By Choi Dae-myung and Sean Kim
Vice president and Staff reporter, The Korea Post
Mayor Jeon Jeong-hwan of the Jeongseon County of the Gangwon Province, located 113 miles to the east of Seoul stated, “We would like to invite Ambassadors and their Spouses to our famous Jeongseon Arirang Culture Festival that is known as a representative festival of the Republic of Korea. The Festival is scheduled to take place on Sept. 29-30 this year.”
Jeongseon… The name may not sound very familiar to some of the foreign dignitaries. Jeongseon is the host county of the huge amusement-tourist-recreation facilities of Kangwon Land. Kangwon is the Mccune-Reischauer transliteration variation of Gangwon, name of the host province of Jeongseon.
Speaking with Publisher-Chairman of The Korea Post media at the Mayor’s Office in Jeongseon on July 27, 2017, Mayor Jeon said that his county offers many wonderful sights that cannot be found anywhere else in Korea. Jeongseon County, surrounded by overbearing, picturesque mountains, is noted for the cleanest air throughout Korea, which is essential for people’s health. Even renowned landscape artists did not have an opportunity to cover this striking landscape.
The most important assets of the area compared with other regions are the excellent tourist hotels and amusement facilities such as casino for the international guests called the Kangwon Land. It is planned that the Ambassadors and their Spouses are going to stay at Kangwon Land Hotel & Casino in Jeongseon during a two-day tour to the Jeoungseon County. They are personally invited by Mayor Jeon in an extensive effort to introduce his county to the outside world on the occasion of the Jeongseon Arirang Culture Festival on September 29th this year.
The Jeongseon Arirang is a song that was widely sung among the rafters who were carrying large pine trees used for reconstruction of the Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul. This song quickly spread among workmen mobilized from all parts of the Korean peninsula for the construction of the Palace.
The Jeongseon Arirang also forms the musical backbone of the famous 1926 movie, Arirang, starred by the famous legendary Korean actor, Na Eun-gyu, which depicted the sorrows and pains of the Korean people just after their loss of the country to Imperial Japan.
“We have magnificent and untouched nature in our region. Coal mining used to be major industry in the region but now Jeongseon is becoming a tourism plateau in Korea,” said Mayor Jeon. “Besides Jeongseon Arirang we can provide our visitors with many famous tourist places, valleys, picturesque destinations, local specialties and a tourist train.”
“Jeongseon Arirang is recognized as UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Humanity, an Important Cultural Property Number 129 of the Republic of Korea, and the Cultural Asset Number 1 of the Gangwon Province,” said Mayor Jeon proudly.
“Jeongseon Arirang is rated as the original source of all Arirang lyrics sung all over the entire Korean peninsula.” The song began being widely sung on the entire Korean peninsula since the early Joseon Dynasty over 600 years ago. There are many interesting events associated with Jeongseon Arirang of the Gangwon Province. Jeongseon Arirang was written by a group of seven scholars from the Goryeo dynasty. They swore their allegiance to their former king when the new Joseon dynasty was at its raise.
They went into hiding and began to write Chinese poetry as a means of expressing their feelings and ideas. Their poetry helped others understand their plight. People sang the poems and passed them on. Jeongseon Arirang was one such poem.
Originally, it was written in Hanja (Chinese characters) which was translated into phonetic Korean by local scholars, which helped further wider dissemination of the song among the common people.
Mayor Jeon is also very much internationally minded, has formed a sisterhood relationship with a number of cities around the world, including those of Japan, China and Kazakhstan.
Arirang represents Korea, and in a way maybe said to show the bittersweet emotions of the Korean people. There are many variations of Arirang, which vary depending on the different localities.
Jeongseon Arirang, which is sung in Jeongseon and various other part of the Korean peninsula, is famous for its mellow tune.
“Will it snow or rain, or pour for the season? Dark clouds are gathering above Mansusan Mountain. Why does the sweet briar rose blossom if it is not Myeongsasimni (beautiful sand beach on the east coast)? Why do cuckoos sing if it is not March? Oh, ferryman of the Auraji, let me cross the river. The leaves of oldongbak (Gourd) in Ssarigol village are falling. The fallen dongbak lies on dead leaves. I cannot live as I miss my love all year round.”
The lyrics of Jeongseon Arirang describe the sorrows of a person who is isolated in a remote mountain village. The village is located on the outskirts of the Baekdudaegan Mountain Range, the remotest area of Jeongseon County of the Gangwon-do Province.
Today, the area is open to outsiders, and you can drive or take a train to Jeongseon anytime. The great mountain range which was once a barrier between the remote village and the outside world now boasts its mysterious and beautiful scenery. Jeongseon Arirang, once sung by people tired of hard work and loneliness, is now designated as a UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The first Jeongseon Arirang Festival was hosted by the provincial government in 1976 for its successful transmission and preservation of the region’s tradition.
Since then, the three-day festival has been annually held in early October for over 30 years.
Arirang originally was a work song sung by farmers in the fields when they cut fodder, collected herbs, plowed the field, planted ginseng, bedded out young rice plants or weeded a rice paddy. The original name was Arari, and the song was mostly sung across Gangwon-do and the nearby regions.
"It is in this regard," he said, "that we are cordially inviting the ambassadors and madams of all the different countries of the world to participate in the most meaningful traditional cultural event of Korea.”
Then said Mayor Jeon, “We would also like to invite the representative traditional music-art troupe of all the different countries represented diplomatically in Korea and I would be very grateful if the ambassadors of all the different countries in Korea would kindly rend us a hand in our effort to invite the traditional cultural performance troupes from their country.”
He said that he would like to further promote cooperation and exchange with all the different countries of the world through the embassies. “How wonderful it would be if musical troupes from around the world present Jeongseon Arirang through the use of their own traditional musical instruments!” said Mayor Jeon.
He said that through the medium of sense of trust thus formed through the traditional Korean music would be greatly conducive to further promotion of goodwill, friendship and cooperation between Korea and all these countries participating in the Jeongseon Arirang Festival.
Jeongseon Arirang was written by a group of seven scholars from the Goryeo dynasty. They swore their allegiance to their former king when the new Joseon dynasty began. They went into hiding and began to write Chinese poetry as a means of expressing their feelings and ideas. Their poetry helped others understand their plight. People sang the poems and passed them on. Jeongseon Arirang was one such poem.
Jeongseon Arirang is rated to represent all the other Arirang songs sung through the Korean peninsula as it is the original source of all Arirang lyrics of Korea. The song began being widely sung on the entire Korean peninsula since the early Joseon Dynasty over 600 years ago. There are many interesting events associated with Jeongseon Arirang of the Gangwon Province belonging to Jeongseon County. Further details of the interview with Mayor Jeon follow:
Question: We trust that the Jeongseon Arirang Festival this year is special in that you are also invited all the ambassadors and their spouses to the Festival.
Answer: The Jeongseon Arirang has been changing from a Korean folk song to one sung and loved by many peoples around the world.
Jeongseon Arirang is considered the ‘mother’ of all Arirang songs across the country and now Arirang is going to be loved by all peoples around the world.
Many people are visiting Jeongseon from all parts of the world and familiarize themselves with Jeongseon Arirang.
This year, the Ministry of Culture & Tourism designated the 42nd Jeongseon Arirang Festival as the 'Promising Tourism-Culture Festival of the Republic of Korea' and the Festival is going to be a truly international one participated in by all the different Arirang Song troupes from across the country, including those of Gyeonggi, Jindo, Miryang, Sangju Yeongcheon and Cheongju)."
In addition, the Festival will also be participated in by the Korean Arirang troupes from all parts of the world. So it is going to be a global Arirang Festival this year.
I would like to utilize this opportunity to express my sincere and warm invitation to all the ambassadors and their spouses to attend the 42nd Jeongseon Arirang Festival.
Through the good offices of the Embassies, I would like to invite the traditional culture and art performance troupes from around the world to join us at the Jeongseon Arirang Festival.
Q: What are your plans to further develop your local economy?
A: This year, we are trying to increase investment in the revitalization of the local economy and social development and as part of this policy we are making substantial efforts to increase jobs.
As part of this plan, we are trying to help revitalize and develop the traditional market and create jobs for the people. Included in this plan is the hosting of the Five-day Market Fair of the Republic of Korea, provide support for the revitalization of the business activities of the small-medium businesses and establishment and active operation of an agriculture-manufacturing industrial zone utilizing the closed coal mine area.
For this purpose, we are making extensive efforts to assist and encourage businesses through improvement of the business environment so that they could smoothly take over the closed coal mine areas.
We are also providing support for the traditional Jeongseon Country gimchi and the ‘Sixth Industry’ which connects and combines for new value-added industry the Second Industry (agriculture, special product-processing) with the Tertiary Industry (sales, culture, experience, tourism and service) for the purpose of creating new value-added effects.
We are also making extensive efforts for the establishment of an independent economy in the region where the mines were closed down. We have set five objectives for the rehabilitation of the livelihoold of the people in the former mining community—as follows:
1. Operation of city redevelopment and rehabilitation center, where the businesses include creation of the Gohwan-eup Wild Flower Plantation Community
2. Support and assistance for the establishment of a good environment for business, which includes support for the traditional Gimchi production and sixth industry and construction of rent houses for the LH employees.
3. Modernization of the traditional market places and establishment of 2017 fair for the excellent markets
4. Revitalization of the local economy through job creation, 1,360 persons in seven different
areas at a total cost of 4.5 billion won.
5. Sports marketing for the revitalization of the regional economy through organizing sports events at the level of Gangwon Province and the entire country.
Q: What advantages does your County have which tell apart from other regions?
A: On the basis of the Arirang Culture, which is shared by all the peoples around the world, Jeongseon has developed itself into the best tourist region of the Republic of Korea through modernization, industrialization and utilization of the outstanding natural environment.
(1) The brand value of Jeongseon Arirang has remarkably risen, including the registration with the UNESCO as Intangible Heritage of Humanity and also as an important intangible cultural asset of the Republic of Korea/
(2) Jeongseon has many special-character tourist assets, including the High 1 Resort, Hwaam Cave, Zip Wire, Jeongseon Arirang Center, Arirang Natural History Museum, and the Jeongseon Donggang River.
(3) As the Home of the Arirang Traditional Market, Jeongseon endeavors to grow into a representative global city through brand-making of the Jeongseon 5-day market and national 5-day market exposition.
(4) Establishment of the Jeongseon County Hospital aimed at improving the medical service environment at the closed mine area and promotion of medical welfare service.
(5) Successful hosting of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. Olympic tourist asset will be established through the use of the Jubong Alpine Game Facility in the Jeongseon County.
About Mayor Jeon Jeong-hwan
Date of birth: August 20, 1957
Family: Has two children from spouse, Mrs. Kim Hui-suk
July 1, 2014: Elected as 6th-term mayor of Jeongseon County
Jan. 10 to Oct. 10, 2013: 19th term Vice mayor of the Jeongseon County
Jan. 10 to Jan. 1, 2013: Chief of the Tourism-Culture Section of the Gangwon Province.
Dec. 23 2008 to Jan. 9, 2010: 16th term vice mayor of Jeongseon County
Sept. 1, 1976: Passed test and employed as public servant at the Buk-myeon Office of the Jeongseon County, Gangwon Province.