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.