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Celebrate Korean American Culture with Your Kids

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Education is the heart of respectful cultural recognition.

You may have noticed an influx of Korean culture in the United States over the last couple of years. From K-pop groups like BTS to Korean restaurants popping up all over the country, Korean culture is in the spotlight, and Korean Americans are getting the chance to see their own culture in mainstream media. With National Korean American Day coming up on January 13, you may wonder how you can celebrate Korean culture with your children in a way that’s respectful to cultural differences. 

Learn about important holidays and customs.

Koreans all over the world are excited to share their culture—from their food, written and spoken language and technological accomplishments—with those who want to learn. Family and food are often at the center of their holiday customs. For the Lunar New Year celebration, traditional clothing called a hanbok is donned, and children show elders respect with a sebae (a low bow). Miyeok-guk (seaweed soup) is enjoyed on birthdays and tteokguk (rice cake soup) for the new year. Try new foods from the culture; bulgogi (a thinly sliced, marinated beef) is often used as a gateway food for those who are unsure. Read about the Korean American experience from those who have lived it.

Compared to people of other nationalities, Koreans are relatively new immigrants to the United States. Many Korean Americans are first or second generation if they are not immigrants themselves; Korean customs are often deeply embedded in their lives. Show your support by patronizing businesses that are Korean owned, especially small businesses. Also, ask questions and learn about Korea’s rich history. 

Discover fun facts about Korea.

  • The Korean alphabet, hangul, was invented in 1443 by Sejong the Great, the 4th king of the Joseon Dynasty. (Source)
  • Koreans printed books with a printing press almost 200 years before the Gutenberg printing press. (Source)
  • Spam is a welcome gift for the holidays, especially for Chuseok, which is similar to Thanksgiving.
  • Koreans give household supplies like laundry detergent and toilet paper as housewarming gifts.
  • Honorifics are very important in Korea. Address elders and superiors by their titles, not their names.
  • The Woori Show is a great resource of information about Korean culture for children.

Be aware of important Korean holidays: 

  • Seollal, the celebration of the Lunar New Year: January 22–24, 2023
  • Independence Day: March 1
  • Children’s Day: May 5
  • Buddha’s Birthday: May 8
  • Gwangbokjeol, Korean Liberation Day: August 15
  • Chuseuk, Thanksgiving: September 28–30, 2023

Prepare and eat kid-friendly foods:

  • Bulgogi: Thin slices of marinated meat cooked over a grill or a stovetop
  • Mandu: Dumplings with various fillings either steamed or fried
  • Jajangmyeon: Noodles in a black bean sauce
  • Bibimbap: “Literally mixed rice.” Variations contain meat, egg, vegetables and sauces
  • Pajeon: Savory scallion pancakes
  • Gyeran-mari: Rolled omelet
  • Hotteok: Filled pancakes, savory or sweet

Read picture books together:

  • Grandpa Across the Ocean by Hyewon Yum
  • Rice from Heaven by Tina Cho and Keum Jin Song
  • Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park and Ho Baek Lee
  • Danbi Leads the School Parade by Anna Kim
  • Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan and Lillian Hsu

About the Author

Sheen Klaus

Sheen Klaus is Chatham County’s Rootle Ambassador and the Early Childhood Programs Manager with Chatham County Partnership for Children. She is an early childhood educator and advocate for children, families and the early childhood profession. As a former preschool teacher, she knows the importance of quality early education. She firmly believes that education starts in the home and the best way to invest in our society is by investing in children and families. 

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