Best summer outings in Korea
By Rachel Lee
What would summer be without festivals?
Here is a choice of family-friendly days out in Korea for festival-goers as well as for those without concrete plans for the summer. They range from an action-packed mud festival to an artistic theater festival.
Get down and muddy in Boryong
BORYEONG ― During the summer festival period, fun-seekers flock to South Chungcheong Province to wrestle and slide in the sludge at Boryeong Mud Festival on Daecheon Beach.
It has been running for 14 years since 1998 to promote the beneficial properties of the high-mineral mud found on the beach and cosmetic products made in the city.
Organizers of the festival said on Saturday that the quality of mud can be compared to that found in locations in Israel and Russia.
The 15th mud festival kicked off on Saturday and runs till July 24. It has certainly become a popular destination for both Koreans and foreigners living in Korea; a festival representing the Korean wave.
Visitors of all ages and nationalities mingle together and enjoy the mucky fun.
“This event reminds me of my childhood,” said a 23-year-old Korean student on Saturday who wished to remain anonymous. “I used to love playing with mud when I was a little kid and my mother used to stop me getting muddy. Now I feel I have become a child again. It’s great fun.”
The number of visitors has been consistently increasing over the past years with over 220,000 foreigners expected to come this year thanks to better weather conditions.
“I am having the best time in Korea,” said Tarrayn Daly, a 21-year-old South African student who came down to Boryeong as part of an English teaching program. “I have never seen this sort of event back in my country or anywhere else. I am so happy that I am learning and experiencing part of Korean culture. Absolutely love getting muddy.”
There is more than just getting down and dirty in mud; people also enjoy the health properties it gives. “Mud helps skin stop sagging and sucks the body’s waste out of the pores. It also moisturizes and hydrates the skin,” a staff member of the event said.
Skin immediately feels clean and soft after removing a thick layer of mud with water. “I was quite worried about my skin getting itchy but it actually feels purified and moisturized. I want to buy some mudpacks here,” said Jane Aum, a 27-year-old Korean who came to the festival for the first time.
The festival offers over 50 different programs including mud wrestling, mud sliding, swimming in the makeshift mud mega bath, fireworks, music concerts and exhibitions. A painting tent is also set up for those who want to try something special; the entire body is covered in mud of five different colors. For those who want to continue to pamper their body at home, mud products such as mud soap, shampoo and various others are available for purchase.
In order for everyone to have the most fun during the festival, one significant improvement could be made; controlling the behavior of boozy revelers. It is easy to spot the majority of people who smoke and drink around the festival venue from as early as 10 a.m. through into the night. It inconveniences others who have complained about the odor and secondhand smoke.
“I stepped on rubbish like cigarettes and beer cans many times and it stinks,” said a 31-year-old housewife who came to the festival with her children. “Smoking and drinking should be banned at least in the morning when you think about the effect on little children and the elderly.”
According to maritime police in the city, the problem gets even more serious at night ― drunk people jumping into the sea. “At this time of year, we always stay up all night and patrol everywhere on the beach.”
With measures in place, the festival will become a leading “K-festival” and further grow into one of the world’s best events.
The festival is divided into two daily sessions. The first is from 9:30 a.m. to 1:20 p.m., and the second from 2:10 p.m. to 6 p.m. The general admission is 5,000 won or for groups of 20 or more 4,000 won each. A ticket is required for each morning and afternoon session.
For further information call (041) 930-3820, 3822 or contact the Korea Tourism Organization help line on 1330 for help finding information in English. The festival website www.mudfestival.or.kr has information in English, Chinese and Japanese as well as Korean.
Buyeo Seodong Lotus Festival (July 26-29)
Learn about why wildflower lotus needs to be preserved, also how to make paper-lotus flowers and lotus-flower soap. Other popular tourist destinations are located nearby the festival grounds, including several Baekje (B.C.18~A.D. 660) cultural historic sites such as the Baekje Wangneungwon (royal mausoleum), Nakhwaam, and the Baekje Historical Museum.
The event runs at Seodong Park in Buyeo, South Chungcheong Province. For more, call (041) 830-2921 or log on to http://www.buyeotour.net.
-Geochang International Festival of Theatre (July 27-Aug. 12)
A total of 47 organizations from 12 countries such as England, Japan and Bangladesh will perform 200 plays at outdoor theaters. They include “Karma” by the Patron Company, “If Only” by Cake tree and “Hamlet Korea” by Theatre group Jiphyeon.
The event kicks off in Geochang, South Gyeongsang Province. For more, call (055) 943-4152 or visit www.kift.or.kr.
Hamyang Wild Ginseng Festival (July 26-30)
Hamyang is well known for its high-quality wild ginseng and medicinal herbs with its land rich in germanium. Learn about ginseng, get hands-on experience as well as run a marathon. Also, visit a wild ginseng plantation, and herb and mud-packs containing germanium are on sale. The event starts in Sangnim Park area in Hamyang, South Gyeongsang Province. For more information call (055) 960-5174 or visit http://sansam.hygn.go.kr.
Pohang International Fireworks Festival (July 27-Aug. 5)
Enjoy exciting water sports during the day and beautiful fireworks at night. The programs include international fireworks contest, fireworks parade, the national badminton contest, singing competition and music performances.
To be held in Hyeongsan River Sports Park and Bukbu Beach in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province. For more, call (054) 270-8282 or visit http://festival.ipohang.org.
Haso Baekryon Festival (Through July 22)
Visit the 66,000-square-meter Baekryeonji Pond, where white lotuses are in bloom. Watch performances of traditional Korean music and dance, participate in folk games, and view exhibitions of stone tiles, calligraphy and Buddhist paintings. Visitors will also be able to taste and buy "baekryon tea" made of green tea and white lotus leaves.
The event runs through July 22 in Haso Baekryeonji Pond in Gimje, North Jeolla Province.
For more information, call (063) 542-8943 or visit www.baekryon.com.