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Flushing’s Asians united for Lunar New Year

Although in some ways the Chinese and Korean planners seem to be orchestrating two different versions of Flushing's Lunar New Year parade, they started their news conference Monday afternoon with a sign of unity.The four leaders of the parade planners took each others' hands to show that although they may be ushering in two different years - 4703 on the Chinese calendar and 4338 on the Korean - they would be doing so together."No religion, no politics, just a happy occasion for celebration," said Peter Koo, president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association."All of the groups can come," said Fred Fu, former chairman of the same organization. "We welcome every group to join, but the purpose is to celebrate the new year."The Saturday, Feb. 12, parade will mark the start of the Year of the Rooster, a bird that symbolizes community, fertility and spirituality."The rooster gives the first cry and shares the feed with the rest of the block," said parade planner Kwangsik Kim, who is president of the Korean American Association of Flushing, who also referred to the bird as a chicken in jest. "When it is faced with its enemy, it doesn't give up."He said the parade was also cause for celebration because it marked the end of World War II and the Western occupation of Asian countries including Korea and China. Cycles of 60 years mark cultural rebirth, he said.The parade will start outside the 109th Precinct station house at 37-05 Union St. Marchers will proceed down Union Street to Sanford Avenue, where they will make a right and head toward Main Street, where they will make a right again. At Roosevelt Avenue, parade participants will take a left. At Prince Street, the Korean and Chinese performers will split up and the Chinese will hold exhibitions at Flushing Mall while the Koreans will perform at Flushing High School.Planners said they hope that Mayor Michael Bloomberg will honor his past promises to allow fireworks at this year's parade. Fireworks are used not merely for decoration, but to ward off evil spirits, according to Chinese tradition.Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani banned fireworks from Lunar New Year celebrations in 1997, a year after the Flushing parade began. Bloomberg later reversed that order, making way for last year's pyrotechnic display.When asked whether Falun Gong practitioners would be allowed to perform, Koo said they had not yet applied to enter so he could not say. In past years, followers of the spiritual movement have stirred controversy in both the Chinatown and Flushing Lunar New Year events.In 2002, there were weeks of contentious meetings to determine whether the Falun Gong practitioners could be part of the Flushing parade. Some parade organizers were opposed to the group's inclusion on the basis that Falun Gong practitioners are religious and therefore in violation of the parade's code to not include political or religious performances.In a last-minute decision, the Falun Gong were invited to participate that year. Despite the controversy leading up to the parade, the Falun Gong performers did not face any opposition in the parade. Fu reminded the crowd of reporters gathered at the news conference that Chinese and Koreans were not the only ethnic groups invited to the parade. In past years, cultural groups from the Caribbean to Thailand to India marched in the grandiose parade.Representatives from the 109th Precinct reminded the group that as in past years, traffic and parking would be a problem during the parade so visitors should plan to park outside of downtown Flushing and be aware of changes to mass transit schedules.Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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