Anna Ko
Performance by LA St. James Episcopal School’s Pungmulnori Team (front) and Di Dim Sae Korea Traditional Arts Institute (back)

The turtle warship was self-funded and built by the Yi Sun-Shin World and American Institute, a local organization founded by Admiral Yi Sun-Shin’s descendents dedicated to educating Korean-Americans about Korean history. Volunteers handed out pamphlets explaining the significance of the turtle ship as they marched by.

But while the Korean American Association of Greater Washington’s portion of the parade highlights certain aspects of traditional Korean culture, there is a much deeper meaning behind it.

Steve Lee, the president of the Korean American Association of Greater Washington, stressed that the Korean community’s presence at the parade, at its core, is an act of public diplomacy. It is a demonstration of solidarity, a visual representation of the Korean community’s unwavering support for the country they live in.

In the words of Mr. Lee, “We would like to be in forward motion bringing communities together, bringing the Korean community closer to larger, more diverse communities.”

하나님이 세상을 이처럼 사랑하사 독생자를 주셨으니 이는 저를 믿는 자마다 멸망치 않고 영생을 얻게 하려 하심이니라 (요 3:16).
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)

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