The Namwon Chunhyang Festival

Trip Start Aug 18, 2010
Trip End Aug 26, 2012

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What I did
Gwanghallu Gardens
Namwon Folk Museum

Flag of Korea Rep.  , North Jeolla,
Monday, May 9, 2011

    This week's excursion was two hours west to the city of Namwon aptly titled, "The City of Love," for the Chunhyang Festival.  From what I was able to ascertain, the story involves two lovers, Chunhyang, who is a chaste and beautiful woman and a man named, Lee-Doryong.  It is a very much a love story and centers around fidelity and perseverance through adversity and hardship. 

    According to the story, Lee-Doryong sees Chunhyang on a swing in Gwanghallu Garden and falls in love in love with her.  Lee tracks down the woman's mother and asks for her daughter's hand in marriage to which it is accepted but they are not married immediately.  Lee and Chunhyang then pledge their love to each other forever no matter what happens.  However, their bliss doesn't last forever.  Lee must leave the city of Namwon for another distant city and leave his beloved.  A new magistrate comes into town, sees Chunhyang's beauty and wants her for himself.  However, she has sworn herself to Lee-Doryong and refuses the magistrate's advances.  As a result, Chunhyang is locked up and beaten.  During this time, Lee-Doryong has returned as a government official and while disguised as a beggar, he reunites with Chunhyang who is currently in prison.  On the day of the magistrate's birthday, he is planning on having Chunhyang executed but Lee-Doryong arrives to punish him for corruption.  In the end, Chunhyang and Lee-Doryong are reunited, get married, and live happily ever after.  Overall, the story has some very basic similarities to Romeo and Juliet except it doesn't have a tragic ending.
    I arrived in Namwon at noon just as the festival was starting.  It was cloudy the entire day but the festival was still crowded with people and luckily it didn't rain as I didn't have an umbrella.  The tents involved the typical vendors selling all kinds of different food.  I bought myself some pork for 2000w.  They also some various carnival games where you could shoot for bottles of alcohol.

    The main festival site was held in the Gwanghallu Garden which is where the story of Chunhyang is thought to have taken place.  The Garden has a 2000w admission fee which is extremely reasonable and well worth it.  The whole garden has temples, gazebos, bamboo patches, and a shrine dedicate to Chunhyang which is still revered by Buddhists today.  They also have the swing that she was on when Lee-Doryong spotted her.  The Gardens also hold a museum/art gallery dealing with the love story and which also holds large scale oil paintings depicting each episode of the story.

    Later in the day, the gardens held a historical reenactment showing the trial of Chunhyang and her eventual reunion with her lover.  It was quite entertaining.  The actors interacted with the audience and even interacted with the outside world despite the story being set in the past.  For example, as some guys were setting up a stage for a beauty contest to be held later in the day, they accidentally blasted, A-Teens, "Upside Down."  The actors then proceeded to dance to the music.

    After the show ended, I walked across the river to the Namwon Folk Museum for 3000w.  It was interesting but since everything is in Korean, I could only learn so much.  Afterward, I walked around the grounds of the nearby cultural theme park to a gazebo that gave an impressive view of the city.

    There were also numerous buildings in the area with figures illustrating the Chunhyang story.  Also included was a display of the torture devices used to punish Chunhyang.  I ended up taking some video of the Korean torture devices used on Chunhyang explaining how they were used.

    One is a table in the shape of a cross.  From what I gather, a person is tied either face down or possibly face up and then they are beaten with a very thick and heavy stick.  There is also a chair which can be used as a torture device.  A person is seated and tied down.  They can then be beaten with the thick sticks.  However, a variation can also be used.  As the person is sitting, two sticks are wedged between their legs and pushed down which causes a person's legs to be splayed apart.

    As the day drew to an end, I decided to head back.  However, before I went back to the bus station, I decided to try my hand at a shooting game.  I wanted to win a bottle of alcohol.  Unfortunately, I didn't win any bottles but I did win a stuffed heart which has the word "love" stitched in cursive although it looks like "glove."

    The bus was scheduled to leave at 3:10.  I ended up getting slightly lost  due to taking a wrong turn on a side street and barely made the bus.  I finally arrived back in Daegu at 5:30pmand was back at my apartment by 6:30pm.

    *To get to Namwon from Daegu, go to the Seobu Bus Terminal located outside the Seongdangmot Subway Station.  The ride will take two hours.

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