The Rich History of Korean Festivals in Kailua-Kona, HI

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets, and rich cultural heritage. But did you know that this small town on the Big Island is also home to a vibrant Korean community that has been celebrating their culture through festivals for decades?

The Arrival of Koreans in Kailua-Kona

The first Koreans arrived in Hawaii in the late 19th century as laborers on sugar plantations. Many of them settled in Kailua-Kona, drawn to the area's fertile land and warm climate. Over time, the Korean community grew and established itself as an integral part of the town's diverse population. As the Korean community in Kailua-Kona flourished, so did their traditions and customs.

One of the most significant ways they have kept their culture alive is through the celebration of festivals.

Korean Festivals in Kailua-Kona

The two main Korean festivals celebrated in Kailua-Kona are Chuseok and Seollal. These festivals are based on the lunar calendar and are celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy by the Korean community.


Chuseok, also known as the Harvest Moon Festival, is a three-day celebration that takes place in September or October. It is a time to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and honor one's ancestors. The festival is marked by traditional dances, music performances, and delicious food. One of the highlights of Chuseok in Kailua-Kona is the Chuseok Festival held at the Old Airport Park.

This event brings together the entire community, both Koreans and non-Koreans, to celebrate and learn about Korean culture. Visitors can enjoy traditional Korean dishes, watch cultural performances, and participate in various activities such as making kimchi or trying on a hanbok (traditional Korean clothing).


Seollal, also known as the Lunar New Year, is another important festival for Koreans. It usually falls in January or February and is a time to welcome the new year with family and friends. The festival is marked by traditional rituals, such as paying respects to ancestors and eating tteokguk (rice cake soup).In Kailua-Kona, the Seollal Festival is celebrated at the Kona Hongwanji Buddhist Temple.

The temple hosts a variety of cultural activities, including traditional games, calligraphy demonstrations, and a performance of the Samulnori (traditional percussion music).

The Significance of Korean Festivals

Korean festivals in Kailua-Kona not only provide an opportunity for the Korean community to come together and celebrate their culture but also serve as a way to share their traditions with others. These festivals have become an essential part of the town's cultural landscape and are eagerly anticipated by both locals and tourists. Moreover, these festivals play a crucial role in preserving Korean heritage for future generations. As younger Koreans grow up in a different cultural environment, these festivals serve as a way to connect them with their roots and instill a sense of pride in their heritage.

The Future of Korean Festivals in Kailua-Kona

The Korean community in Kailua-Kona continues to grow and thrive, ensuring that these festivals will be celebrated for years to come. In recent years, the festivals have also attracted a more diverse audience, reflecting the town's multiculturalism. With the support of the local government and community, Korean festivals in Kailua-Kona are expected to continue to evolve and become even more significant events in the town's cultural calendar.

In Conclusion

The celebration of Korean festivals in Kailua-Kona is a testament to the town's rich cultural diversity and the strong bonds within its community.

These festivals not only showcase the beauty of Korean culture but also serve as a bridge between different cultures, bringing people together to celebrate and appreciate our differences.

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