If you think there is no place inSeoul to enjoy traditional Korean culture, think again. In NamsangolHanokVillage, in the very center of Chungmuro, one of the busiest places in Seoul, you can experience traditional Korean culture and enjoy “dynamic” Korea for free. The village not only features traditional Korean house, but also prepares special events for visitors on traditional holidays. On Jongwol Daeboreum, the first day of the full moon in the new year, I set out to experience how this day was celebrated in old times.
Thanks to the warm weather, NamsangolHanokVillage was crowded with groups of people ranging from little children to their grandparents even before the clock reached which was supposed to be the start of the festival. Some people were wearing hanbok (traditional Korean clothing); all were readying themselves for the different cultural events of the day, sponsored by Seoul city and Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation.
The Daeboreum festival traditionally involves making a wish on the full moon. So, at the HanokVillage, “wishing” events such as printing fortune talismans, hanging slip of paper inscribed with one’s wishes, and making wish kites were readied in the main yard. In other corner of the village was a jinchae exhibition of food eaten on this day, and including free tasting of Kwibalki sul, an alcoholic drink that is traditionally given to the elders with the hope to bring good news to the family. Nut sales were also taking place in one of the booths because people believed that the loud crunching noises from the nuts scare away evil spirit. The atmosphere was truly a lively since everyone in the village seem to be glad to experience the traditional holiday which is hard to do in any other place these days.
From time to time, other special events also took place. One, a traditional goot, or exorcism was performed in the house of Park Young-hyo. Near , the sound of kkwengwari and changgu (traditional Korean instruments) caught peoples’ ears, as the musical pieces Jishinbalpgi and Pangut were performed by Pyeongtaek Nongak (a farmer’s folk band) were performed in front of the Cheonu-Gak Pavilion. Children curiously watched the performance and adults seemed so delighted that some of them even added chuimsae, cheers to boost the performers’ joyful rhythm, as the performance proceeded. An hour later, at five, people headed again to the main yard for s distribution of Ogokbap (rice made with five grains) and Bokssam (rice wrapped in a large cabbage leaf like a bundle), two of the main foods eaten on Daeboreum. The food was given to 200 people for 1,000 won each?first come first serve.
Although the village was crowded for the whole day, the most popular event was printing fortune talismans. The line of people waiting to print their talismans for year 2008 did not end until the whole festival closed down at Some people printed talisman for health and safety, some for promotion, and others for wealth. By watching these people, I could easily see that many Koreans still believe in superstitions. If adults were printing fortune Talismans, in the other corner of the booth, kids were busy making wishing kites. Kites were so popular that more than one hundred kites sold out in a few hours.
Nearby, a Taiwanese tourist, Daniel Kung (TamkungUniversity, 4), was writing down a wish on a yellow paper to hang on the straw tree holding the wishes of many people. Kung, who was coincidently passing by the village, decided to take a look, and said, “I don’t know the reason why people are hanging their wishes on a tree because there is no such thing in Taiwan. But I just followed the others and wished my family would have a good luck for this year.” An unexpected answer came back from a little girl said, smiling, “I wished I could get revenge on my classmate, who has done bad things to me.”
Countless people came and went, and the village remained crowded until the end of the day’s events. Lee Yoon-sang, a staff member, said, “We were a bit surprised that so many people came today, despite the fact that it is a workday. Usually, Chinese and Japanese tourists visit in groups, but today it is good to see many families coming together and enjoying Korean culture.” However, university students were scarcely seen among the wide range of people that came by that day. Yet, an absence of people his age did not deter Ha Seung-won (Hongik University,1), who has been volunteering in these kinds of traditional holiday events since he was in his first year of high school and helped people make kites. He said he was able to learn more about traditional Korean holidays through his experiences. “I have been working for a few years, but I still think that Korean people are not that interested in our own culture. I just hope that the government will sponsor more of these kinds of events to attract people’s attention.”