Annual festival on S. Korea’s world heritage sites to open next month

SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) — An annual cultural festival showcasing some of South Korea’s UNESCO-listed world heritage sites will kick off next month for a two months-long run across three regions, organizers said Wednesday.

The 2022 World Heritage Festival will be held from Sept. 3 until Oct. 22 in the cities of Andong and Yeongju in North Gyeongsang Province; Suwon in Gyeonggi Province; and the southern resort island of Jeju, the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) said.

The CHA launched the festival three years ago to promote the country’s UNESCO-designated world heritage sites and help visitors better understand the value of the cultural heritage through various events, such as music and dance performances, hands-on experiences and exhibitions, all themed on the sites.

The administration has chosen cities or regions to participate in the festival among those applied every year. The inaugural festival was held at the nine “seowon,” or neo-Confucian academies of the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910) designated in 2019, three North Gyeongsang provincial cities of Gyeongju, Andong, and Yeongju and Jeju, while the 2021 event was held in four regions — Baekje Historic Areas in Gongju, Buyeo and Iksan cities in South Chungcheong, which preserve the remains of the ancient Korean kingdom of Baekje, Andong, Suwon and Jeju. About 194,000 people visited the festival last year, according to the organizers.

The third edition of the festival will kick-start in the North Gyeongsang provincial cities of Andong and Yeongju, a region where Hahoe Village, Sosu, Dosan and Byeogsan seowons, and Buseok and Bongjeong Buddhist temples are located. The fest will be held from Sept. 3 to 25 under the theme “World Heritage in Transit.”

Then the festival will travel to Suwon’s Hwaseong Fortress, a Joseon-era fortification, and from Oct. 1-22, and Jeju’s Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes on Oct. 1-16. The heritage site in Jeju is comprised of a shield volcano, which is about 1.2 million years old and rises to 1,950 meters above sea level at Mount Halla, South Korea’s highest peak. The site covers 18,846 hectares, over 10 percent of Jeju island.

The two months of festival will offer a wide range of exhibits, concerts, walking tour programs, forums, hands-on experiences themed around the cultural legacies in the regions.

The festival’s opening performance based on a legend about the origin of Hahoe Mask, a traditional mask that is perpetually smiling, will be held three times a day from Sept. 2-4 at Hahoe Village in Andong, 270 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

At Buseok Temple in Yeongju, Ahn Eun-mi, South Korea’s representative avant-garde dancer and choreographer, will perform a modern dance play on a folk tale about the old temple, and its historical and cultural value while moving around the temple compound on Sept . 10 and 11.

“Since Yeongju is my hometown, and I’m a big fan of Buseok Temple, I wasted no time accepting the offer,” the 60-year-old dancer said during a press conference held at a Seoul hotel to promote the festival Wednesday. “You’ll feel a three-dimensional side of the temple that you haven’t seen before, as I will infuse human breath to the temple’s feature as a place.”

A media art exhibition that offers a modern reinterpretation of the temple will be held at a Buddhist museum located inside the temple during the festival’s run in the Andong-Yeongju region.

At Sosu, Dosan and Byeongsan seowons, there will be programs for experiencing daily routines of Confucian scholars, musical plays and traditional Korean outdoor performances. Dosan Seowon, in particular, will be available for nighttime tours during the Sept. 3-25 period.

In Jeju, visitors can participate in a walking tour where they can see traces of lava that erupted from Geomun Oreum about 10,000 years ago. There will also be guided tours of some of the lava tubes on the heritage list, which offers a rare chance to check out areas normally off-limits to tourists.

“We’ll do our best to promote the value of Korea’s world heritage sites recognized by the world through this festival and to make it easier for visitors to enjoy them,” Choi Eung-chon, head of the CHA, said during the press conference .

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