Koreans come out to play

By Julie Middleton

Auckland's Koreans open their lives to the public this weekend, hosting an all-day party on the North Shore.

The annual Korean Day takes place today from 10.30am to 5pm at the North Shore Events Centre. Food, song, dance, competitions, martial arts, Prime Minister Helen Clark and Opposition leader Don Brash are on the programme, which aims to introduce the wider community to the culture of New Zealand's 20,000 Koreans, most of whom live on the North Shore.

Last year, more than 3000 people packed the venue and a similar number are expected this time around, says festival spokeswoman Kyung Sook Wilson, a member of organising body the Korean Society of New Zealand.

The event, the largest on the Kiwi-Korean calendar, offers the opportunity "to get people together - we are multi-cultural country and need to understand others' values and cultures", says Mrs Wilson.

But the day of cultural celebration comes as the community mourns two tragic losses. West Auckland student pilot Dae Jin Hwang, 27, died in a mid-air collision near Palmerston North on February 9. Two days later, Ok Young Oh, 49, was hit by a car as she tried to stop her dog running on to busy East Coast Rd.

The accidents shocked the close-knit community, says Mrs Wilson, who has been helping to support Mrs Oh's family. Details travelled swiftly through Korean newspapers, radio and television in Auckland, and among congregations in the Christian churches many Koreans attend.

"All the Koreans here knew," she says, "and we were so disappointed at what had happened."

Nearly 70 per cent of migrant Koreans have settled on the North Shore, where Korean language is now the second most common spoken.

This week also marks preparations for the fledgling New Zealand Korean Philharmonic's second concert, due to take place at Sky City Theatre on March 2.

Twenty-three Korean players will be joined by 17 New Zealanders of non-Korean background for the concert.


Kim connection

Did you know?

* The 1991 Census recorded just 930 Koreans in New Zealand. But immigration policy changes boosted the number to more than 19,000 by the 2001 Census - just 15 had been born in Communist North Korea.

* More than half of Koreans in New Zealand are Christians, with Buddhists a small minority.

* Almost all Korean surnames are one syllable, and the five most common Kim, Lee (or Yi), Park (Pak), Choi (Choe), and Chong (Jung, Chung) - make up more than 50 per cent of Korea's population.

* Surnames are usually placed first, and women do not take their husband's name on marriage.

Source: NZ Census data, Korea Herald (www.koreaherald.co.kr).

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