Tag Archives: korean folk festivals

Chunhyang Festival (춘향제)

Context : 

My informant is an adult female who works as a photographer in Korea. She specializes in taking photos and filming festivals around Korea and has been working in the photography industry for 7 years. Here, she is describing the Chunhyang Festival that is held in Namwon city of the Jeollabuk-Do area of Korea. She attended this festival 4 years ago and she is identified as Y in the dialogue. This piece was collected over a phone call in Korean and was later translated into English. 

Y :

Chunhyang Festival is an annual festival held by and in the city of Namwon. This festival is based on the traditional Korean folk love story called “Chunhyangjeon (Story of Chunhyang)”, where Chunhyang, a female protagonist from a very poor family falls in love with Mongryong, a male protagonist from a wealthy family. Honestly, it’s a pretty obvious storyline. The class differences between the characters almost rips them apart, but their true love always finds a way and ends with a happily ever after Disney-like ending. This story was set in Namwon city and that’s the reason why the city spends a lot of money in this festival every year.

During the festival, there are several events that take place. To name a few, there is a Pansori (traditional Korean music) performance of the story, a dance performance, a night market, and a beauty pageant. Because in the story, Mongryong first falls in love with Chunhyang for her outstanding looks, a beauty pageant is absolutely one of the main events. Female participants, ranging from children to grandmothers, come out in their own Hanboks (traditional Korean clothing/dress) that they own and walk with the parade while non-participants cheer for them. 

Analysis :

As this festival is one of the most well known local festivals in Korea, even though I haven’t attended it yet, I’ve heard a lot of stories about it. I like how people developed a folk love story into a festival and celebrates it annually by gathering participants. This festival is also significant in the sense that it’s not only a show where people sit down and passively enjoy the show; people dress up with costumes they have prepared themselves and join in the performance and thus becomes an active bearer of the folk story and folk culture. The Chunhyang Festival lets everyone have a chance to enjoy the performances and events regardless of age or gender. 

The movie version of Chunhyangjeon was made too, under the name “The Love Story of Chunhyang”. It was directed by Hong Seong-Gi and was released in 1961. 

Gokwoosari Yeonggwang Gulbi (Dried Yellow Corvina) Festival (곡우사리 영광굴비축제)

Context : 

My informant is an adult female who works as a photographer in Korea. She specializes in taking photos and filming festivals around Korea and has been working in the photography industry for 7 years. Here, she is describing the Gulbi Festival of the Yeonggwang area of South Korea. She attended this festival several years ago and he is identified as Y in the dialogue. This piece was collected over a phone call in Korean and was later translated into English. 

Y : This festival is not considered as one of the most famous festivals in Korea. However, the Yeonggwang area has been known for their gulbi (dried yellow corvina) for a very long time as the city developed it as their mascot and special regional product. During the festival, they would hold events such as storytelling behind the development of gulbi business of Yeonggwang, food tasting event that has gulbi in it, gulbi cooking activity, and more. They would also call local traditional music performance companies and hold performances. 

Analysis :

I think this festival is an example of folk marketing. While the city is well known for their dried yellow corvina, the city chose to step up from that and connect it with the local folklores and make a festival out of it. This is a marketing strategy that benefits all people who are involved in the festival; the fisherman can sell more fish, the city council can make more money from the festival and make the local area known to the public, local folklore storytellers can spread the local folktales to the audience (passive bearers) and people who attend the festival can buy local goods in a cheaper price. 

Korean Mid-Autumn Festival

Main Piece:

This is a summary of mid-autumn festival in Korea that I talked to my mom about.

Mid-Autumn festival is August 15th on the lunar calendar and falls around mid-September to October. It is called “Chu-seok” and is kind of like Korean thanksgiving in that it is a seasonal holiday that celebrates harvest. The whole family gathers around and make “songpyeon” together, which is a half-moon shaped rice-cake with filling inside. The shape and filling vary from household and region. Some put in mashed beans or chesnuts but a more popular filling for children is combination of sesame seed and sugar.

My mom says she grew up eating the sesame seed and sugar songpyeon and had the mashed beans filling for the first time when she married my dad. The rest of the food eaten at chu-seok is similar to those eaten during lunar new year—meats, savoury pancakes.

Background:

I knew about Korean mid-autumn festival from participating in them when I was younger but didn’t know the exact details of the celebration and thought I would ask my mom to see if she had any insights about the tradition.

Context:

This was collected in an interview with my mom in a casual setting.  I thought it would be an interesting collection for this project because different countries celebrate Mid-Autumn festival differently.

Thoughts:

I don’t think mid-autumn festival was very big in my family. We had songpyeon but that was about it. I’m not sure if there are any activities that we do like sebae in New Year (refer to this post on Korean Lunar New Year for more information about this activity). I think traditionally, there were activities, but they haven’t really been kept today. Instead, I think Chuseok is about spending time with family and celebrating the year’s harvest.