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Fall festival extravaganza: food, masks and dancing

2011/10/07 | 294 views |  | Permalink | Source

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Autumn has finally arrived and with it various festivals. In October, more than 100 festivals are taking place around the nation. From festivals that celebrate Korean traditional culture, including dancing and fireworks, to food festivals, there are plenty to choose from. Among the various festivals, the JoongAng Ilbo picked four that you can enjoy this season.

Andong International Mask Dance Festival


A mask dance is performed at Hahoe Village in Andong as a part of Andong International Mask Dance Festival.

Under the slogan "Festival, Make me a King!", this annual event marks its 14th year in the city of Andong, North Gyeongsang. The festival started on Sept. 30 and this weekend will be the last chance to enjoy the mask dance and other exciting activities.

Twelve Korean traditional mask dances, including Pongsan, Bukchung Lion and Unyul, will be featured as well as contemporary mask dance performances from 15 nations including Russia, the Philippines, India and Israel.

This year, visitors can see 200 or so mask-related items on the festival grounds, creating an exuberant atmosphere. As the slogan suggests, kings and queens will be featured prominently.

Among the approximately 100 mask-related programs, "Daedongnanjang Parade" is considered a highlight of the festival. It will allow visitors and performers to wear masks and dance together to the rhythm of pungmul (Korean folk percussion instruments). This parade has been staged five times already and the last one will be tonight around 7 p.m. at several venues in the city of Andong, including Hahoe Folk Village and Mask Dance Park.

Visitors can make their own mask during the festival. There will also be various contests during the festival. More than 80 groups and 200 people will take part in "Talralla Dance Contest", where participants can perform as mimes, break dance, and perform other activities. The only condition is that they must wear a mask. There will be a singing contest and mask painting contest.

There are a few quieter programs for those visitors seeking something a little more low-key.

Twelve exhibitions will be held in the city of Andong. Not only mask related, but related to Korean traditional culture such as hanji (Korean paper) crafts and traditional embroidery.

Tonight, at the Hahoe Folk Village Buyongdae, Sunyu-julbul-nori (Korean traditional fireworks) will also be offered to visitors. This program will allow visitors to see a different type of firework. Visitors can hang fire lanterns on a rope and then release and tighten the rope so the light travels along the surface of the small river alongside Buyongdae.

"We want this festival to be a place where visitors can prepare their own style of festival", Andong Mayor Kwon Young-se said. "We hope visitors feel free to enjoy the mask culture around the world".
For more information, visit


Yudeng [Korean lanterns] light up the Nam River in Jinju, South Gyeongsang. [JoongAng Ilbo]

Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival

If you want to see how water, fire and light create a beautiful scene all together, this is the festival that you want to visit.

The yudeung (Korean lantern) festival in Jinju, a city located some 434 kilometers (270 miles) south of Seoul, has been tabbed as "the greatest festival from 2006 to 2010", selected by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The festival started on Oct. 1 and will last until next Wednesday, lighting the night of Jinju with various lanterns.

The festival dates back to the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1852. During the Jinju Fortress Battle, Korean soldiers flew lanterns high in the sky to signal soldiers outside the fortress, as well as floating lanterns and torches along the Nam River.

Since then, the lantern lighting custom has been held annually in the city, but it officially became a festival in 2002.

This year, more than 30,000 lanterns will be floating on the Nam River including traditional lanterns from 31 countries. At Jinju Fortress, traditional Korean lanterns will also be displayed until 2 a.m.

But watching lanterns and taking pictures are not the only things that visitors can enjoy in this festival.

For 3,000 won ($2.50) visitors can create their own yudeung, make a wish, and float it down the Nam River. This program will be held at the waterfront of the Nam River at Manggyeong-dong and Seongji-dong from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. throughout the festival.

In addition, visitors can ride a cruise boat to see the scenery on the river. The fare will be 5,000 won per adult and 3,000 won for children who are elementary students or younger.

Fireworks, music concerts and traditional games will be also offered to visitors during the festival.

For more information, visit

Gangneung Coffee Festival

A city in Gangwon is building a reputation for its coffee.

Gangneung, located about 240 kilometers east of Seoul, is considered to be the holy land for Korean coffee maniacs. In fact, the city has the nation's only coffee museum and farm. The main stores of famous coffee shops Bohemian and Terarosa are also located here.

For these reasons, the city of Gangneung started a coffee festival three years ago. This year it will be held from Oct. 21 to Oct. 31.

Although it has a short history, the festival has stepped up to represent Gangneung along with the Danoje Festival that was held in June.

The festival will be held in various venues across the city, but the main venue will probably be the streets along Anmok Beach near Gangneung Harbor.

The scenery there is different than a normal Korean harbor where there are many seafood restaurants and lodging places. At Gangneung Harbor, more than 20 coffee shops line the street, putting out a rich aroma of coffee that overpowers the smell of the sea.

The place is also known as a good place for couples to take walks. In fact, from Oct. 21 to 23 and Oct. 28 to 30, there is a program that introduces visitors to ideal tour routes alongside the harbor. The program runs four times a day on those dates.

The opening ceremony of the festival will be at the plaza near Gyeongpo Lake, while coffee-related movies will be shown at the outdoor screen of Solol Fountain Plaza. At Gangneung gymnasium, a barista contest will be held from Oct. 27 to 29. There will be coffee-related concerts and exhibitions throughout the event. Visitors can also learn how to roast coffee and of course, free coffee tastings will be available from various places in Gangneung.

For more information, visit


Fireworks erupt at Gwangalli Beach.

Busan International Firework Festival

From Oct. 21 to 29, the seventh edition of Busan International Firework festival starts near Gwangalli Beach and Gwangan Bridge area in Busan.

Although it is named the firework festival, visitors can actually see the big fireworks only twice. On Oct. 22, the day after the opening day, there will be an international firework competition in which four countries - United States, China, Japan, and Poland - will participate. Each will have 15 minutes to display their fireworks.

But the highlight of the festival is on the last day when more than 80,000 fireworks will cover the sky of Gwangalli Beach for an hour, starting from 8 p.m. At Gwangan Bridge, a firework named "Niagara Falls" will be displayed.

The firework, with a length of about one kilometer, will fall from the bridge to the sea for three minutes.

From Oct. 23 to 27, small fireworks will be displayed for 7 minutes, starting at 9:50 p.m.

During the festival, the area will be packed with various events that include concerts and fashion shows.

On Oct. 23 and 24, opera "Turandot" will be performed, while on Oct. 28, the Korean Wave Beach Concert is going to be held with famous singers such as Big Bang and Psy.

For more information, visit


Visitors show their ginseng at Geumsan Ginseng Festival. [JoongAng Ilbo]

Food festivals

If viewing beautiful scenery doesn't interest you, these festivals are ready to whet your appetite.

Ginseng is usually harvested this month and two ginseng festivals are ready to lure in visitors. From Oct. 7 to 12, a ginseng festival will be held at Punggi-eup in Yeongju, North Gyeongsang, while the city of Geumsan, South Chungcheong also hosts a festival from Oct. 21 to 30. For these festivals, visitors can walk the ginseng fields and cultivate ginseng, as well as taste ginseng wine and tea.

For information about the festival in Yeongju, visit and for the festival in Geumsan, visit

If you're hungry for meat, Hoengsung Hanu Festival provides hanu (Korean beef) to visitors with various recipes. The festival will end on Sunday. Visitors can also enjoy various programs related to Korean cattle. For more information, visit

In North Jeolla, the Jeonju Bibimbap Festival will be hosted from Oct. 20 to 23, while Gwangju will be home for the kimchi festival.

By Lee Seok-hee

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