(The following are stories I've produced, reported and written.)

Season's Givings Series

Stories with Asian American focus: 

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Stories from AsianConnections
Asian American Talent Shines at Kollaboration 11
By Amy Lieu
With every strum of the guitar, tap of the drum, tune of melody, and dance to the beat, song and dance performances were engrossed with emotion, energy, and passion.KOLLABORATION-6The annual Asian American talent show competition, Kollaboration 11, presented its eleventh year and season finale at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live Nov. 5, 2011. The flagship show in Los Angeles was its last stop after touring for 15 shows across 12 other cities in the United States. Its motto: empowerment through entertainment.
Many notable Asian Americans graced the pre-show red carpet including actress Bai Ling (“The Crow” and “Lost),” and journalist Lisa Ling, host of “Our America” on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
With the underrepresentation of Asian Americans in U.S. entertainment, Kollaboration gives popular and up-and-coming artists a stage to showcase their talents. The competition show aims to inspire and empower young Asian Americans to pursue their dreams in entertainment, a career path that some of the artists have said has not always been encouraged by their parents. 
Lights dimmed and curtains opened as former contestant Ensemble Memo from Kollaboration Acoustic 5 (the acoustic version of the talent show earlier this year) opened the night’s performances. Special guest performer and popular YouTube singer Clara C serenaded the audience with her sweet voice, tambourine, guitar, and accordion.
Eight talented contestants vied for the coveted title. Rap, rock and alternative band Afterschoolspecial from San Diego, rocked their hearts out. They were nominated for the 2009 San Diego Music  Awards for Best Hip Hop Act and Best Hip Hop Album.
Andrew Figueroa Chiang and The Blazing Rays of the Sun brought high energy and big harmonies with their lead singer on the keyboard.
Seattle-based band Lion’s Ambition fused hip-hop and rock in their soulful performance. Formed only in 2008, the group has already opened for Ludacris, Talib Kweli, and Schwayze.
Singer and songwriter Dawen fused soul and R&B with jazz and funk in his musical performance. He was the grand prizewinner of Kollaboration Acoustic 4, the acoustic talent show competition in 2010.
Singaporean singer and songwriter Inch Chua brought her vocal talents from Asia to the Los Angeles stage. She was the first Singapore solo artist to perform at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.
Monsters Calling Home, composed of five musicians, took their voices to the limit in their upbeat performance. The group is from the Fernando Valley and was inspired by the 90s hit TV show “Ahh! Real Monsters.”
With strength in numbers, the highly energetic Emanon Dance Crew stomped and grooved to various hip-hop and R&B songs. The team, consisting of high school students from all over Ventura County, recently received the Work of Dance Industries’ Youth Team of the Year Award.
Noel Kunz, the two-time World Championship Finalist of the World Yo-yo Contest (Artistic Performance Division), yo-yoed his way through the competition with his advanced and fast-paced tricks (shown right). He had been featured in “America's Got Talent” and PBS' “The Friday Zone.”
Guest judges included YouTube star Ryan Higa, actress Kelly Hu, musician David Choi, and Japanese singer Jin Akanishi.
KOLLABORATION-11-3After intermission, talented audience members competed in a song and dance contest. The show also featured South Korean pop star G.NA, who performed her latest singles “Black and White” and “Top Girl” (shown left).
It was a tight race. All eight contenders battled head-to-head for both the judges’ and the audiences’ attention and approval.

While Emanon Dance Crew won the Audience Choice Award (shown right), Noel Kunz won the Kollaboration talent show title.
At the end of the night, Yo-yo prodigy Noel Kunz, in shock and awe, proudly leaped up and down while beaming with the Kollaboration trophy in hand (shown below).

Kollaboration's founder Paul "PK" Kim a stand-up comedian performed a comedy routine in between the competing acts. With his raunchy jokes, he brought the whole audience to boisterous laughter. Kim created the non-profit organization in 2000. Kim has performed at The Laugh Factory and the Improv, and is the host and associate producer of "BPM" - Beats per Mnet, a show produced by CJ Mnet Media, a division of Korean media conglomerate CJ Entertainment and Media. 
Kim's first Kollaboration show began with one single show in Los Angeles in 2000. The 2011's live talent show’s eleventh anniversary season finale drew approximately 4,000 fans on the exciting November night. Advocating for Asian Americans in entertainment, the talent show’s message stresses that everyone should follow their dreams, regardless of race, ethnicity, language, or socioeconomic status.
Kollaboration 2012 plans to include shows in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, East Lansing, Hawaii, Houston, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Tulsa, and Washington D.C.
Contributors to this story:
Photos Courtesy of Kollobaration, Nathan Nowack Photography
Suzanne Joe Kai, editor/publisher, AsianConnections

The Time Has Come: 
Asian Americans Arrive on the Red Carpet
By Amy Lieu

          Asian American entertainers of Hollywood graced the red carpet at the 20th Anniversary Gala Celebration for the Coalition for Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE) at Union Station in Los Angeles on Nov. 12, 2011.

           The evening honored the talents of Asian Americans in entertainment and celebrated the advancement of diversity in the media.
For years, Asian Americans have been under-represented in Hollywood.

        However, CAPE's red carpet event indicated more Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) talent are in entertainment today. AAPIs have come a long way.
            Maggie Q, the beautiful and savvy renegade spy from Nikita (shown above) shared space with Carrie Ann Inaba, the talented dancer and one of the judges for Dancing with the Stars. (Inaba is shown below being interviewed by reporter Amy Lieu.)

Carrie Ann Inaba with Amy Lieu - photo by John Sakata

             Among the many more celebrities on the red carpet are George Takei (shown below), who played Sulu from Star Trek, Youtube musical sensation David Choi, and professional poker player Maria Ho, who has played in the World Poker Tour.
               The Gentlemen of YTF (shown below) also strutted the red carpet; the group includes Ryan Higa, the most subscribed YouTube personality, as well as Victor Kim and Dominic of Quest Crew, who won the third season of America’s Best Dance Crew.


Wenda Fong says she co-founded CAPE twenty years ago when Asian Americans did not have a strong voice in the entertainment industry. CAPE is now one of the largest Asian-American professional entertainment industry organizations in Hollywood. Studio and network executives, managers, actors, producers and directors are among its members.

The demographics and audience share of Asian American Pacific Islanders have risen. The latest U.S. Census figures show that AAPI's are among the fastest growing segments in the U.S. Fong says that good Asian American talent has always been in the industry, but roles for Asian Americans has been under represented. CAPE is working to mentor, support and develop writers and producers to bring more stories to the screen.

Maggie Q (CW’s Nikita) was honored with CAPE's New Horizons Award. The Outstanding Drama Award went to the cast and crew of CBS’ “Hawaii Five-O”.

Jusak Yang Bernard, producer of the film “Hundred Percent,” won the Outstanding Service Award. Ryan Higa, one the most popular YouTube celebrities, took home the Trailblazer Award. Leo Chu and Eric S. Garcia creators of SUPAH NINJAS on Nickelodeon received the Visionary Award.

Maggie Q, in her heartfelt acceptance speech, expressed anger in actually being the first Asian American woman in a lead role—after all these years Asian Americans have been in entertainment. She recognized how important it is to continue the struggle for more Asian American representation in the media.

In the future, CAPE plans to expand its efforts to support AAPIs in entertainment in the global and digital arenas.
David-Choi-and-Amy-Lieu Photo-by-John-Sakata-250x200
 Reporter Amy Lieu interviewing popular Youtube musician, David Choi.

Photos Courtesy of John Sakata

Hallyu: Riding the Korean Wave

by Amy Lieu
If you know Rain, BoA and Sistar, then you already know K-Pop, Korea’s contemporary pop music and its artists.
K-Pop music is one of the fastest growing music genres in the world, and along with Korea’s popular TV drama serials, films and comic books are a growing source of export revenue for Korea.  
Fans welcome K-Pop stars to Paris-6-2011

The growing global fan base of Korea's entertainment and cultural offerings, known as "Hallyu" or the "Korean Wave" feels more like a tidal wave in some countries. In France, for example, fans mostly in their youth sold out a concert in Paris reportedly in fifteen minutes. Several hundred fans who missed out on tickets held a rally and danced to K-Pop music in front of the Louvre Museum campaigning for a second concert.  In the photo above, a flash mob shows hundreds of fans from all ethnicities crowding the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris last June, 2011 to welcome their favorite K-Pop artists. 
On Dec. 31, 2011, Korea's Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Choe Kwang-shik announced a 2012 policy to expand support of Hallyu, to help keep the wave of Korean pop culture surging across its borders. The Korean government also hopes to attract more Hallyu fans into the areas of food, tourism, fashion and other cultural and entertainment offerings.
Leaders from Hollywood and S. Korea’s entertainment industry and academia convened in November for a summit at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles to explore the impact and future of Korea’s pop culture and entertainment, encompassing its music, films, television drama serials, and comic books.
The two-day summit Korean Wave Initiative – Hallyu: Riding the Korean Culture Wave for a Globalized World was held to explore the exciting developments of this trend and to discuss ways for Korea to promote this as a global brand.
The event was organized by the Asia Society Korea Center, and co-organized by the Asia Society of Los AngelesAsia Society of Northern California, and the Korean Studies Institute at University of Southern California. 
The USC event was timely, just one week later two K-Pop concerts on Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas were hosted for the first time by Billboard Korea. Billboard, the 117 year old media conglomerate is not missing a beat and is getting into the K-Pop world with its 2011 launch of Billboard Korea, Billboard K-Pop Hot 100 Chart, and its first Las Vegas K-Pop concerts, 2011 Billboard K-Pop Masters, presented by MGM Grand.
Im-Kwon-Taek-5x4-Photo-by-Luminaire ImagesThe opening session at USC featured a conversation about the history of Korean film with award-winning S. Korean film director Im Kwong-taek (image left) with USC’s Dr. Youngmin Choe, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Culture. Im Kwon-taek is credited as one of the founding figures of the film movement "New Korean Cinema," also known as "Korean New Wave" which has brought worldwide critical acclaim to Korean cinema.  

The second day event explored the evolving image of Korean-Americans in U.S. entertainment with writer and producer Albert Kim (Nikita), actor C.S. Lee (Dexter & The Sopranos), actor James Kyson Lee (Heroes), and filmmaker Christine Yoo (Wedding Palace). Both days events were moderated by USC's Dr. David Kang, Professor of International Relations and Business, and Director of the Korean Studies Institute.
The Korean Wave Initiative summit culminated in an awards dinner featuring examples of S. Korea's finest cuisine and fashion. Korean Consul General Yeon-Sung Shin Chef-Bruce-Byung-Woo-Lee-and-Yvonne-Kim-Exec-Dir-Asia-Society-Korea-Center-11-18-11welcomed the dinner guests arriving in black tie and Asian national dress to his residence in Los Angeles. 
Yvonne Kim, Executive Director of Asia Society Korea Center emceed the evening and hosted a talk on stage with Master Chef Bruce Byung-Woo Lee of Lotte Hotel Seoul (image right) who flew in to prepare the dinner which was attended by members of Hollywood and Korea’s entertainment industry, business, education, and government.
The Women Leader Award was presented to Michelle Park Steel, Vice Chair of the California Board of Equalization (image left). Steel is currently the highest rankiMichelle Park Steel Anthony Jackson-L Tom-McLain-middle-Photo-by-Luminaire-Imagesng Korean American elected official in the U.S. She graciously acknowledged her strong family ties to Korean culture and emphasis on education.  
Vice President of Education and head of Asia Society’s Partnership for Global Learning, Dr. Anthony Jackson and Asia Society S. CA Chairman Tom McLain presented the award.
Sujin Nam pianist, composer, and music director (image right) was presented with Asia Society Korea Center's Cultural Ambassador AwardSUJIN NAM accepts-award
 Asia-Society-Korea-Center-11-18-11Nam, born in Seoul, Korea has been playing the piano since she was only four years old. She moved to the U.S. to further her music education, and has a diverse background in music from classical to jazz. She has been a film composer for numerous Hollywood films and television shows. She cited her Korean cultural background as a positive influence on her career. 
"Hansik" a Korean term meaning Korean food was taken to new, innovative heights by Chef Lee. Chef Lee is busy creating new Korean food recipes designed for the palates of the global community.  For the eight course dinner, Chef Lee expertly blended French haute cuisine influences with traditional Korean cooking principles in both hot and cold dishes served in beautiful presentations. Chef Lee is the recipient of the 1st Great Chefs of Asia Award, a gold medal at the 8th Singapore Salon Culinaire in the cold food category, and the Tin Tower Order of Industrial Service Medal. 
Throughout the evening, each course was introduced by speakers who discussed the significance of the Korean dish and its healthy benefits. Asia Society of S. California board member Peter Shiao introduced Bibimbap, one of the most popular Korean dishes. He taught guests how to correctly say “Bibimbap” (bee-beem-bahp). Chef Lee’s Bibimbap featured rice mixed with a variety of vegetables including cooked spinach, fresh shredded carrots, and bean sprouts with Yangnyum-gochujang, a red chili pepper sauce drizzled on top. 
Royal Sineollo-photo-by-Luminaire Images-11-18-11Asia Society’s Asia 21 Young Leaders Initiative Fellow and NBC West Coast correspondent Jinah Kim-Perek introduced Royal Seafood Sin Seol Ro, also called Sinseollo, inspired from a Korean royal court recipe historically prepared only for the King. Chef Lee prepared this royal court dish with a special cod only available in Korea in the Fall, and shrimp, crawfish, and vegetables in a fish broth served in individual silver hotpots which were specially hand delivered from Korea. The term “sinseon” means “Taoist immortal spirit.”
Another dish was Japchae, glass noodles made of sweet potato, with braised beef, jujube and chestnut with Bulgogi sauce. The salty yet sweet Bulgogi sauce infused into the beef and glass noodles, making every bite filled with the delicious flavor of the sauce.
Buckwheat tea was a nice complement at the end of the meal.
Hanbok-Bride and Groom dress-Asia Society Korea Center Dinner LA Photo by Luminaire Images-11-18-11Guests were treated to a fashion show of exquisite Hanbok gowns, the Korean traditional dress worn at celebrations and traditional festivals. Both traditional Hanbok and modernized Gae-ryang Hanbok were modeled. A Hanbok includes a Jeogori, a short blouse-like shirt with sleeves, and Chima, a long skirt usually with a Sokchima, an underskirt or petticoat which gives the skirt its full, rounded shape, elegantly flowing to the floor.
Asia-Society Leogryph logo-11-18-11-photo-by-Luminare-Images

Under the golden glow of the Asia Society’s distinctive Leogryph logo projected on the pool and wall of the Korean Consul General’s residence, the inaugural Asia Society Korea Center Hansik dinner on the final night of the Korean Wave Initiative provided an ideal setting for a cross-cultural introduction to the finest in Korean entertainment, pop culture, food and fashion and for fostering new relationships between leaders of U.S. and Korea’s entertainment industries. 
Asia Society S. California Chairman Tom McLain says, “The Korean Wave Initiative successfully exposed the best of Korean culture, both traditional and pop, and truly established the stepping stone for further developing Korean culture around the world.”
Contributors to this story:
Photos Courtesy of Luminaire Images
Lydia Lee, Asia Society Korea Center Liaison
BoA official websiteBillboard Korea KPOP Masters

Suzanne Joe Kai, editor/publisher of AsianConnections 
About the Asia Society:
Asia Society is one of the leading global and pan-Asian organizations. It works to promote understanding between the United States and Asia, and aims to strengthen relationships among its people, leaders and institutions across the fields of arts, culture, policy, business and education.
About the Asia Society Korea Center:
2011 marks the third anniversary of the Asia Society Korea Center. The non-profit, non-partisan organization seeks to increase understanding and engagement in issues of cultural, education, political, business and technological importance to Korea and the greater Asia-Pacific region.  

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