▲ Manjanggul Expedition during last year’s World Heritage Festival
In September 2020, the World Heritage Festival: Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes, which provided a breath of fresh air to local residents and tourists from the COVID-19 fatigue through Jeju’s natural heritage, culture, and art. This year, the festival will be held from October 1 to 17 in the Jeju world heritage area.
According to Kim Tae-wook, the executive director of the World Heritage Festival, “World Heritage Festival-Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes” is the only World Natural Heritage Festival in the world. By showcasing an excellent case of eco-cultural tourism that incorporates culture, arts, and tourism that continues to raise the brand name of Jeju’s world heritage before and after the COVID crisis, it was selected for the second consecutive year at the “2021 World Heritage Festival Contest” hosted by the Cultural Heritage Administration last year and received government funding of 1.89 billion won.
▲ Breath of Fire Trail Section 1
The World Heritage Festival is a multi-purpose festival that utilizes natural and cultural heritage and has been planned by the Cultural Heritage Administration since last year to promote the value and meaning of Korea’s UNESCO-listed world heritage. The Cultural Heritage Administration selected a total of four projects amid fierce competition from local governments that have World Heritage sites. Jeju volcanic islands and lava tubes were selected for the 2021 World Heritage Festival, as they did last year, and Andong (Hahoe Village, Bongjeongsa Temple, Dosan and Byeongsan Seowon), Suwon Hwaseong Fortress, and Baekje Historic Sites (Gongju and Buyeo in Chungnam, Iksan in Jeonbuk) were added this year.
▲ Jeong Jae-suk, Chair of the Cultural Heritage Administration, Chair Seo Myeong-suk of Jeju Olle, and actor Moon Sori
The 2020 World Heritage Festival faced the COVID-19 crisis, social distancing measures, a record rainy season, and consecutive typhoons, which restricted the organization. Nonetheless, it became a healing balm and a light of hope for the mental health of local residents and tourists by launching the new paradigm of Jeju-style “new-normal” cultural tourism. It was well-received as the first attempt to offer and present a new guideline for post-COVID cultural tourism.
2021 World Heritage Festival-Jeju Volcanic Islands and Lava Tubes will provide a new eco-conservation paradigm by focusing on the meaning of “Breath of Fire Trails.” The fire trails, referring to the path of lava that erupted and flowed from Geomun Oreum 10,000 years ago, are developed into three sections, about 21km from Geomun Oreum to Woljeong-ri. Each section offers a distinctly different natural heritage and culture. It was last year’s core content that satisfied the visitors the most.
▲ Breath of Fire Trail Section 2
Director Kim remarked, “In 2021, we are thinking about ways to maximize the scarcity value as a premium brand while making participation more accessible and diverse.” He explained that for more people to participate, they plan to develop a complex festival combining the natural heritage and tourism for each base, providing nightly content to truly treasure the value of natural heritage also at night. As for the overall direction of the festival, Kim explained that by focusing more on the development of world natural heritage villages and resident-led content and increasing educational content to share with future generations, it will strive to build the foundation for a resident-led permanent organization. This way, Jeju will be able to continue the World Heritage Festival on its own.
Until now, the main form of tourism at natural heritage has been one-way: observation. The World Heritage Festival not only allows spectators to view the natural heritage but adds new value by incorporating ways to properly preserve and inherit its worth. In turn, these new values will create new traditions that are passed on to future generations, making history in a healthy way. This is the reason the 2021 World Heritage Festival-Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes is anticipated more than ever.
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