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I was fortunate to be able to visit my beautiful home country of South Korea again this year. Most of my time was spent in the city of Suwon, but I also had time to visit Pusan with my brother and his family.

The first five days of my trip were devoted to celebrating the 56th Suwon Hwaseong Cultural Festival. Each fall, the festival celebrates the leadership of King Jeongjo and his vision for reform. After a rainy first day, the weather turned beautiful and the opening ceremony went on with lots of fashion, color and music. Groups of children singing Korean folk songs were very vibrant and entertaining with their traditional Korean dress. There was a fashion show (called Hanbok) giving people a chance to see and learn about how the kings and queens dressed and lived many years ago. Watching this, I wondered what it would have been like to have lived during that time.

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Many events were held throughout the weekend, with lots of music, dancing, and parades everywhere in the city. It was so refreshing to see so many of the children and their families involved in the activities.

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I had a wonderful time visiting my many friends that I have made over the last four years in visiting Suwon and was fortunate to make new friends. These friends helped me throughout my stay in Suwon and are so precious to me.

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My goal was to attend all of the ceremonies, and while it was fun and educational, it was also extremely tiring. The closing ceremony was marked by fireworks, martial arts performers and horse riding in honor of King Jeongjo and his attempts to reform and improve the country of Korea.

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After the festival, the mayor of Suwon, Yeom Tae-Young, was kind enough to present me with honorary citizenship of Suwon City. The Suwon City Council Chairman, Jo Myeongja, also presented me with a commendation plaque for the stories The Times and Democrat has allowed me to tell over the past four years. It was a truly moving and special ceremony that the city bestowed upon me. It is a privilege to tell South Carolina about parts of my beautiful birth country and how much I love Korea. I had many people in Suwon tell me that they have gone to The T&D website to find out more about the city of Orangeburg and our general area. I am so happy and thankful The Times and Democrat has allowed me to tell a little about my home country.

I want to thank the mayor of Suwon and the chairman of the Suwon City Council and all the officials who were so kind to me and helped me during and after this amazing festival.

I also got to see the chairman of the Korean Red Cross, Gyeonggi-do Chapter, Hoon Dong Kim. He writes a book every year about various events held in Suwon and surrounding areas and plans to include the story about my trip this year to Suwon in his upcoming book. I appreciate him for not only wanting to promote Suwon but also to promote The Times and Democrat newspaper.

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Traveling to Pusan Korea, my birthplace, I visited my brother and his family in the countryside where we picked apples, peppers and other vegetables. I had a wonderful time being with my brother and his sweet family. As much fun as it is to go to Korea and visit my beautiful birth country, it is always good to get back to my wonderful South Carolina and get back to work for the wonderful people at The Times and Democrat.

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