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Korean community centre seeks younger crowd

Renovated centre on Hastings Street upgraded through federal grant

Vancouver’s only Korean community centre has undergone a facelift and will officially reopen its doors April 1.The centre, which is located at 1320 East Hastings St. and has housed the Korean Society of B.C. for Fraternity and Culture since 1991, received a grant from the federal government in April 2013 and began renovations the next month. The grant, from the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund, provided $226,602 toward the project and the Korean Society and Korean Senior Society matched it with support from the Korean government and member donations. Vancouver boasts the highest Korean population in the country at over 50,000 people.

The building, which was in dire need of repair, received new flooring, permanent signs, an upgrade to the exterior, a new roof, a new kitchen, a new stage and bathroom repairs.

James Lee, head official of the Korean Society of B.C. for Fraternity and Culture, said that while the official date of completion is March 31, the group had an open house celebration in January in the main hall.

“In January we opened with a ceremony in the main hall, because it was already renovated,” said Lee. “On March 31, we are holding an open house for reporters and media.”

The space has also been rented out as a venue for dance parties such as Trizik Entertainment’s Extinction 2014 and the upcoming event Electrified 2014.

Now that the renovations are reaching completion, Lee will work with the society’s newly elected president Donald Lee to decide on which programs they will roll out in the future.

“We provide education programs to the older people, through the Korean Senior Society. Teaching things like English and computer skills, holding ping pong games and dances,” Lee explained.

He said that out of their 200 to 300 members, about 80 per cent are seniors and most of their programs currently cater to an older age group, a strategy Lee hopes to change.

“There aren’t many members from the younger generation. I want to figure out a way to bridge the gap between seniors and the new generation,” he said. He said this includes revamping the programs available at the centre to cater to youth, adding job fairs, games and dances and getting a website operational.

He said that one of the programs that recently moved into the building is a program for adoptive parents of Korean children. The program was founded by Eun Sook Park and helps parents who’ve adopted Korean children learn about Korean culture, language and food to help their children understand where they came from.

Park started the program with her own money, but as the number of people interested grew there was a need for a larger space, which the Korean Society provided.

Lee said the society also rents out the space for various events, including weddings and conferences.