Hamdeok Beach, on an average day, is a favorite spot for many Jeju residents and tourists. Now add to its picturesque landscape a concert stage filled with some of Korea’s top indie rock bands, free flowing beer, and a firework display to close out the night and you have all the ingredients for what some call the best festival on Jeju Island.
Organized by SteppingStone Festival association, inc., a committee led by Kim Myung Soo, and co-hosted by Hamdeok village, the 9th Stepping Stone Festival kicked off on Aug. 18 at 9 a.m. with a volleyball tournament that lasted throughout the day. An estimated 1,500 people came out to enjoy the day’s festivities.
Kim, who describes himself as “made in Jeju,” has organized the Stepping Stone Festival since day one. According to Kim, the most important purpose for the event is to bring diverse music to Jeju. He said it is his hope to be a “stepping stone” in bringing culture to the island for the benefit of generations to come.
“K-pop music is good for certain people, but that’s just one style,” said Kim. “I want to show more diverse music. And these bands each have their own color. This festival is a good way for people to enjoy more variety, culture, and music.”
For no admission fee, festival-goers were able to set up camp on the beach to take in live musical performances by a medley of bands from Korea’s mainland including The Moonshiners, Cado Project, Ankle Attack, and Bang Seung Cheol. In addition to this impressive lineup, Jeju’s own South Carnival took the stage at 6 p.m., opening the evening with their upbeat, crowd pleasing horns. They were greeted with enthusiastic cheers and an energetically dancing audience who echoed their lyrics in Jeju dialect.
The always growing ensemble that is South Carnival brought 10 talented musicians to the stage for their set. Lead singer Kang Kyung Hwan said the size of the band changes depending on venue.
Kang said he was excited to share the stage with so many talented musicians from Seoul.
A number of booths set up along the sand sold handmade arts and crafts, promoted local charities, and supplied cups of beer in exchange for a small donation. One popular stand decorated the heads of many with hippie-style hair bands made from twine and wild flowers — an appropriate accessory for both males and females frolicking about the beach.
All proceeds through donation from the festival work to benefit The Gotjawal Trust of Jeju. Established in 2007 by Jeju’s provincial government, this organization strives to protect the groundwater supply (used by water bottling company Samdasoo) and the plants of the Gotjawal Forest. The resources of this area are under threat from overuse by tourists and golf resorts in the area that destroy the natural environment.
“Gotjawal is a unique and special place. Some call it the lung of Jeju. Since I am from Jeju, working to help preserve Gotjawal is my way to give back,” said Kim.
Past festivals were held in different locations on the island such as the Tapdong neighborhood of Jeju City, Jungmun on the south coast, and Jeju Tourism College. 2011 was the first year for Hamdeok to host the event. The beautiful setting paired with friendly residents makes Hamdeok an ideal location for future Stepping Stone Festivals.
“The town of Hamdeok and festival organizers have cooperated very well. It gives citizens something to look forward to, and next year it will be even better,” said Kim.
The music lasted well into the night and capped off with a striking firework display behind the concert stage. The firework show was set to the “Star Wars” theme song, and seemed to captivate the audience who ceased dancing to admire the grand finale of the day’s festivities. (Special thanks to E.J. Hong for translation work)
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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