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Korea’s Festivals & Fun Filled Events

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Boryeong-Mud-FestivalThere are so many reasons to visit Korea, and in 2012, over eleven million people did so. Travelers to the country can visit high-tech Seoul to marvel at the newest developments, dine on fantastic Korean cuisine, and enjoy shopping and city tours. Others will have interest in seeing some of the ten UNESCO World heritage sites throughout the country, offering insight into the religion, history and culture of Korea, all set in a beautiful natural landscape. Those seeking culture and enrichment will enjoy the numerous museums and musical or theatrical performances. Every visitor should make time during their stay to participate in at least one of the magnificent festivals taking place in Korea throughout this year. 

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism have designated 42 festivals as the “2013 Culture Tourism Festivals of Korea.” These festivals were selected based on the results of expert evaluations, and on-site assessments, and are grouped into four categories: Premier Festivals, Top Festivals, Outstanding Festivals and Up-and-Coming Festivals.

Though each of these festivals is unique and offers participants and spectators an amazing experience, here we will provide an overview of the two premier festivals, and two must-visit festivals suggested by Julia Kim, director of the Korea Tourism Organization in New York.

Gimje Horizon Festival

October 2 - October 6, 2013

Located on the west coast of Korea, in North Jeolla Province, Gimje is host to an annual harvest festival. Known as the place where the sky meets the ground, people can see the horizon in this landlocked area, and this event is appropriately named The Gimje Horizon Festival. Held every October, this event celebrates the harvest season. Most activities are related to the harvest of rice, and feature agricultural and cultural events and presentations. The intent is to educate visitors about Korean traditional rice culture, and share the history of farming in this region. 

Each year, the Gimje Horizon Festival hosts a wide range of programs, including Samullori, composed of 4 dancing musicians, each playing a different percussion instrument representing an element of weather. Samullori is an evolution of ‘nong-ak’, a farming village band. At the festival, there are many contests, including a rural landscape drawing contest, a tug of war using a huge rope made out of rice straw, kite flying, and rice cooking competitions. Celebratory performances include a street parade, Ssireum (wrestling), and a traditional wedding. Nearby stalls sell traditional food, treats and beverages.

Jinju Namgang Yudeung (Lantern Festival)

October 2013

The Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival, also known as the Lantern Festival, is held each year along the Namgang River in Jinju-si Gyeongsangnam-do. The festival dates back to the Jinjuseong Battle (1592) when lanterns were used as military signals, and as a way for family members to keep in touch with those outside of the Jinjuseong Fortress. After the war, people continued the tradition of floating lanterns down the river to pay tribute to those who were lost during battle. Over time, this tradition developed into the Jinju
Namgang Festival. 

Hundreds of lanterns are spread throughout the festival grounds. They are beautiful, and their shapes represent the nation’s traditions and symbols (tigers, traditional instruments, Korean dances, etc.). Stories of Korean history and legends are told through lantern displays. One section of lanterns is shaped like animals, and another section features lanterns representing over 30 countries from around the world, including the Statue of Liberty (USA), the Sphinx (Egypt), a kangaroo (Australia), the Trojan horse (Turkey), and a windmill (Holland). 

In the “Tunnel of Wish Lanterns,” lanterns bear the written wishes of festival visitors. In the evening, people have the chance to make their own lanterns and send them down the Namgang River. When the lanterns are lit, scenes from the Jinjuseong Battle (fencing, martial arts on horseback, etc.) come to life. From the floating bridge on Namgang River, visitors can see the breathtaking glow of the lantern lights all across the river. 

Jinjuseong Fortress (where the festival takes place) is one of the major tourist attractions in Jinju. By day, visit Chokseongnu Pavilion and the Jinju National Museum located inside the fortress. There is also a spectacular fireworks show, celebratory outdoor performances, and traditional food shops offer the opportunity to enjoy a Jinju specialty, broiled eel.

Boryeong Mud Festival

July 19 - 28, 2013

The Boryeong Mud Festival was first held in July 1998, and has now turned into an exciting event that attracts visitors from all over the world. It is held for approximately two weeks each summer at Daecheon swimming beach. The mud is from the Boryeong mud flats and is rich in minerals, offering health benefits in addition to a lot of muddy fun. Originally, the festival was conceived to promote a range of cosmetics that were produced using mud from the Boryeong mud flats. 

This festival features many playful and fun events including mud wrestling, a mud king contest, and mud sliding on a hundred foot super mud slide. Festival participants should expect to get muddy, and those who do not are put into a “prison” until they get some mud on their bodies. While covered with mud, there is the chance to join in many games, cavalry battles and to try to make a human pyramid. Contests include body-painting, and mud sculpture competitions. After a day of mud-filled fun, participants can rinse off at the beautiful beach. In the evening after the sun goes down, there is a fantastic fireworks display, colorful street parades, cultural performances and concerts. Boryeong City has abundant resources and beautiful scenery with mountains and beaches. Visitors to the region are also encouraged to sightsee at some of the nearby 78 big and small islands, see Muchangpo, a man-made beach featuring a sea road, and more.

18th Busan International Film Festival

October 3 - 12, 2013

The Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is held annually in Haeundae-gu, Busan, South Korea, and is one of the most significant film festivals in Asia, attracting visitors from around the globe. The goal of the festival is to encourage the appreciation and promotion of the art of cinema. The first festival, held in 1996, was also the first international film festival in Korea. The focus of the BIFF is to introduce new films and first-time directors, especially those from Asian countries.

The festival appeals to young people, both in terms of the large youthful audience it attracts and through its efforts to develop and promote young talent. There are red-carpet events, attracting legions of happy and excited fans hoping to get a glimpse of their favorite actors. 

In 2011, the festival moved to a new permanent home, in the Busan Cinema Center. The Busan Cinema Center was designed by Austria-based architecture collective Coop Himmelblau. The Cinema Center includes a 4,000-seat outdoor theatre; four indoor screens under an LED-covered roof; media center; archive space; and conference rooms; allowing the festival to include industry forums and educational activities. The festival presents over 300 films from 70 countries, and boasts a wide array of special events, outdoor performances and participatory programs.

For more information about Korea, visit


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