The second annual Jeju Olle Walking Festival is all about love.
Last year’s theme centered on happiness. This year, “We should love everybody,” said Jeju Olle Visual Communication Department General Manager Ivy Lee. Together with Jeju Olle Trail Planning Team Manager Lee Jae Ha, who is doubling as the festival’s head, the two laid out their vision for the four-day event in November which traverses four courses on the southwestern coast, totaling 51.6 kilometers, from Soesokkak to Hwasun Golden Sand Beach.
“Our expectations were too high last year,” Lee Jae Ha started. “The big difference this year is the schedule is shorter. And, also, last year the preparation and budget were not enough.”
The inaugural event spanned five days on Olle routes Nos. 1 through 5, at about 100 kilometers in length, from Siheung (inland west of Seongsan Sunrise Peak) to Soesokkak.
Ivy Lee added, “We hope this year, we receive more preparation and a bit more participation from the local village people and artists from the mainland.”
At a glance, the first Jeju Olle section opened in September 2007. Presently, there are 23 courses developed around Jeju Island, encompassing 376 kilometers. Peace, happiness and spiritual healing are the revolving ideas talked about when discussing what it means to walk the island’s marked trails.
“Our concept of the festival is not only for the trekkers to try and finish to the end,” Lee Jae Ha said. “But we think the concept of the festival is enjoying cultural events and meeting people on the trail.”
▲ Photo courtesy Jeju Olle Trail
Starting Wednesday, Nov. 9, registered participants will warm-up on easy-rated Course No. 6 (14.4 kms) from Soesokkak to Oedolgae. Each of the following three days, three more routes will be covered, all with a rating level of hard: Course No. 7 Oedolgae to Wolpyeong (13.8 kms), Course No. 8 Wolpyeong to Daepyeong (15.2 kms), and Course No. 9 Daepyeong to Hwasun (8.2 kms).
“Our aim this year is 10,000 participants,” Lee Jae Ha said. “That’s also our limit because if there are too many people on the route at the same time nature will be damaged.”
Ivy Lee chimed in, “We expect many participants without registration since routes 6 through 9 are the most popular.” She’s been with Jeju Olle since its nonprofit start. One of the first three original members, when at the time, workers did not receive pay. “We were [and still are] passionate,” she said, adding there are 10 full-time workers now, mainly from Seoul, which work out of the architecturally distinct, and hard-to-find coastal Jeju Olle Trail Office, a bit east of the Seogwipo KAL Hotel, on Jeju Olle Trail Route No. 6.
Seven thousand people participated in last year’s festival. Sixty percent were from mainland Korea, Jeju residents made up 30 percent, and the remaining 10 percent were from overseas. However, much of the international crowd came from a well timed world trail conference being held on the island. In addition, a smattering of Chinese and Japanese tourists took part in the event.
The Jeju Tourism Organization is responsible for attracting a more diverse international presence this year. Ivy Lee said due to trekking style and trends, Japanese and Taiwanese tourists are targeted and well suited to take part in the festival.
A Web site for the second annual Jeju Olle Festival is now available in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and English at www.ollewalking.co.kr.
Various cultural events, about 10 each day, will be offered at many locations. Artists will be from both the mainland and the island. An assortment of dances, performances, displays, and concerts are slated, including a shellfish harvesting and Jeju dyeing experience.
“We are trying to show traditional Jeju style to people from the mainland and overseas,” Lee Jae Ha said. “There will be traditional food prepared by local people, such as gogi guksu and binddeok.”
“Have you been to other festivals on Jeju Island?” Ivy Lee asked. “Usually, the menus are not various, so we are trying also something more modern or fusion style by using local vegetables or local meat and creating something new.”
Having planned since June, in total, 10 operational committee members are responsible for the festival, along with 60 volunteers, 30 of which are Jeju citizens and repeat trail volunteers.
“In the beginning, we were dreaming about if there is a festival, then all the village people are in the festival and that would be wonderful,” Lee Jae Ha said. “If this festival is successful and lasts until the next generation that means the next generation will get some more benefit from this festival. This does not mean economic or [money-wise] things; they will get more experience. We should meet more people from everywhere.”
Two years ago, Ivy Lee and a few other staff went to the International Four-Day Marches Festival in Nijmegen, Netherlands. She will fondly remember the largest walking event in the world. “Fifty thousand people in Europe can come together by car or train,” she said. “The most impressive thing, all the village people did not go to work for three or four days, drinking and dancing from the morning, and welcoming people in a passionate way.”
“There are many festivals [on Jeju] organized by the local government where the village people are not interested or are only thinking about how much money they can get,” Ivy concluded. “We want to change that idea. We want a festival where everybody in the village enjoys it.”
Love, on these designated trails, might be the start.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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