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Fate Brought Them Together During a Blizzard in Buffalo. Then They Reunited in Seoul.

Months after a South Korean tour group landed at their upstate New York doorstep during a snowstorm, the couple who hosted them received a heroes’ welcome in Seoul.

A group of people around a dining table reach forward to clink champagne glasses in celebration.

By Christine Chung

About five months ago, in the middle of a deadly and ferocious blizzard, Alexander and Andrea Campagna answered a knock on the door of their home near Buffalo. Outside were 10 South Korean travelers whose van had become stuck in the snow on their street. The Campagnas welcomed the stranded travelers in, and, in doing so, provided a much-shared story of compassion and good will during a vicious storm just before Christmas .

On Thursday, the Campagnas were in Seoul, the South Korean capital, touring some of the city’s most historic sights, marveling at the painted wood beams buttressing the curved roofs at Gyeongbokgung, a sprawling palace built in the late 14th century. Under a hazy sun, they strolled through Gwanghwamun Square, a plaza that serves as the beating heart of the city’s civic life, where they learned about Korean heroes who walked on this land centuries ago.

They were about a week into a 10-day all-expenses paid tour of the city as guests of the Korea Tourism Organization , to reward their generosity and promote tourism to Korea as well.

“It’s kind of a storybook situation that you could not have scripted,” Mr. Campagna, 40, said, in an interview at a cafe on the Gyeongbokgung grounds.

The government sought to highlight a wide range of Korean industry and culture, and to showcase the country’s natural beauty, said Kim Jang-Sil, the president of the tourism organization. Most of all, he said, he hoped to show the Campagnas the “warmhearted kindness” of the South Korean people.

The Campagnas had been welcomed as heroes. They sat for interviews with local media and filmed a promotional tourism video. They were feted by the Korean government, hosted at the Four Seasons, welcomed at Michelin-recommended restaurants and whisked away on private tours of the city’s attractions. There was a mountain hike, a visit to Buddhist temple, a trek to the Demilitarized Zone that splices the peninsula in two and of course, many delicious meals, including a Korean barbecue feast.

And they’d been reunited with six of the South Korean tourists they’d spontaneously invited into their home that snowy holiday weekend months ago. This time they met at a sun-filled restaurant in a traditional Korean house overlooking Changdeokgung Palace , another grand Joseon dynasty royal home.

Tears were shed as they encountered each other again. Guests and hosts alike, channeled through an interpreter, spoke of the gratitude they felt. They called each other lifelong friends and repeatedly emphasized that it felt like destiny to have met.

The rescued travelers recalled their relief upon seeing a rice cooker at the Campagnas’ home. “When I opened the refrigerator, it felt like it was made for us,” said Park Gun-Young, who stayed at the Campagna residence with his wife and daughter.

Mrs. Campagna, 43, said that despite having no blood ties to the country, Korea has been a part of the couple’s origin story from the beginning. On their first date seven years ago, they ate bibimbap and stir-fried pork at a local Korean restaurant in Buffalo.

In the months since that holiday weekend, the couple said they received an immense outpouring of gratitude from well-wishers near and far. There was even a year of free fried chicken from a Korean barbecue franchise. Mrs. Campagna said that the response, which she called “profoundly moving,” showed that the world was “hungry for a heartwarming story” in a news cycle that is typically anything but.

Over a four-course meal, including soy-braised beef stew, lotus wraps with spicy soybean paste and chocolate éclairs filled with yuzu cream, the reunited group reminisced about the winter weekend that had brought them together.

The Campagnas, beaming, presented their former houseguests with gifts of Christmas ornaments emblazoned with an image of their house blanketed in snow. Mrs. Campagna had designed the ornaments especially for the occasion.

“We bonded so much with them,” Mrs. Campagna said. “It was like reuniting with family.”

On the tour, the Campagnas, who had never visited Korea before, said they had been fully immersed in Korean culture. They’d learned about the concept of jeong , a feeling of compassion and warmth that grows in a close relationship, something they said they felt with their guests.

They also heard about inyeon, or fate. The holiday weekend had turned them into believers. One of the mysteries of the story has been how the stranded Korean travelers ended up at the door of the one house in the area that was likely to be stocked with Korean condiments like gochujang, or spicy red chili paste, and chamgileum, or sesame oil, and enough produce and proteins to cook Korean food for everyone.

“How did they end up on our street in Buffalo? In a home where we happened to love cooking Korean cuisine and have those spices?” Mrs. Campagna asked. “How did that all happen?”

Then she answered her own questions: “Fate,” she said.

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places to Go in 2023 .

Christine Chung is a travel reporter for The Times. She previously covered breaking news. She joined The Times in November 2021. More about Christine Chung

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10 South Korean tourists were stranded in a blizzard near Buffalo. They spent 2 nights in a stranger's home, cooking and watching football.

  • A van carrying 10 tourists got stuck in the snow near Buffalo, New York, on Friday.
  • One couple who lived nearby welcomed the stranded group — they stayed for two nights.
  • The visitors, who were mostly from South Korea, passed time by cooking meals with their hosts.

Insider Today

When their van got stuck in the snow in Williamsville, New York, on Friday, a South Korean tour group found refuge with a good Samaritan who sheltered them through the blizzard.

The group of 10 travelers — which included nine tourists from South Korea — were making their way to Niagara Falls from Washington, DC, when they found themselves in the middle of a blizzard. Two men in the group decided to knock on a door to ask for shovels to try to get their van out of a ditch.

They ended up with a place to stay until they could be picked up on Sunday after the storm cleared, The New York Times reported .

Alex Campagna, a dentist, said on Facebook that at about 2 p.m. on Friday, during "the worst blizzard I've experienced," he heard a "frantic knock on the door."

Campagna and his wife ended up inviting the 10 people in, putting them up on couches, in sleeping bags, on an air mattress, and in a spare bedroom, The Times reported. Campagna told the newspaper he didn't want to let the group back out on the roads, adding that he knew, "as a Buffalonian, this is on another level, the Darth Vader of storms."

Choi Yoseob, a member of the tour group that Campagna hosted, told The Times it was "kind of like fate" that they'd ended up at the home of a hospitable family with a full pantry.

"We have enjoyed this so much," Choi said, describing the experience as unforgettable and a "unique blessing."

The group spent Friday and Saturday swapping stories and cooking with their hosts. The Times report said they watched an NFL game on Christmas Eve and made several Korean meals, adding that Campagna and his wife are fans of Korean food themselves and had ingredients needed to make jeyuk bokkeum, stir-fried pork, and dakdori tang, a spicy chicken stew.

If the travelers had stayed for Christmas dinner on Sunday, the group likely would have made bulgogi, the report said.

Drivers picked up the tourists on Sunday when roads were cleared and brought them back to New York City, the report said. Choi said he and his wife planned to stay for New Year's Eve. The others are scheduled to fly back to South Korea this week.

Choi and Campagna did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

south korean tour group stranded buffalo

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Stranded in Buffalo, Korean tourists find a delicious solution

During a deadly blizzard last month in Buffalo, a group of Korean visitors were trapped outdoors. A few of them sought refuge at the home of a couple who loves Korean cuisine — so they began cooking.


Buffalo residents are still dealing with the aftermath of one of the worst blizzards of all time. Alexander Campagna and his wife, Andrea, had planned for a quiet Christmas weekend of family, football and food. Then, just after 2 p.m., they heard a knock on their door.

ALEXANDER CAMPAGNA: We answered the door, and there were two men covered in snow already from head to foot. And they said, our vehicle is stuck. Could we borrow some shovels?

NADWORNY: We read about their story in The New York Times and had to find out more. The two men at the door were part of a nine-person tour group from South Korea on their way to visit Niagara Falls. The group wasn't planning to be in Buffalo for long.

CAMPAGNA: When I met them outside, I realized I was getting coated from head to toe in snow. It was that thick and coming down that heavy that I said, guys, guys, this is not going to happen.

NADWORNY: They wouldn't be driving anywhere anytime soon.

YOSEB CHOI: We tried to call the towing company and even called a police station and fire station. We couldn't get help from them 'cause of the very bad snowstorm.

NADWORNY: Yoseb Choi and his wife, Claire, were part of that tour group. Now, they realized they'd be spending their honeymoon at the Campagnas, along with their fellow travelers.

CHOI: We felt really grateful that, you know, Alex and Andrea welcomed with a towel and hot coffee. And they tried to make us feel comfortable and relaxed, even in that situation.

NADWORNY: Choi wanted to find a way to thank their hosts for taking them in. And to their surprise...

CHOI: We found out that, you know, Alex and Andrea had the first date in Korean restaurant. So we tried to do some good cooking for Alex and Andrea. So I felt like, you know, this meeting was, like, fate.

NADWORNY: Their kitchen was already stocked with Korean staples, like red pepper paste, sesame oil and kimchi, so they all spent Christmas weekend cooking and eating together.

CAMPAGNA: We were all enjoying a great meal Friday night, a chicken stir-fry dish, and on Saturday a pork stew. Both were absolutely delicious. It really did feel like it was meant to be.

NADWORNY: While this sounds like an incredible act of generosity, Alex and his wife say they did nothing special.

CAMPAGNA: I'm convinced - and my wife would say the same thing - that, when faced with sudden emergency situations, that human beings across the world all share that instinct to jump into action because we're all human beings fueled by compassion and empathy. And we want to help rescue people, help people, especially if they're in immediate danger.

NADWORNY: For Choi, his weekend at the Campagnas has left a lasting impact.

CHOI: So I really felt, you know, ah, OK, like, I also have to learn this, you know, kindness that I can offer to other people in South Korea, too, or anywhere I go. Alex and Andrea made our honeymoon really, really memorable and great. And especially, my Christmas was the best Christmas ever yet.


Copyright © 2023 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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Seoul rolls out the red carpet for New Yorkers who helped stranded Korean tourists

The buffalo-area couple was invited to south korea after their good deed last december.

Man and woman stand in front of a display in South Korea.

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south korean tour group stranded buffalo

After Alexander and Andrea Campagna welcomed a group of stranded Korean tourists into their home near Buffalo, NY, for a weekend during a blizzard last December, they didn't simply receive a card or gift basket as thanks. 

The Korean Tourism Association invited them on a trip to Seoul. The Campagnas just returned Monday. 

The tourism organization's president, Kim Jang-Sil told the New York Times that the government wanted to promote Korea's natural beauty, industry, and culture throughout the trip — and also show the couple the "warmhearted kindness" of the South Korean people. The Campagnas saw the sights and ate at top restaurants on the 10-day, all-expenses-paid tour, the paper reported. 

Andrea Campagna spoke to As It Happens guest host Helen Mann about the trip. Here's part of their conversation. 

Is it true that your first date was at a Korean restaurant?

Yes, it is. We ... connected over our first date with our love for Korean food and many other things in common.

According to the New York Times report on your trip, you were welcomed as heroes to South Korea. Did it seem like people there were familiar with your story?

I would say that most of the Korean people that we met were just absolutely lovely, welcoming, warm and friendly.

We were recognized by a few people that did come up to us that seemed to know our story. So that was really sweet. 

But it's sort of cute because we would have taken anybody, and we were happy to help. So, it just seems like such an amazing welcome and such a generous gift to send us to Korea.

What went through your head when you were first invited on the trip?

It was such an amazing blessing and honour. It was just a beautiful gesture on behalf of the Korean tourism organization to offer to send us to Korea — and neither of us had ever been. So, it just seemed like just an incredible opportunity.

They wanted us to have the opportunity to experience Korean culture, its beauty, the cuisine, the natural history, different monuments. It was a way for us to be able to be immersed in the culture, but also as a gesture of thanks.

A couple on a trip to South Korea.

I understand that you were reunited with some of the travelers that you took into your home during the storm in December. What was it like to be reunited with them?

It was such an amazing, emotional experience to see them doing well and happy and healthy, back in Korea. And we are very close with the travellers.

It was such a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with them in person.

When they talk about their experience in your home in Buffalo ... what are the memories that stand out for them?

During our luncheon when we reconnected with the travellers, we went around the table and people were sharing some of their personal observations and recollections from that weekend.

Some of the travellers said that they were amazed when they opened up the refrigerator and saw that we had a lot of Korean condiments and spices and a surplus of food.

Some of them felt as if we were almost prepared to have them stay there — almost like it was fate.

One of them said something about the fact that you had a rice cooker was a good omen.

Yes. And I hope that that all helped them to feel comfortable and welcome and know that they were in a home that they could really rest in and be safe from the blizzard.

Tell us about the meal you all shared together.

Well, when the tourists found out that we actually had our first date at a Korean restaurant, they asked if we could recall what we had. They tried to recreate that dish as a gesture of thanks to us and it was an absolutely delicious meal.

It was really a fun way to spend our time during the blizzard cooking together.

Do you think any of the people that you welcomed in your home would like to come back and see you as well?

I would hope that they would love to travel back to the U.S., although I wouldn't recommend coming back to Buffalo in the winter again. But they're always welcome in our home.

I think that these people, we will remain close with for a long time.

Interview with Andrea Campagna produced by Chris Trowbridge. Edited for length and clarity.

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They traveled from south korea. they got stranded near buffalo..

Alexander Campagna, a dentist, and his wife, Andrea, a nurse practitioner, hosting 10 stranded South Korean visitors who were in a tour group headed to Niagara Falls. The group’s van became stuck in the snow outside the Campangas’ house in Williamsville, N.Y., and they spent the weekend with the homeowners – who luckily had a well-stocked kitchen.  (ALEXANDER CAMPAGNA)

Alexander Campagna and his wife, Andrea, lifelong residents of Buffalo, New York, were ready to wait the blizzard out. They had stocked the fridge and planned for a quiet holiday weekend indoors at their home in suburban Williamsville, as long as the power stayed on.

Then, on Friday at 2 p.m., with the storm already swirling and snow rapidly piling up, making roads impassable, there was a knock at the door. Two men, part of a group of nine tourists from South Korea that was traveling to Niagara Falls, asked for shovels to dig their passenger van out of a ditch.

And so an unlikely holiday weekend began, with the Campagnas welcoming the travelers, along with their driver, as house guests. They became “accidental innkeepers,” said Alexander Campagna, a 40-year-old dentist.

Before leaving Friday morning from Washington, D.C., the tour participants, most of them from Seoul, seemed unaware of the worrisome forecast, said Yoseb Choi, 27, who is from Pyeongtaek. He was traveling with his wife, Claire, on the tour, which they had booked for their honeymoon.

A day earlier, he had grown concerned after receiving messages from friends alerting him to the coming storm. On Friday, the van ride was slippery and windy, and the passengers had become anxious, he said.

Then, after hours of watching the weather deteriorate outside the van’s windows, they ended up stranded near the Campagna house, Choi said.

The Campagnas, well aware of the dangers the storm presented, immediately invited the travelers in, “knowing, as a Buffalonian, this is on another level, the Darth Vader of storms,” Campagna said.

The visitors – seven women and three men – filled the three-bedroom house, sleeping on couches, sleeping bags, an air mattress and in the home’s guest bedroom. The other travelers included parents with their daughter, an Indiana college student, and two college-age friends from Seoul. Three of them spoke English proficiently.

They spent the weekend swapping stories, watching the Buffalo Bills defeat the Chicago Bears on Christmas Eve and sharing delicious Korean home-cooked meals prepared by the guests, like jeyuk bokkeum, a spicy stir-fried pork dish, and dakdori tang, a chicken stew laced with fiery red pepper. To the surprise and glee of the Korean guests, Campagna and his wife, who are both fans of Korean food, had all the necessary condiments on hand: mirin, soy sauce, Korean red pepper paste, sesame oil and chili flakes. There was also kimchi and a rice cooker.

“It was kind of like fate,” Choi said, remarking on the luck of arriving at the Campagnas’ doorstep with their fully stocked kitchen and unhesitating hospitality. He said the hosts were “the kindest people I have ever met.”

One of the guests, the mother of the Indiana college student, was a fabulous cook, he said.

“We destroyed so much food,” he added.

Campagna said that the unexpected guests had been a delight.

“We have enjoyed this so much,” he said, calling it a “unique blessing,” and adding that the experience has inspired the couple to plan a visit to South Korea. “We will never forget this.”

Choi said he had spent some of his high school years learning English in Michigan and Kansas, but his wife had never been to the United States, so the tour was a chance to travel to several cities she was eager to see. The plan had been to visit New York City, Washington, Niagara Falls and Montreal.

After landing in New York City on Dec. 21 for the tour, which was operated by a South Korean company called Yellow Balloon, they visited the Empire State Building and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, browsed the Museum of Modern Art and checked out the Oculus at the World Trade Center, all in one day. In Washington, they visited the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and one of the Smithsonian museums.

“We were tired, but it was exciting,” Choi said. Even the unexpected snow disaster contributed to the experience, he said, allowing the couple to experience a “warm welcome from real Americans.”

“We are happy and luckily and gracefully having a great Christmas with Andrea and Alex,” Choi said.

On Sunday, the snow was winding down and the road was plowed, but the van remained stuck. Drivers arrived to pick up the tourists, who were returning to New York City, where most of them will fly back to South Korea in the middle of the week. Choi said he and his wife will stay a bit longer to celebrate New Year’s Day in Times Square.

Had they been stranded for another night, they had been thinking bulgogi – Korean grilled beef – for Christmas dinner.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times .

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South korean tourists trapped in buffalo blizzard find safety in stranger's home.

Ben Blanchet

A group of South Korean tourists whose van couldn’t make it through the wicked winter conditions near Buffalo, New York , found shelter thanks to a helpful stranger this past weekend.

Alexander Campagna, a dentist, wrote on Facebook that he received a “frantic knock on the door” in the village of Williamsville on Friday. Two men from a group of 10 tourists were at the door to ask for shovels to dig out their vehicle, which was stuck in front of Campagna’s home.

The tourists were stranded in what New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) described as “the blizzard of the century” ― a storm that has killed at least 28 people in Western New York’s Erie and Niagara counties, The Buffalo News reported .

People who died in the surrounding Buffalo area were discovered in snow banks and inside vehicles, The Associated Press reported , as snowfall totals reached 49.2 inches on Monday morning at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

The tourists ― who were on their way from Washington, D.C. , to Niagara Falls ― “seemed unaware” of the pending storm. They “ended up stranded” outside Campagna’s home due to worsening conditions, one of the tourists, Pyeongtaek native Yoseb Choi, told The New York Times .

That’s when Campagna and his wife, Andrea, stepped in to offer them a place to stay.

Tourists in Buffalo? In winter? They Traveled From South Korea. They Got Stranded Near Buffalo. https://t.co/0TgSU1iqLv — Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) December 26, 2022

The couple provided the 10 tourists with places to sleep. During the unexpected weekend stay, the group watched a Buffalo Bills game and ate Korean meals together ― food that the Campagnas love to consume, the newspaper reported.

“It was kind of like fate,” Choi told the Times.

“We will never forget this,” Campagna said.

The van was still stuck on Sunday, but drivers reportedly picked up the tourists for a return to New York City , as a majority of the group are set to continue back to South Korea this week.

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Yeondeunghoe, a lantern-lighting festival in Korea celebrating the Buddha’s birthday, in Seoul on Saturday. The Campagnas recived an all-expenses-paid tour of the Korean capital.

Couple who helped Koreans stranded in US blizzard feted as heroes in Seoul

Alexander and Andrea Campagna took in Korean travelers during deadly snowstorm in Buffalo last year – and got special thanks in return

A US husband and wife who sheltered 10 South Korean travelers in their home during a deadly snowstorm last Christmas have gone to Seoul and been feted as heroes.

Alexander and Andrea Campagna went to South Korea’s capital as part of a 10-day tour of the city organized as a token of gratitude for the husband and wife who opened up their home in Buffalo, New York, to strangers in need.

“To see everyone in Korea again is such a blessing,” Andrea Campagna, 43, told reporters in Seoul in reference to those whom she and her husband aided. “They ended up in the right place at the right time. Now we have people we can call friends for a lifetime.”

The 23 December blizzard that brought together the Campagnas and their newfound Korean friends was brutal. Officials said more than 22in of snow fell in Buffalo that day, and 40 people died for reasons linked to the blizzard, which New York governor Kathy Hochul memorably described as “a war with Mother Nature”.

“We’ve had snowstorms, but not to that extent,” Alexander Campagna said in Seoul, according to the Korea Herald. “We knew we were going to be stuck at home for many days.”

As they prepared to be locked down for a while, the couple suddenly heard a knock on their door. They opened the door puzzled as to “who would be outside in this weather”, said Alexander Campagna, 40, a dentist.

The Campagnas were greeted by Scott Park and a tour guide who asked them if they could borrow shovels to dig their bus out from under the snowfall.

But, as the Korea Herald noted, the couple thought the visitors had as much of a chance to do that as they would taking water out of the ocean. So they invited the group in for tea, coffee, warm socks and blankets.

To the Campagnas, it looked like their guests believed they would be able to leave after a cup of tea. “But it was impossible to get anywhere in that weather, and it was going to be time for dinner soon,” Alexander Campagna said.

The Herald recounted how Park’s wife cooked Korean dishes such as jeyuk bokkeum – spicy marinated and stir-fried pork – and dak-dori-tang, a spicy chicken stew, that everyone shared.

According to the Herald, Park recalled the relief he felt when he realized the Campagnas had a proper rice cooker and the necessary ingredients, saying: “It was as if they had prepared this for us.”

The visitors stayed at the Campagnas’ the rest of that day – a Friday – and through the remainder of the weekend before the storm passed and the group returned to South Korea, in scenes that seemed straight out of a saccharine holiday movie.

The story went viral after US media reported on it. More recently, the Korea Tourism Organization provided to the Campagnas a 10-day, all-expenses-paid tour of Seoul as a reward for their hospitality.

On Thursday, about a week into the trip, the Campagnas went sightseeing at some of Seoul’s most storied places, including Gyeongbokgung, a 14th-century palace with painted wood beams and curved roofs, the New York Times reported .

They dined at Michelin-recommended restaurants, visited a Buddhist temple and traveled to the demilitarized zone that divides South Korea from its northern counterpart. They also met up with six of the once-stranded tourists they had sheltered last year, though this time the setting was “a sun-filled restaurant in a traditional Korean house overlooking Changdeokgung Palace”, as the Times put it.

Andrea Campagna, a surgical nurse practitioner, said her and her husband’s story was only one of many neighborly good deeds done by Buffalo residents as the community fought to survive the blizzard. But she acknowledged it was a special story nonetheless.

“They endured the horrible storm with us,” she told the Korea Herald of their Christmastime guests. “When you spend time together in a disaster situation, you feel very bonded.”

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    Alexander and Andrea Campagna went to South Korea's capital as part of a 10-day tour of the city organized as a token of gratitude for the

  13. S. Korean Tourists Stranded in Buffalo Snow Storm Find an "Inn"

    The severe weather has delivered a massive amount of precipitation and extreme temperatures that have people stranded—including a group of South

  14. Stranded South Korean tourists find refuge from US snowstorm in

    When their van got stuck in the snow in Williamsville, New York, a South Korean tour group found refuge with a Good Samaritan who sheltered them