A total of 700 big and small festivals will be held in various venues across South Korea this year and it may not be easy to choose which one to attend. The government's designation of ``best’’ or ``good’’ festivals may help those who want to experience Korean culture.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has selected five festivals, including the Andong International Mask Dance Festival and Floating Lantern Festival in Chinju, as the best cultural and tourist festivals of Korea for 2006.
The other festivals selected are the Kimje Horizon Festival, the Kangjin Celadon Cultural Festival and the Poryong Mud Festival.
The ministry also designated nine ``good’’ festivals and 13 ``promising" festivals it considers worthy of development.
Those events will get various assistance from the government including money and support in publicity and marketing. The five best festivals will each receive financial aid of 300 million won ($297,600), the nine good festivals are to get 150 million won and 50 million won is to be given to each of the 13 promising festivals.
Andong International Mask Dance Festival
The Andong International Mask Dance Festival is scheduled to be held for 10 days, from Sept. 29 to Oct. 8, in Andong and Hahoe Village. The theme of this year's festival, the tenth of its kind, is ``stylishness and excitement of yangban.’’ Yangban refers to Korea's ruling elite, especially during the Choson Kingdom (1392-1910).
In old times, direct criticism of the yangban was strictly forbidden, so the lower classes satirized them while wearing masks, and the performances developed into various mask dances in different regions. Among the mask dances still performed today are Hahoe Mask Dance, Unyul Mask Dance, Pukchong Sajanorum, Pongsan Mask Dance, Tongnae Yaryu, Suyong Yaryu, Kasan Ogwangdae,
Kangnyong Mask Dance, Songpa Sandaenori, Yangju Pyolsandaenori, Tongyong Ogwangdae, Kosong Ogwangdae, and the Kangnung Mask Drama. All these mask dances, designated as important intangible cultural assets, are performed at the Andong Festival, along with famous mask dances of other nations.
Visitors will have an opportunity to learn how to perform mask dances of the world and make masks. Various folk events are also to be held, including the Chajon Nori in which about 5,000 people will participate.
For more information, call 054-840-6398 or visit the Web site at www.maskdance.com.
Floating Lantern Festival
The Floating Lantern Festival on the Nam River in Jinju, South Kyongsang Province, the largest of its kind in Korea, has its origins from the Japanese invasion of Choson in the late 16th century. According to records, General Kim Si-Min of Chinju Castle, leading only 3,800 troops, destroyed an army of 20,000 Japanese troops who attacked the castle in October of 1592, heightening Korea's national pride.
During the Japanese invasion, the general raised a lantern in the sky and floated lanterns and torches on the river to send signals to loyal troops and other supporting forces outside the castle.
Floating lanterns were used as a means of signaling tactics on preventing Japanese troops from crossing the Nam River. They were also used for communication purposes. Soldiers inside the castle used lanterns to let their families know they were safe.
The festival will be held for 12 days from Oct. 1. Its events will include ``inviting one's soul by lighting a lantern,’’ ``hanging wish lanterns,’’ ``floating wish lanterns’’ and viewing traditional lanterns made in Korea and overseas. For more information, call 055-761-9111 or go to www.lanternfestival.org.
Horizon Festival (Kimje)
Kimje is the only area in Korea where the land and sky seem to converge. When the vast rice paddies become yellow in the fall, visitors come from afar to admire the beauty of the yellow fields and crystal blue sky. Kimje is also famous for Korea's first irrigation dam, ``Pyokgolje,’’ built during the 27th year of King Piryu of the Paekche Kingdom, 330 A.D, indicating the early development of rice farming in the area. For four days in late September or early October, the Kimje Horizon Festival is held across Pyokgolje and features diverse hands-on events on the theme of rice farming.
Festival events include ``a day in the countryside,’’ an event for tourists to make traditional farming tools or scarecrows, catch grasshoppers and make straw rope and straw bags.
It is considered an excellent opportunity to experience Korea's rural culture. Culture and art events are also showcased, including traditional cultural events, such as a tug-of-war, plus a nationwide contest of farmers' bands. At Mangyong Bridge a goby fish catching contest is to be held , and at Sampo Port visitors can dig for shellfish.
For inquiries call 063-540-3221 or visit the Web site www.egimje.net.
Celadon Cultural Festival
Koryo celadon is one of Korea's unique cultural assets that enjoys international acclaim. Its aesthetic patterns and jade color, in particular, are admired for their sublime beauty.
For those who want to see for themselves the secrets of making Koryo celadon, a trip to Gangjin, the birthplace and a major production base of Koryo celadon in South Cholla Province, during the Celadon Cultural Festival is expected to be a memorable experience.
The festival held in late July offers visitors various opportunities to enjoy cultural experiences and fun at the same time. Programs will include workshops, exhibitions, performances of traditional and contemporary music, dance and other artistic genres as well as ``do-it-yourself’’ events.
For more information, call 061-430-3228 or visit the Web site www.gangjinfes.or.kr.
Poryong Mud Festival
Poryong is famous for its abundant natural resources, particularly high-quality mud, and the beautiful scenery of Taechon Beach on the West Coast, one of the largest and best beaches in the country that is visited by over 10 million people annually.
During the heat of summer, the Poryong Mud Festival offers fun and healthy skin to visitors from July 15-21.
The festival events include bathing in a massive mud tub, making mud soap, mud massages, a mud wrestling contest, mud sliding and a mud photo contest. Foreign guests will be given priority in the events and be provided with mud cosmetics and round-trip bus tickets to nearby attractions.
For further information, call 041-930-3542 or visit www.mudfestival.or.kr.
The following are brief details on the nine ``good’’ festivals.
Kumsan Insam (Ginseng) Festival
Kumsan, South Chungcheong Province, is famous for high-quality ginseng. The Insam Festival in September is a traditional cultural event in which villagers pray for a good harvest the following year. Programs include opportunities to dig up ginseng, traditional arts and ritual performances, concerts, a world folk customs exhibition and more.
Hampyong Butterfly Festival
Hampyong, South Cholla Province, becomes a ``land of butterflies and flowers’’ in May every year. During the festival, about 120,000 butterflies will be released over flower gardens spread over a million-square-meter lot.
Hadong Green Tea Festival
Hadong, where the first green tea tree in Korea was planted about 1,200 years ago, holds a wild green tea festival in Hwagae Valley and in the vicinity of Ssanggyesa Temple in May.
The various events during the four-day festival include picking tea leaves, boiling tea and experiencing a massage with tea.
World Martial Arts Festival
A total of 1,000 martial artists representing 56 teams from 35 nations participated in the World Martial Arts Festival in Chungju, a city well-known for its apples and spas, in October 2005. This year's festival is to be accompanied by a variety of events such as martial arts weapons exhibitions and martial arts experience programs.
Web site: www.martialarts.or.kr
Pusan Jagalchi Festival
Jagalchi is the largest fish and marine product market in Korea and a symbol of Busan, the country's largest port. Various events like catching fish with one's bare hands offer fun. Fish and marine products are sold at discounted prices during the festival to be held in October.
Web site: www.ijagalchi.co.kr
Chunchon International Mime Festival
Scores of Korean and foreign troupes participate in the week-long festival in May, when various performances and festival and learning events are held in Chunchon, east of Seoul.
Web site: www.mimefestival.com
Pine Mushroom Festival
Yangyang-gun (county) of Kangwon Province offers a pine mushroom festival from the end of September to early October to show tourists the excellency of its Song-i (pine) mushroom.
Web site: www.yangyang-gun.gangwon.go.kr
Kanggyong Chotgal (Salted Seafood) Festival
Salted seafood or chotgal in Korean refers to fish and shellfish whose meat and internal organs are salted to keep them from spoiling. Kanggyong, a fishing village on the west coast, is famous for chotgal.
Web site: www.ggfestival.com
Muju Firefly Festival
Fireflies, called panditburi in Korean, were ubiquitous in Korea several decades ago. This insect has virtually disappeared from most parts of the nation and is now a symbol for a clean environment.
Web site: www.firefly.or.kr