By Feature Editor Song Nara
The Hanseong Baekje Culture Festival was successfully held at the Peace Plaza of the Olympic Park in Songpa-gu, Seoul in a 3-day run on Sept. 27-29, 2019. The venues for the festival also included the Wiraeseongdaero, the Ancient Tombs Site of the Seokchon-dong and the Baekje Culture Park in Pungnap-dong.
The festival re-enacts the brilliant history and culture of the Baekje Dynasty of Korea 2,000 years ago.
Highlights of the Hanseong Baekje Culture Festival include the experiencing the Baekje Village, traditional Baekje games and plays, Dongmyeong Festival, and a procession on the History and Culture Street.
There also was a Baekje Lantern Street and a traditional Baekje Food Market.
The Hanseong Baekje Culture Festival, which is held for six days in a row, has been selected as Korea’s Exemplary Culture-Tourism Festival, and has also won the Pinnacle Award for the seven consecutive years.
The Songpa-gu area is currently one of the 25 municipalities that make up the South Korean capital of Seoul. But the area was not included in the capital city from the start. The area became part of the capital city of Seoul in the late 20th century.
It was not until 18 B.C. when the Baekje country was established that the Songpa-gu area became meaningful in the Korean history. Currently, most scholars view "Wiryeseong," the capital of early Baekje, as the site of today's Pungnap-dong Fortress. And "Hanseong," which was later called the capital of Baekje, is regarded as the area of Pungnap-dong Fortress and Mongchon Fortress.
Therefore, the Songpa-gu area is proud of its history exceeding 2,000 years. Baekje was founded around the Songpa-gu area, and based on this, it was in its heyday. And during the Baekje period, Songpa-gu served as the center of the country for the longest time.
The Songpa area has played an important role as a transportation hub since the Baekje Dynasty, and served as a function of supporting and protecting the capital city during the Joseon Dynasty. During the mid-Joseon period, the Songpa area went through wars such as the Japanese invasion of Korea and the Manchu invasion of Korea. In the latter part of the Joseon period, however, it became a center of commerce while seeking stabilization of the state. Songpajang served as a logistics hub located in the south of the capital, Hanseong.
This status can also be seen as the success of "Songpasandaenori." The flourishing of culture and arts for the common people indicates that the area has served as a commercial and cultural center.
In the late 20th century, this historical tradition was served as an occasion for the area to be included again in the central part of the country in line with the geographical expansion of the capital, Seoul. As the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games was held around Songpa-gu, the appearance of Songpa-gu area was introduced to the world representing Seoul.
Songpa-gu of today continues to exist as a key area of Seoul based on such a long history and tradition. And these Songpa-gu's history and culture occupy an important position in Seoul's history and culture.
Songpa, a truly famous place for the Seoul Olympics:
Songpa-gu was a historic area with the scent of culture and art of the 500 years of the Hanseong Baekje Kingdom and a quiet rural village until the 1960s. But with the hosting of the Asian Games and the Seoul Olympics in the 1980s, it has become an international-level city as it is today.
The Seoul Olympics, which was held in 1988, had a tremendous impact on the modern history of Korea. Among other things, its impact on the growth of Songpa, where the Olympic main stadium is located, was absolutely great. This is because the city was expanded and developed due to large-scale stadiums built in Jamsil, Lotte Town, apartment complexes, Asian Athletes' Village Apartment and Olympic Athletes' Village Apartment.
The decisive change in Jamsil, which was originally an island, came in 1971 when the Songpa River, which used to be located south of Jamsil Island, was filled with 750,000 pyeong of land as part of the Han River Development Project.
Following the completion of the Jamsil Grand Bridge on July 1, 1972, the Jamsil District Comprehensive Development Project was launched to build five Jamsil apartment complexes and Jamsil Sports Complex on 3.4 million pyeong of land in 1973. Since then, the Jamsil development plan has become a reality as it was designated as a compartmentalization zone in December 1974 and a development promotion zone in Seoul the following year.
The government's push to build the Jamsil Stadium was largely due to its failure to host the Asian Games in 1970 due to a lack of infrastructure, including international stadiums. Thus, the Seoul Metropolitan Government wanted to set up an advanced stadium for international sporting events in the future. Its decision to establish a sports complex in Jamsil in the 1970s while promoting the city's urban planning in Gangnam area proved it.
It secured 120,000 pyeong of land while launching research to build an international-level sports facility in the Jamsil area in September 1973. In March 1975, the architect Kim Soo-geun was asked to push ahead with the plan to build a multi-sports center and announced a plan to build the Jamsil Sports Complex in September of the following year.
Four years later, in February 1981, it submitted an application to the International Olympic Committee to host the Olympic Games In September of the same year, it was finally decided that Seoul would host the 24th Summer Olympics in 1988 at the general assembly held in Baden-Baden, West Germany.
And two months later, Seoul even managed to host the 1986 Asian Games. The effects of hosting the Olympics and the Asian Games did not just affect the facilities of Jamsil Stadium. In order to host the international sports events, the city has also provided a foundation for improving the transportation and living environment, such as roads and subways, making Jamsil the best residential area in the future.
Hanseong Baekje Cultural Festival:
Songpa-gu has held the "Hanseong Baekje Cultural Festival," the largest history and culture festival in Seoul, every fall at the Olympic Park Peace Plaza, Wiryeseong Main Street, Seokchon-dong Ancient Tomb County, and Pungnap Baekje Cultural Park. This greatly contributes to promoting pride as a historical and cultural city by recreating the glory of Hanseong Baekje 2,000 years ago in Songpa.
For the Hanseong Baekje Cultural Festival, various events related to Baekje are held, including Baekje Experience Village, Traditional Play Experience, Dongmyeongje, Honbulchaehwa Ceremony, and Historical and Cultural Street Rally.
In particular, the historical and cultural street parade on the Olympic Road (Jamsil Station~Mongchontoseong Station) offers a special attraction. Moreover, you can walk on the Baekje lamp street breaking the darkness and enjoy traditional foods at restaurants during the festival period.
The Hanseong Baekje Cultural Festival has been increasing its status at home and abroad as it was selected as the only cultural tourism festival in Seoul for six years in a row and also won the Pinnacle Awards, the world festival Olympics, for the seventh consecutive year.
Dongmyeongje (Baekje Ancient Tomb Ceremony) is an event to offer sacrifices to the spirits of Baekje's former kings who achieved their heyday in the ancient Wiryeseong for 493 years from King Onjo to King Gaero. It has been held along with the Hanseong Baekje Cultural Festival every year to honor the glory and prosperity that blossomed in Songpa, which has the most powerful history of the early Baekje Kingdom.
The event is meant to kick off the three-day Hanseong Baekje Cultural Festival. Starting with a celebration before the ceremony, it is a participatory, mixed-light up ceremony where performers and the people of the community will join together. Here, the lighted torch moves to the main stage of the opening ceremony and lights up throughout the festival.
Opening and Closing Ceremonies:
The opening ceremony will be held with colorful pre-ceremony performance and theme performance. The theme performance is organized each year with a story-telling performance according to the title.
This year's closing ceremony, which marks the highlight of the festival, added meaning by holding a theme performance exchange with Baekje's culture district of Buyeo and Gongju. A performance by well-known invited singers will be carried out at a closing ceremony with fireworks, finishing the festival and promising another festival for next year.
Hanseong Baekje Experience Village:
Hanseong Baekje Experience Village, a realistic reenactment of the lifestyle of the Baekje era 2,000 years ago, will be held throughout the festival period. Inside the Experience Village, there will be a theme performance with a story at a set time and a small gala parade. In addition, visitors can experience the life of Baekje people with various games, including the experience of Baekjae's barrack life such as rice straw slides, rice straw maze, sword fights, Gongseongjeon, and earthenware making. This will provide an opportunity for citizens to experience the history of Baekje and to realize the meaning of its history culture.
History and Culture Street Parade:
On the last day of the festival, the parade of historical and cultural streets takes place on the Olympic Road (Jamsil Station~Mongchontoseong Station) with some 800 people participating. It receives applications three months before the festival, and more than half of the participants are residents, which is a participatory festival. It will be accompanied by colorful performances by large marionettes, flute stage and traditional performing dancers, and the horseback martial arts troupe, and participants will march on the 1.5-kilometer section for about two hours.
Hanseong Baekje Youth Club Contest, Mongchonhaeja Waterfront Concert:
The Mongchonhaeja Waterfront Concert is held throughout the festival by recruiting talented people from various fields such as dance, music and jazz about three months ago. In particular, the Hanseong Baekje Youth Club Contest is a competition that consists of teams that have recruited youth clubs under the age of 18 and passed preliminary rounds on paper, and will be held only one day during the festival. After the performance, winners will be selected by the judges and the award ceremony will also be held for granting certificate and prize money to the winners by the mayor of Songpa-gu.
A variety of food items can be found at a low price at the food market where residents in the Songpa-gu region participate.
Baekje Lantern Street:
From the Exit 1 of Mongchontoseong Station to the South Gate No. 4 of Olympic Park, Baekje lanterns start lighting a week before the festival. The lanterns, consisting of traditional Baekje-style lanterns, are essential photo zones for lovers and their families.
Traveling Around Hanseong Baekje Fortress:
It is a modern reenactment of Dapseongnori, in which participants make their own wish with lanterns and travel around the fortress of Mongchontoseong to pray for the longevity and other wishes. It is especially popular as an experience program for children and teenagers.