Korea's 14 must-do festivals
Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival (Lunar New Year)
There are several places around the country where the highlight of festival is an enormous fire (daljip taeugi ), ignited to burn objects in the shape of the moon. Two great spots to watch are Jeju and Haeundae Beach.
Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival (April)
One of the most popular annual festivals in the country marks the coming of spring following the long Korean winter. See a lot of flowers and a lot of people from all over the country to keep you company.
Cheongdo Bullfighting Festival (April)
This is not man vs. bull. The Cheongdo fest pits bull against bull in the ring, with the crowd cheering on their favorite. It’s not bloody. It usually ends when one bull surrenders, sometimes by simply saying “screw it” and lumbering off.
Jindo Miracle Sea Road Festival (April)
Every year, on a variable day in the spring or summer, tidal activity reveals a narrow land pass between Jindo Island and Modo Island. Hundreds of thousands turn out for the event, which is accompanied by local festivals.
Haeundae Sand Festival (May)
Sand sculptors from all over the world descend on Haeundae Beach to display their works of art. It’s fun to check out their progress over the course of the week as they transform a huge pile of sand into something special.
Gangneung Danoje Festival (May)
Gangneung Danoje, the longest running among local Korean festivals, is held each year to worship the guardian spirit of a mountain that protects the town. It’s also an occasion to pray for peace and the prosperity of farming.
Ulsan Whale Festival (July)
Throughout history, whale hunting was a large part of the livelihood of Ulsan’s early inhabitants. Now dominated by manufacturing, Ulsan and its people are still very proud of their history of whaling and throw an annual celebration of it.
Buyeo Seodong Lotus Festival (July)
The heat of July is the peak time for lotus flowers in Korea. This famous lotus flower festival is held at Seodong Park and Gungnamji Pond in the gorgeous area of Chungcheongnam-do every year.
World Taekwondo Culture Expo (July)
Taekwondo has become increasingly popular worldwide over the years. Why not go to the biggest celebration of the sport right at its source? Held every year in Muju, North Jeolla Province, it’s a real kick.
Boryeong Mud Festival (July)
Though the original draw was the healing properties of the mud, now it’s turned into one of the biggest parties of the year. It’s on almost every expat’s must-do checklist when visiting Korea. Wall-to-wall partying, drinking and playing in the mud.
Andong International Mask Dance Festival (September)
This wonderful gathering centers around the tradition of mask dance, which goes back centuries as part of shamanistic rituals. In the village of Hahoe, mask dance teams perform mudong madang, an offering to a goddess for health and wealth.
Jinju Namgang Yudeung Lantern Festival (October)
This festival has origins in the lantern-lighting custom used during the Jinjuseong Fortress Battle of the Imjin War, following the Japanese invasion in 1592. It was part of a military strategy to prevent Japanese troops from entering into the Namgang River.
Busan International Fireworks Festival (October)
Originally part of the 2005 APEC Summit, the fireworks display proved so popular that it has now become an annual festival, culminating with a massive display of fireworks and light shows set against the backdrop of the gorgeous Diamond Bridge.
Busan International Film Festival (October)
Now in its 21st year, the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is arguably one of the most renowned festivals in Korea. The focus of the annual event is to showcase new films and first-time directors, especially those from Asian countries.
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