By Deirdre Madden
Fall is, without a doubt, my favourite season in Korea. The sweltering humidity of summer gives way to warm days and cool, clear nights, and generally, we have clear, blue skies and sunshine for days on end. It’s a great season for exploring the endless hiking trails around the peninsula, as the greenery fades to reds, yellows and browns. And it’s also the time of year for numerous festivals (though, really, when is it not festival season in this country?). Below, I’ve highlighted some of the ones that caught my interest for October. If you’re looking for more ideas of places to go, check out the offical tourism site.
The Gwangju Biennale is on, from now until November 11th. This is an international contemporary art exhibition that also has an academic side, where there are discussions on art and asthetics. There are a large number of artists from around the world involved in the exhibition. From the Gwangju Bus Terminal, take bus 64 to Biennale Hall or from the Train Station, take bus 83 to the same place.
If that doesn’t scratch your artsy itch, try the Seoul International Media Art Biennale, which is running at the Seoul Museum of Art and Gyeonghuigung Palace wing of the Seoul Museum of History until November 4th. This exhibition will, “question the wider technological means of utilizing the media in the 21st Century, and expose the current social and political contexts in which the recent phenomena of Social Networking Services, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have globally surfaced the internet.” The Seoul Museum of Art is at the City Hall stop on subway lines 1 and 2. From line 1, use exit #1, from line 2, use exits #10, 11 or 12. The Seoul Museum of History/Ehwa Women’s High School is at Seodaemun Station on line 5; use exit #5.
If you prefer your art to be sung at you, try the Daegu International Opera Festival from October 12th to November 10th. This is apparently the only opera festival in Asia, and attracts musicians from some of the top operatic theatres around the world. Transportation information can be found on the tourism site page. The festival website appears to be down at the moment, though.
Fall is the traditional time to make the year’s supply of kimchi, so of course, there is the Gwangju World Kimchi Culture Festival (October 13-17) to celebrate this. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at making kimchi, this is the place to be. It’s held at Jungoe Park, so take a bus 83 from the Train station, or bus 64 from the Bus terminal.
Closer to home, sample traditional Korean treats at the Gyeongju Traditional Drinks and Rice Cake Festival (also October 13-17). This festival celebrates “homemade” alcohol – Gayangju, along with different kinds of ddeok. It’s held in various locations around Gyeongju, so check out here for transit information.
If kimchi or Korean moonshine aren’t daring enough for your adventurous palate, hit up the Ganggyeong Fermented Seafood Festival (October 17th-21st). The official website is in Korean only, but the Tourism site has clear directions on how to get there. You’ll want to bring your shopping list, though, as this festival offers you 30-40% discounts off what you usually spend on salted, fermented fish!
The following two festivals are highlights of the Festival Year in Korea.
The Andong Maskdance Festival happens from September 28th – October 7th. The festival itself is an interesting event looking at different mask and dance rituals in different cultures (with a focus on Korea, of course), and offers some great performances. But Andong is also a city worth seeing in and of itself. Nearby is the Hahoe village, made up of traditional mud and straw houses, which are still lived in by the local farmers. Check out Marty’s article, here, to read more about it. The city is also rumoured to have the best soju, and definitely has the best Jjimdalk (chicken stew) I’ve had in Korea. Directions to both the festival and to Hahoe can be found on the Tourism site.
The second, and in my humble opinion, best, is the Jinju Namgang Yudeung (Lantern) Festival, from October 1st to 14th. I’ve written about the history of this festival before, and I’ll plug it again now. You should go. The lanterns are awesome. The festival is held all along the river, at the base of the Jinju Fortress, which is about a 5 minute walk from the Bus Terminal, and about a 5 minute taxi ride from the Train station.
And, to wrap it up, Ulsan will be hosting its World Music Festival on October 4th – 7th, at the Cultural Arts Centre (KBS Hall) in Daldong. Last year’s festival was a lot of fun, with some really great bands from all over the world playing right here in our little city. Here’s the list of events. Don’t miss out on one of the best weekends of the year!
Have a great Autumn, exploring Korea!
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