Washington’s time is 13 hours behind Seoul’s, but America’s capital is at the forefront of a worldwide phenomenon embracing Korean popular culture.

Home to the third-largest Korean-American community in the United States, following Los Angeles and New York, Washington is a city where residents listen to Korean pop music, eat Korean barbecue and line up in the rain for a chance to see Korean dance.

Crowd watching man walking on tightrope in courtyard (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)
Jultagi, a Korean tightrope-walking performance, draws a crowd to the Korean Cultural Center. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

In early May, as it has for the past 10 years, the Korean Cultural Center (part of the Republic of Korea Embassy in Washington) opened its doors to visitors as part of a citywide “Around the World Embassy Tour.” Guests were treated to food, music, digital art and folk performances.

Korean pop music — commonly known as K-pop, a fusion of Western popular music with traditional Korean elements and audiovisual effects — was the big draw for many in the crowd that day.

DJ playing music (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)
A K-pop DJ entertains guests at the Korean Cultural Center during its open house on May 6. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

“It’s rare to find a K-pop music event in my state,” said Vaishali Kashyap, 29, who made the trip to Washington from her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, to attend the open house. “I have been a big fan of Korean drama and music since middle school,” she says.

The Korean center offers a six-week K-pop “academy” each summer, where participants work with professional voice and dance trainers from Korea.

Meat grilling on a Korean barbecue (Shutterstock)
Grilling bulgogi — thinly sliced, marinated beef (Shutterstock)

The Washington area also offers multiple Korean barbecue restaurants, many of which grill directly at diners’ tables. The scene is growing, with Korean entertainment available and new restaurants opening each year.

Korean culture has “become part of global culture, and Korea has a unique creative passion that makes it stand out,” said Adam Wojciechowicz of the Korean Cultural Center.

It is especially true in Washington.