Unforgettable: Seventh Heaven

By Audrey Sunu
Photographs by Eric Sueyoshi, Mas Chae and Tada Chae

Seven. Pythagoras thought it was the perfect number. Slot-machine gamblers have long pursued it in sets of three. With an economy brimming with uncertainty, everyone could use a little kiss from Lady Luck.


Well, KoreAm Journal’s seventh-annual awards gala “Unforgettable” sure hit the jackpot with divine eats, free-flowing drinks, inspiring speeches and an exciting lineup of entertainers anchored by none other than K-pop sensation Se7en.

On Nov. 21, it was a full house at Park Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles as more than 500 guests gathered for a black-tie affair title-sponsored by CJ Entertainment. At the cocktail reception on the patio, guests guzzled ice-cold soju cocktails provided by beverage sponsor Jinro/Hite and sipped samples of Blue Label, Johnnie Walker’s premium blend, while getting an intimate look at the 2009 Hyundai Genesis sedan and coupe, displayed by presenting sponsor Hyundai Motors.

As guests mixed and mingled, a youthful energy filled the air. Rising actors Leonardo Nam, Aaron Yoo and Justin Chon flirted with the crowd with their charming antics. The mischievous Chon wasn’t quiet about his ulterior motive for joining the festivities. “I want to find a wife. Here. Tonight,” he declared.

After mixing and mingling, guests worked their way to the main ballroom. The atmosphere was warm with amorous undertones, remedial for the season’s economic blues.

A former recipient of the entertainment achievement award, comedian-actor Margaret Cho revisited theevent this year as emcee, rousing the audience with her signature provocative banter.

“Each year, the event just gets better,” remarked Paul Koh, executive director of Asian marketing at Hyundai Motor America, in his dinner speech. “We acknowledge and celebrate the movers and shakers who collectively represent the same spirit of our Korean American community.”


The night that ensued wasn’t without its technical hiccups. But “Unforgettable” still managed to court guests like a perfect date, wooing them with centerpieces of roses in full bloom, glasses of fine wine and hearty slabs of prime rib, straight from Lawry’s.

This year’s award winners were recognized for leaving significant footprints in the Korean American community.

The first award went to producer Roy Lee, whose blockbusters — The Ring, The Grudge, The Departed — were relished by American moviegoers. A former corporate lawyer, Lee had no regrets for taking the road less traveled and encouraged others to do the same.

The second award went to Jeannie Park, former executive editor of People magazine, who was all too familiar with the pressure to conform to timeworn notions of Asian American success: In college, she majored in biochemistry and even took a jab at the LSAT. But it was her pioneering efforts to diversify the field of journalism that earned her the night’s distinction.

Actor John Cho of Harold & Kumar fame took home the final achievement award. In his thought-provoking acceptance speech, he remarked on the strides Korean Americans have made in the entertainment community, how artists no longer feel obligated to explain who they are.

“If you’re giving [this award] to a guy who is most famous for playing a pothead, then our sense of what a Korean American can be must be expanding,” he stated to a wave of laughter and applause.

All three award recipients headed off stage with spankin’ new Blackberry Storms in hand, courtesy of silver sponsor Verizon Wireless. The evening’s other two silver sponsors were Red Mango and Asiana Airlines.

The entertainment acts kicked off with jazz singer-saxophonist Grace Kelly. The 16-year-old prodigy later returned to the stage for a delightful duet with world-renowned saxman Danny Jung. Singer Baby J later belted a tune.

Kaba Modern from MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew also seized the stage for an electrifying performance – completely arresting the audience’s attention.

“Five years ago, I was thrilled just to see my name in KoreAm,” said Mike Song, a member of Kaba Modern. “Tonight, I was able to perform for the magazine and some highly accomplished Korean Americans. There’s a positive movement going on and I’m just lucky to be a part of it. Definitely feelin’ good vibes all around.”


The evening’s festivities were punctuated by the voice and moves of award-winning Korean pop sensation Se7en.

“Unforgettable” wouldn’t have been possible without the help of corporate sponsors Paramount, ParkPlaza Hotel, InterTrend, Johnnie Walker, Sherin’s Bridal, Premier Plastic Surgery, Americana, State Farm, At Home Furniture, Solair, Wilshire Dental, La Premier, Ten Communications, Hanmi Bank, Korea Times, 3LAB, and Zoodango.com.

After boogying to beats spun by DJ MK at the after-party, guests reemerged onto the street hoping the night’s warmth would translate into tomorrow.

Seven proved to be a lucky number indeed.

Eight hopes to be even luckier.