Korean culture, entertainment and culinary delights will be shared and celebrated during the fifth annual Coming Together in Skokie and Niles Township.
More than 60 events and activities are planned during the next six weeks as village officials join hands with the local Korean-American community, Niles Township High School District 219 and library officials in Skokie, Morton Grove, Niles and Lincolnwood to spread knowledge about Korea.
Opening ceremonies begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at Niles West High School, 5701 Oakton St., with a variety show featuring traditional and K-pop performances as well as taekwondo demonstrations and an art exhibit followed by Korean food specialties.
The program was announced at a press conference at the Skokie Public Library attended by officials, members of the Korean community and previously CTIS-featured ethnic groups, including the Indian, Assyrian, Filipino and Greek communities.
"This in-depth project allows people to get to know their neighbors who even live next door to them," said Susan Van Dusen, Skokie's First Lady and one of the founding members of Coming Together. The program features Korean films and crafts, displays of traditional costumes and artifacts at the library, plus events serving food and historical folktales.
The goal is to educate the larger community about Korean music, including such K-pop favorites as Psy's "Gangnam Style" and more traditional dance, history, culture and the Korean economy which includes such companies as Samsung, Kia and Hyundai.
An estimated 17,000 Koreans live in the Skokie and Niles Township community according to Van Dusen.
Three children's books have been selected by Skokie library director Carolyn Anthony, including "Everything Asian" by Sung J. Woo and "Kimchi & Calamari" by Rose Kent, who will both visit area schools and libraries in February and March for book discussions. The third book, "Rabbit and the Dragon King" by Daniel San Souci and Eujin Kim Neilan, is based on a Korean folktale.
Anthony declined to offer a budget number on the overall program while other officials at the press conference said the events were managed by donations and volunteers.
"I hope to not only have the Korean-American community (at program events) but different communities to be participating and understanding Korea," said Tom C. Suh, president of the Korean-American Association of Chicago. He explained that although the Korean-American community is centered along West Lawrence Avenue in Chicago, members live in Skokie, Glenview, Niles, Des Plaines, Arlington Heights, Schaumburg and as far north as Gurnee.
"Prejudice comes from ignorance," said Angeles "Jelly" Carandang, midwest chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, the CTIS featured culture in 2011. "Education creates understanding."
Jim Szczepaniak, District 219 community relations director, confirmed more than 75 percent of the 10,000 visitors to previous CTIS programs were not from the featured ethnic group and organizers hope to attract even more such visitors this year.
"I look forward to participating in the next six weeks so we can all come to a greater understanding of our Korean neighbors and friends," said Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen. "One-fourth of the population of the North Shore is Asian including Korean, Chinese, Filipino and others. It's incumbent on us to learn about our neighbors."