By HyunCheon Kim
Translated by SeungYoun Woo
Koreans’ passion about the annual athletic festival hosted by the Korean Society of New England (KSNE), is gradually fading away.
This festival is the only event that all generations of Korean-American immigrants and even Korean international students can join and enjoy together. The decline in popularity of this kind of event sparks many thoughts and opinions in the Korean community.
The athletic festival was held at Arsenal Park, Watertown on Saturday, August 13th. Only a few Koreans, other than the players, participated; thus, the usual excitement was missing.
The number of organizations participating in this festival has declined to 5 teams, which is the fewest number of teams in the last 10 years. Those 5 teams belong to North Boston Korean United Methodist Church, Cambridge Korean Church, Boston Presbyterian Church, Korean Soccer League, and Munsusa.
As the number of participating organizations goes down, the number of Koreans follow suit. For example, Munsusa, one of the participating teams, used to play 4 kinds of games: baseball, basketball, foot volleyball and volleyball. However, because their own temple events overlap with the athletic festival, they played just one basketball game tournament for youths this year.
The festival was the biggest Korean festival in 2008, and 11 small and big organizations, including Cambridge Korean Church and North Boston Korean United Methodist Church, were scrambling to participate. Nine organizations participated in 2009, and 7 participated last year.
On the other hand, the large religious organizations, such as Boston Korean Church, St. John’s Korean Church and Boston Korean Catholic Church, have not been participating for 2~3 years. Some of last year’s participants, Vision Church, The Good Church and Korean Presbyterian Miral Church, also did not participate this year.
Many Koreans used to attend the festival to cheer and promote fellowship. Even Sam Yoon, who ran for the Boston mayoral election in 2009, visited to greet Koreans at the festival.
However, there were only about 100 Koreans attending the festival, other than 30 members of the Korean Senior Association, who attended the Korean National Liberation Day celebration, and players from each organization. The scale of participation was remarkably reduced, compared to the usual 200 attendees.
A significant number of Koreans are sorry to hear about the decreased excitement and depressed atmosphere of the athletic festival, which had been the biggest event of the Korean community. They are afraid to say, “Is the biggest annual festival of the Korean community really fading away?”, and they wish that the KSNE would take the festival more seriously.
Han-sun Yu, the president of the KSNE, said, “We have reached out to many different organizations revolving around the big churches to participate in this event, but their situation hardly allowed to make teams for the festival. In addition, we were so busy working other tasks those are unknown to the public.”
But an official of the deacons’ association of the Korean Church of Boston, which is the biggest Korean congregation, answered that they had never received any invitation to the festival from KSNE. Small churches, such as Beautiful Church, also showed the same response. The representatives and participants of those churches say that they would have sought any way to attend the festival, if they were invited.
Koreans understand that since the Korean community is mostly centered on churches, promotion and invitation are regularly targeting the large scale churches. Nonetheless, they questioned whether the KSNE could have invited not just religious organizations but more different type of organizations, such as mountaineers, science technician associations and educational institutions. The president of the Boston Mountaineers, Sang-ho Kim, commented that he did not receive any invitation from the KSNE to join the athletic festival.
Also, some opinions about the diversity of the program formation are needed. Currently, there are more ball games, consisting of mainly young men; however, if more events, which appeal to men and women of all ages, are programmed, then more Koreans will gather to celebrate the festival.
President Yu, however, said, “Since this is the only event that appeals to all generations of Korean-Americans, I think it’s more important for the young generation to enjoy than the older generation. I wish that the festival will vitalize in the future, centered on these young people.”
On the other hand, Benjamin Kim pointed out, “It’s important that all generations of Korean society become aware of the true meaning of the event to get acquainted with Koreans.”
He continued “Even though all Koreans are busy working for a living, since this festival is so important for the Korean community, all Korean organizations, including the consulate, religious groups, and businesses, have to support this event.”
While the Korean society held a humble event at Arsenal Park, Watertown, the Indian’s Day event was well-attended at the Esplanade Hatch Shell along the Charles River. Dozens of booths were selling different kinds of cultural food and souvenirs, and not only Americans, but also a variety of immigrants attended the festival. The two events were in sharp contrast.
ⓒ 보스톤코리아(http://www.bostonkorea.com), 무단전재 및 재배포 금지