Mayor Im Chang-ho of the Hamyang County opened the 12th Hamyang Wild Ginseng Festival at the Sangrim Park in the ‘Thousand-year Old Woods’ of Hamyang on July 30, 2015 on the theme of ‘Experience the History, Culture and Mystery of Thousand Years with Wild Ginseng’ which will continue for a four-day run.
The opening ceremony was attended by ambassadors and other senior members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps and the representatives of the sister cities of Hamyang such as those from China and Vietnam as well as the local government and society leaders.
Speaking to an estimated 1,000-plus guests, Mayor Im said, “This year, we have prepared a much larger number of programs than in the previous years so that we could promote our quality agricultural products as well as the wild ginseng and I am sure that all the visitors will enjoy the 65 different programs we have prepared for the people of all ages and all nationalities.”
Seconding Mayor Im’s opening address, Chairman Choi Wan-sik of the Organizing Committee of the Festival stated that the Hamyang Wild Ginseng Festival this year was aimed at visitors to forget the high summer temperatures with various health-promoting programs, including hands-on experience, exhibitions and performances. Then he declared, “I would say that here at the Hamyang Wild Ginseng Festival, the tourists and visitors are the masters whom we should attend to with our best services.”
The highlight of the opening program was for each of the important participants in the opening ceremony to put a wild ginseng into a glass bottle and pouring liquor into the bottle to be preserved for fermenting for five years until the opening day of the Hamyang International Wild Ginseng Expo in 2020. Each of the guests, including the ambassadors and sister-city representatives from overseas, as well as the Korean local government and society leaders, signed his name on the bottle so that he could come back five years later and open it at the 2020 Hamyang Wild Ginseng Expo.
Mayor Im especially thanked the ambassadors and other senior diplomats attending the opening ceremony. He said, “This year, we have many distinguished foreign dignitaries in attendance compared with the preceding years and I am very grateful for the trouble they have taken to come all the way down here from Seoul, especially Ambassadors Myrat Mammetalyyen of Turkmenistan and Hassan Taherian of Iran.” (See further details of speech toward the end of this Article.)
Attending the opening ceremony from the Korean local governments and societies was very large, and included National Assemblyman Shin Sung-bum, Mayors Choi Yang-sik of the Gyeongju City, Huh Ki-do of the Sancheong County, Park Sung il of the Wangju County, Hwang Jung-soo of the Muju County, Yoo Kun-ki of the Gokseong County, Suh Ki-dong of the Gurye County, Kim Joon-sung of the Yeonggwang County. There also was Director-General Lee Dong-chan of the Culture and Sports Bureau of the Gyeongsangnam-do Province on behalf of the governor.
There were various performances by actors impersonating the important figures of the olden times of Korea, including the famed Korean scholar Choi Chi-won. They all praised the incumbent local government leaders, including Mayor Im and National Assemblyman Shin Sung-bum, for the jobs well done.
Mayor Im was cited for persevering and developing the Sangrim Park well, which was originally built by noted Korean scholar Choi Chi-won (AD587-?) when he was the governor of Hamgyang County during the Silla Dynasty to prevent the flooding of the area in the summer monsoon season by planting trees and making dikes.
On the following day on July 31, Mayor Im hosted a breakfast for the ambassadors and other senior diplomats attending the Festival at the Guest House of the Insanga Culture & Health Center in the Hamyang County where the diplomats stayed for the night.
Speaking with the ambassadors at the table, Mayor Im explained the history and important points of the Festival and asked for their cooperation in the successful hosting of the Hamyang International Wild Ginseng Expo in 2020.
Ambassador Hassan Taherian of Iran said that his country was enjoying a very close relationship with Korea in economic and various other fields and especially mentioned Korean Taekwondo Master Kang Shin-chul who helped the Iranian Taekwondoists win a Gold Medal in Olympic Games.
In response to Mayor Im’s welcome address, Ambassador Myrat Mammetalyyev of Turkmenistan made congratulatory remarks, where he thanked the mayor for his kind invitation of the members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps and said in part, “This type of invitation of the Ambassadors of different countries greatly contribute to our understanding of the Korean culture as well as special local features such as this Wild Ginseng Festival. I wish Mayor Im and your county every success for the Festival and all the activities of your esteemed county.”
At the breakfast, Mayor Im instructed one of his officials impromptu to bring some fresh cultivated wild ginseng plants enough to go around to all the visiting ambassadors and senior diplomats, and demonstrated how to eat it by personally wrapping the leaves and stalk around the root and chewing them well?suggesting to the ambassadors and other senior diplomats to do the same. All the guests did, including Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post, but none of them knew at the time that the price of each plant was more than 200,000 won.
Lee Man-ki, the professional Korean national wrestling (Ssireum) Champion confessed at the opening ceremony the preceding night, “In fact, I have been eating one wild ginseng every day for the past three years.” No wonder he has conquered the World of Ssimreum in Korea (resembling Japanese Sumo).
There are two different kinds of Sansam (wild ginseng) in Korea. The genuine Sansam is a naturally growing wild ginseng in a hard-to-find spot in an intractable, rugged mountains that deny human access. It is found only once or few times by a professional wild ginseng hunter named Simmani in his life time. Genuine Sansam grows in a spot where the soil formed with fallen leaves of the trees accumulated for hundreds of years making the soil fertile just to fit for the growth of Sansam. Regular ginseng is known to live on for a maximum of six years due to the cold temperatures in winter that free them to death after up to six years.
Sansam is known to outlive the coldest winters in Korea and to continue to grow for hundreds of years without being affected by the cold temperatures of the winter.
This wild ginseng is cultivated by special farmers and is known to live longer than regular ginseng although not as long as the genuine Sansam, and to retain some of the substances and ingredients of Sansam. It is called Sanyangsam, or ‘Mountain-cultivated wild ginseng.’
One genuine Sansam is known to sell for over 50 million won, one Sanyangsam (Mountain-cultivated 15-year-old wild ginseng) about 200,000 to 300,000 won, while one 5- to 6-year-old regular ginseng (Insam) is available for mere 3,000 won.
Hamyang County, a mountainous region connected with the famed Jiri Mountain Range, is considered to be best fit for the growth of wild ginseng in Korea and this is why the county government is making an extensive effort to cultivate the wild ginseng.
There are three different kinds of wild ginseng, namely (1) genuine natural wild ginseng named Sansam, (2) cultivated wild ginseng named Sanyangsam and (3) cultivated wild ginseng named Jangnoesam grown with man-made fertilizers and insecticide. The Forest Promotion Institute of the Korea Forest Service of the Central Government has officially banned the use the name of Jangnoesam as it was not much different from Sanyangsam.
Here is the difference among the three types of wild ginseng:
Genuine wild ginseng (Sansam):
A bird eats the fruits of wild ginseng. The seeds of the fruits reach the ground in the bird’s droppings and thus are naturally sown in the mountains. So many birds do this and so many seeds are dropped on the ground in the mountains, but only few of them find the ground with the best-fit soil and other natural surroundings and conditions fit for their survival and growth. Sansam needs water but the ground must not be overly wet, needs sunshine and shade alternately made by tall trees. The soil naturally fertilized by the fallen leaves and other dead plants must have an optimum degree of moisture. Harmful bacteria eat the roots of the wild ginseng when young making them die but some tenacious ones survive such attacks. The strong ones resist the low winter temperatures and live for tens of years. Unconfirmed reports say that some of them can even live hundreds of years and even a thousand years. This is why the genuine Sansam is just ‘priceless.’ Whoever offers the highest price becomes the owner and therefore the sky is the limit as there are a long string of people, like Jaebeol chairmen, who want to live in good health as long as they can. Legends have it that Founder King Shi Huang Di (BC259-210) of China’s Qing Dynasty wanted to live forever and sent special envoys to Korea (which some people believe was Hamyang) to secure some genuine wild ginseng (Sansam).
Cultivated wild ginseng (Sanyangsam):
Seeds of genuine wild ginseng (Sansam) or cultivated wild ginseng (Sanyangsam) are planted in a ground with conditions that are as close to the natural surroundings as possible. Sometimes, the seeds are sprouted in a nursery and then are transplanted to the Sanyangsam field. No chemical fertilizers or insecticide are used.
This type of cultivated wild ginseng has a longer head than other wild or farm-grown ginseng. The process of farming is similar to Sanyangsam but in the case of Jangnoesam, some cultivators are known to use man-made fertilizers and chemical insecticide. The Korea Forest Promotion Institute of the Korea Forestry Service is known to have officially banned the use of this name (Jangnoesam) as it is very similar to Sanyangsam.
Following the breakfast the ambassadors and senior diplomats toured various interesting places in Hamyang, including the Sangrim Park and the Bamboo Salt Plant owned and operated by Chairman Kim Yun-se of Insanga. There the sun-dried natural salt was roasted up to nine times, which boosted the price of such salt to 200 times of regular salt.
Chairman Kim explained to the ambassadors and other senior diplomats what happened to the salt in the process of roasting nine times, in the highest temperature at the last (ninth) stage of roasting. The nine-time-roasted salt of Insanga had the taste of the yellow yoke of an egg as well as salt.
Excerpts from the speech of Mayor Im:
Welcome to Hamyang, Excellencies and Madams. I am Im Chang-ho, mayor of the Hamyang County.
I express my profound gratitude and warmest welcome to all the distinguished guests from home and abroad, who are here to celebrate the Opening of the 12th Hamyang Sansam (Wild Ginseng) Festival, which is held in Sangrim Park which is noted for the lush green woods of a thousand years.
My particular gratitude goes to Chairman Choi Wan-sik of the Organizing Committee of the Festival and all its members for the hard work and efforts put in to make possible this grand opening of the Festival.
My heart-felt gratitude goes also to Rep. Shin Sung-bum and Director-General Lee Dong-chan of the Culture and Sports Bureau of the Gyeongsangnam-do Province who has been working hard for the promotion and development of the sports and culture of our County.
This year, we have many distinguished foreign dignitaries compared with the preceding years.
I am very grateful for the trouble taken to come all the way down here from Seoul by Their Excellencies Ambassadors Myrat Mammetalyyen of Turkmenistan and Hassan Taherian of Iran, and other senior diplomats, Deputy Head of Mission Mr. Panko Panov of Bulgaria and Economic Counsellor Mr. Yen, Kuo-ruey of the Taipei Mission. I only hope that their stay in Hamyang would be a pleasant and memorable one.
Honorable Chairman Nguyen Thann Tong of the Nam Tra My Prefecture Committee of the Communist Party of Viet Nam, members of his International Cooperation Delegation, Chairman Lee Chun-keun of the Federation of Korean Residents Associations in Vietnam and his members, thank you all for the trouble kindly taken to come all the way down here so far away.
Thank you also the Honorable Director Roh Man-seok of the Geochang Branch Office of the Changwon District Prosecutor’s Office.
My heart-felt gratitude also goes to:
Honorable Mayor Choi Yang-sik of the Gyeongju City, Mayor Huh Ki-do of the Sancheong County, Mayor Park Sung il of the Wangju County, Mayor Hwang Jung-soo of the Muju County, Mayor Yoo Kun-ki of the Gokseong County, Mayor Suh Ki-dong of the Gurye County, Mayor Kim Joon-sung of the Yeonggwang County, Deputy Mayor Song Seok-keun of the Seo-gu District of the Daejeon Metropolitan City, and Deputy Mayor Hwang Kyu-cheol of the Jangsu County.
And, of course, I am also very grateful to all the other distinguished guests present here from all walks of life.
At the Sangrim Park here, famous for the lush green woods of a thousand years, the oldest in Korea, we host the Sansam (Wild Ginseng) Festival from today through August 3rd, a representative festival of our County, which features various interesting events where we can enjoy a lot food & beverage and a lot of sights.
Here at Hamyang, filled with the vital force of the Sacred Jiri Mountains, I hope that all the distinguished guests will receive the fine Gi (Energy) from Hamyang, and oblige our Hamyang Wild Ginseng Festival with unreserved interest and cooperation.
Here at this dinner, we have the representative foods of Hamyang prepared with cultivated wild ginseng and other representative local food materials such as Balsam Apple and Black Pork. I hope that you will all enjoy them and have a good time contributing to the promotion of your health.
In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to wish the best of health and happiness to be with all the distinguished guests here today.
Excerpts from the congratulatory remarks of Ambassador Mammetalyyev of Turkmenistan:
Honorable Mayor Im Chang-ho of Hamyang County, Honorable National Assemblyman Shin Sung-bum, dear colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman,
It is a great pleasure to visit your esteemed county our colleagues to attend the Opening Ceremony of the 12th Hamyang International Wild Ginseng Festival today.
Our pleasure is double-fold in that it is held at the Sangrim Park which is famed for the lush green woods of a thousand years, the oldest in Korea, and which features various events interesting to us diplomats.
This type of invitation of the Ambassadors of different countries greatly contribute to our understanding of the Korean culture as well as special local features such as this Sansam (Wild Ginseng) Festival.
I wish Mayor Im and your county every success for the Festival and all the activities of your esteemed county. Thank you.