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A look back at last weekend's 17th Seogwipo Chilsimni Festival
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승인 2011.10.07  10:52:52
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▲ Photo by Kim Jung Lim

Seogwipo City was excited for three days. Flags fluttered here and there, and shuttle buses, taxis, and people headed for the Seogwipo Chilsimni Poetry Park, which was full with people, music, food, balloons, and laughter. Bullojangsaeing (Korean for eternal youth), was the theme of the 17th Seogwipo Chilsimni Festival.

Seogwipo is synonomous with Chilsimni. The word derives from Chilsip-ri — Chilsip is 70, and ri, an unit of distance. The word refers to the mythical and beautiful place from Seongeup village to Seogwipo port. Chilsimni reminds people that Seogwipo is an ideal and mysterious place to live and serves as the title of the city’s biggest festival.

The festival began with a street parade from Seogwipo Jungang Elementary School, in the heart of the city, to the festival site near Cheonjiyeon waterfall. On the main stage, there were many performances and activities, including the Chilsimni Singing Contest, Mr. Chilsimni Contest (a body building competition), the Youth Performance Contest, the Adult Club Contest, the Ever-young Healthy Senior Citizen Contest, and others. Citizens from the many villages of Seogwipo offered a variety of spectacles from pop music to traditional folk performances.

I spoke with Ko Yeong Hwa, leader of the Seogwipo Culture Association team. Dressed in the Jeju women’s traditional garment of white Jeogori and a long black skirt, Ko said her group would perform Myeulchi Hurineun Sori, a Jeju folk song traditionally sung while people pulled the anchovy-filled nets from the sea.

▲ Sotdae making experience booth of Oseok Night School at the Life Long Learning Festival. Photo by Kim Jung Lim
▲ Jeju traditional food displayed at the 3rd Eco-Food Festival. Photo by Kim Jung Lim

One of the winners of the Ever-young Healthy Senior Citizen Contest for people over the age of 75 was Oh Seok Geun, 82, who said the secret of his longevity was the fact that he takes a walk every morning.

In another part of the park, the Citizen Autonomy Fair, the Life Long Learning Festival, the ECO Food Festival and other events were also held as a part of the Chilsimni Festival.

The Citizen Autonomy Fair, organized by the citizen centers of 17 villages, displayed each village’s unique culture. In the Andeok village booth, Kang Pyeong Hwan of the Andeok Chusa Calligraphic Style Study Group, wrote family motto calligraphy at the request of visitors. When I asked him his favorite motto, he replied “Deok Pil Yu Rin,” (“Virtue exists in neighborhoods.”)

▲ Kang Pyeong Hwan, from Andeok myeon, writes a family motto in calligraphy at the request of visitors to the Citizen Autonomy Fair. Photo by Kim Jung Lim

Meanwhile Ko Dong Wan, director of a Goryeo Oriental Medical Clinic, was offering health counseling for free. The Cheonji-dong fair organizer Joseph Kim said Ko volunteers his time to seniors once a month and had accepted the organizer’s request to participate in the festival.

Further on, in a crowded booth, Kang Soon Hyeok, chairman of the Folk Activity Culture Support Group from Pyoseon village, was making and distributing bingtteok, a traditional Jeju food. After his partner made a thin buckwheat pancake, he rolled it with sliced, boiled, and seasoned radish. He said they made over 1,000 bingtteok in a single day.

“Traditional food represents life, culture so... it should be a big part of the festival,” said Kang.

Other popular events included dyeing cloth deep blue with Jjok (indigo plant) from Donghong-dong and Daejeong village’s display of small earthen wall tiles, which visitors made in a Jeju traditional Onggi (earthen pot).

The Life Long Learning Festival displayed the making of Gwazl (a Jeju traditional snack), soap, candles, handkerchiefs, and sotdae (a guardian wooden pole, traditionally set at the entrance of a village). Ha Jung Sim from Jeju City, a mother with her four-year-old daughter Jang Ji Won, holding a hand-made candle said, “ My daughter had fun making this candle. She said it feels good like jelly.”

As for the 3rd Eco food Festival, it had a cooking contest amongst 36 teams, Jeju traditional food displays, food tastings, and enjoying sandwiches made with Jeju ingredients. Moon Yeo Hwan, director of this program said, ordinary people were encouraged to take part in the cooking festival so that competitors would “learn [each] other’s strong points,”

Other popular events away from the main site included the Horse Theme Festival, the Healing Zone with Narrow Trail, the Beauty Zone, the Herb and Tea Zone, the Street Basketball Match, and a Foot Volleyball Match.

▲ Photo by Kim Jung Lim
▲ A senior citizen musician makes a last minute check before his team's performance. Photo by Kim Jung Lim

Min Myung Won, chairman of the Seogwipo City Tourism Association, who organized the festival, told me that he had aimed to make this festival different. The most noticeable change was the location.

“I thought that this Seogwipo Poetry Park [was right] for the Chilsimni Festival,” he said. “When I suggested this place first, many people were against [it]. They said the grass of this park [becomes too wet during] rain. But I thought the stereotype should be fixed.”

He said he prayed for good weather during the festival and fortunately, the weather was perfect; not too hot and there was no rain.

Among the roughly 500 spectators sitting on chairs arranged in front of the stage, 65-year-old Kim Kyeong Ryeul from Seogwipo said he visits this festival every year. “I really enjoyed this festival ... it has many events seniors can participate in like that Healthy Senior Citizen Contest. If it had more traditional events like a Gakseoli performance (Korean singing beggars), it would be better.”

According to a Seogwipo City Hall officer, about 170,000 people attended the festival.

▲ Photo by Kim Jung Lim
▲ The main stage and spectators. Photo by Kim Jung Lim
▲ Photo by Kim Jung Lim
▲ A Jjok dyeing program by Donghong-dong people as a part of the Citizen Autonomy Fair. Photo by Kim Jung Lim
▲ Women wearing galot, or Jeju traditional natural persimmon-dyed clothing enjoy the festival after their performance. Photo by Kim Jung Lim
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