By Kim Jung-mi with Kim Tae-moon, Son Da-som
This year again, Mayor Jeon Dong-pyeong of the Yeongam County of the Jeollanam-do Province, some 238 miles south of Seoul, cordially invites ambassadors and their spouses to the rare historical festival of Korea, the Wangin Culture Festival, in his county on April 4, 2019.
The tour for the ambassadors and madams is organized and fully covered together with the festival itself by The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean news media. And soon a formal invitation will be sent to each distinguished invitee by The Korea Post on behalf of Mayor Jeon and the Government of the Yeongam County.
The Yeongam Wangin Culture Festival is held annually in April when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom in honor of the distinguished Dr. Wangin who traveled to Japan over 1,600 years ago to spread knowledge, culture, and art to Japan from Korea.
Dr. Wangin, who was born in Yeongam, was invited by the Emperor of Japan. Wangin took Cheonjamun (One Thousand Chinese Characters), the Analects of Confucius, potters, blacksmiths, and weavers to Japan. He was a great pathfinder who, as the originator of Japanese scholarship, helped the Asuka Culture flourish. To celebrate the birth and outstanding achievements of the great scholar of the Baekje Dynasty, the Yeongam County has been hosting the festival in April since 1992.
According to the festival’s basic plan which was unveiled by the Yeongam County, the 2019 Wangin Culture Festival, a rare national character festival, will be focused on promoting the traditional culture of Yeongam and diversifying events for foreign tourists.
Yeongnam County plans to diversify programs for foreign tourists and for this purpose will launch an extensive promotion campaign targeting foreigners including diplomats stationed in Korea. The county intends to broaden the contents for foreigners in order to promote the globalization of the Wangin Culture Festival, and to elevate its status as one of Korea’s “Best Festivals" which is selected by the government. The festival has been chosen as a “Up and Coming Festival” by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism for the five consecutive years.
The 2019 Yeongam Wangin Culture Festival, which marks the 22nd anniversary this year, will take place at the Historical Site of Dr. Wangin from April 4 (Tuesday) through April 7 (Sunday) when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Under the theme, "The Light of Wangjin! Opens the Road to Communication and Win-Win,” the festival will feature 82 programs in six categories.
Main programs of the festival include “Dr. Wangin Goes to Japan,” a Hansi (Chinese poems) Writing Contest in memory of Dr. Wangin, “The Culture Festival in Our Neighborhood” and a “Romantic Train Tour” along the Cherry Blossom Road. “Dr. Wangin Goes to Japan” is a great parade where thousands of marchers wear clothes that imitate the clothes that Dr. Wangin and his people wore in Japan.
Regarding this year's festival plan, Im Chae-eul, chief of Yeongnam County’s Cultural Tourism Department said, “We will place focus on creating programs that has a distinct identity, promoting traditional Korean culture, and diversifying contents to attract more foreign tourists.”
Aiming to enhance the identity of the Wangin Culture Festival, Yeongam County plans to add a dramatic element to its flagship program, the Dr. Wangin Goes to Japan parade. He said a “parade program involving delegates from Kanazaki, Japan, may be created.” Along the parade route, there will be folk song and dance performances from countries like Japan and China.
The festival will continue to feature programs which have received favorable reviews, such as the Hansi Writing Contest, and reading contests of One Thousand Chinese Characters and scriptures. Some programs, such as “Wangin School for Children,” and “Wangin Musical Gala Show,” will be newly added. It will also feature programs to feel the affection of the countryside as tourists search for treasures hidden in the traditional wall of Gurim Village which has been reportedly inhabited for 2,200 years. Prominent figures such as Wangin were from the village.
Of note, the entire venue where cherry blossoms will bloom during the festival will be transformed into a photo zone, adding scenic beauty to the festival. To this end, there will be programs such as traditional martial arts experience and operation of flower chariots in the birthplace of Dr. Wangin and Seongcheon.
The festival will feature customized programs for people of all ages. For children, the festival will feature programs such as "Junior Angels," and "Kiz Park" while for family tourists, there will be programs such as "Cherry Wish Tree," "Stamp Rally," and "Smart Photo Experience." For young couples, the festival will show programs such as "Lock of Cherry Blossom Date" and “Cherry Blossom Propose in April.“ And elderly people can experience curiosity and experience together through “The Wangin’s Traditional Wedding Ceremony" and "Mt. Wolchul Energy Experience."
With a view to enhancing the globalization of the annual festival, the contents designed to more attract foreigners will be introduced. Specifically, the county will try to attract foreign tourists for programs lasting one night and two days in cooperation with travel agencies. At the same time, the county plans to launch an extensive promotion campaign for foreign tourists, including diplomatic envoys stationed in Korea. Foreigners will be able to wear global traditional clothes and enjoy global folk performances. Of note, a “restaurant for foreigners” will stay open during the festival time.
Jeon Dong-pyeong, the head of Yeongam County, said, "We will produce posters and leaflets in three languages including English, Japanese and Chinese, distribute them to travel agencies and foreign media, and hold a promotional campaign in the streets of Myeong-dong, Seoul, and Chungjang-ro, Gwangju, to attract large numbers of foreign tourists.”
Of particular note, Jeon said the county will work closely with Kanazaki, Japan where Dr. Wangin landed over 1,600 years ago, to help its personnel participate in the Wangin Culture Festival, thereby boosting the festival’s global reach.