I FEEL the steady vibration of the drums, I hear the sound of wind flowing through the pipes, and I see the lotus made out of dancing pink-feathered fans—I am mesmerized.
I recall going on a school trip to The Korean Folk Village in elementary school where everything simply seemed “colorful” and “lively” as if I were in a fairytale. As a child, I did not put much thought into the significance of the traditional aspects of the village. I remember staring blankly at the low-rise buildings, thinking they were “big” and “old.” The sandy grounds were just another playground for me to run around.
However, my recent visit to the village as a grown-up gave me new eyes to appreciate the beauty of the traditional Korean culture that I had failed to see with the eyes of a 12-year-old. I could now notice the details of each percussion drums, the smooth alignment of the folk dance, and the golden laces encircling the tip of the han-bok*, just to name a few. I invite you through the gates of the Korean Folk Village!
At noon, I rushed my way to the bus station, eager to revisit The Korean Folk Village in ten years. After a few transfers, I finally made it to the entrance of the Folk Village. I paid the \20,000-entrance fee and walked into the Market Village where I was immediately greeted by the on-going performance of the “Yippee! Yippee!” The performance is a combination of pung mul no ri** where musicians played traditional parade music and Chun-hyang-jeon, a famous folktale replayed by modern actors. The performers stopped their march in front of the main entrance where they acted out the climax of the folktale. Actors of Chun-hyang, a beautiful woman from a low status family, and Lee Mong-ryong, a son of a prosperous judge, showed an affectionate dance along with other dancers that tried to break them apart, which represented their tangled love story. The story of Chun-hyang is very familiar to Koreans from a young age, but the harmony of the pung-mul background music and the traditional dances made the story complete.
White horseback riding experience
With an hour left to spare until the “Traditional Wedding Ceremony,” I found myself in front of the Horse Den located right next to the performance area. As I rode the horse, I realized that it was not very different from any other horseback riding experience. However, I noticed something that I didn’t ten years ago. The horses, hostlers, and tracks were all covered in white, a color—which I newly learned—that represents the unity of Korea. Seeing different shades of white waver in front my eyes overwhelmed me with the harmony of my own country.
l White is a color that represents purity and the “oneness” of Koreans.
l “Koreans were referred to as ‘the white clad people,’” as the color white used to be one of “the most common colors in Korea***.”
l Commoners in the Joseon Dynasty used to wear “white han-bok” while the higher social class could afford “to wear colorful han-bok,” which is the reason white also signified “common****.”
Traditional Wedding Ceremony
As the clock stroke 3 p.m., I walked to the Nobleman’s Mansion to see the “Traditional Wedding Ceremony.” This ceremony happens only once a day and is known as the highlight of all performances. A bride and a groom apply online for this unique experience prior to the show. With his face hidden behind a paper fan, the groom entered first from the side gate. He showed off his silky blue dress and faced the front gate from which the bride was to enter. With tension in the air and a hint of love, the bride made her way to the stand, sliding her rich red dress with a line of golden laces. It was a moment of admiration, from the entrance of the bride to the three bows exchanged between the couple. It was a sight that could not be seen in weddings nowadays.
l Animals hold symbolism to marriage in Korea, and this was shown by various animal statues on display during the traditional wedding.
l A set of wild geese, or ki-reo-gi, symbolizes the monogamy of the newly-wed couple and the statue is given to the mother-in-law*****.
l A set of chickens has two different meanings: The rooster represents a new start and scares away the evil spirits and the hen represents the fertility of the woman******.
Farmer’s Musical Instruments Performance
After the “Traditional Wedding Ceremony,” I cooled down in the performance area and waited for the next spectacle known as the “Farmer’s Musical Instruments Performance.” The show started with the banging of drums where the dancers, drummers, and pung mul no ri gang circled their way to the stage, smiling and waving at the viewers. The audience engaged in the performance by clapping and chanting to the beat “eol-sshi-gu jo-nae,” which is a traditional phrase old Koreans used to express excitement.
In the following act, only the drummers were left on stage, each carrying drums ranging from small hollow ones to big solid ones. They banged, jumped, and shouted “eol-sshi-gu” which elevated the mood of the whole crowd. Dancers then joined the stage by creating a lotus-shaped formation using pink-tip fans bigger than their hands. As the performance reached its peak, the lion mask entered the stage and danced around the sand. Also known as the lion dance, the purpose is to chase away evil spirits. This costume was also covered in white which emphasized Korea’s common color symbolic of clarity and purity. The performance left the audience feeling rejuvenated with high spirits. Especially after swallowing the 4 p.m. heat, the performance revitalized me to continue the rest of my tour.
After watching two performances in a row, I decided to take a break by making my own traditional pottery next to the Pottery Shop. Clay-based pots made with intricate designs lined up the hallow road that took me to the workshop. When I reached my destination, the instructor asked me to pick a design; there were five different kinds of pots and I chose a small one with a basic design. The instructor guided me in making the piece out of thick condensed clay. From bottom to top, my fingers pushed the sides of the clay, and I could slowly start to see the form of a small vase: one that had a wide base and rim facing outwards. After placing the finished product on the wooden cardboard, all that was left was to decorate it. With various shaped tools, I carved out a plant with leaves of three and four on the base. With that, I moved on to the rim of the vase where I made linear strokes.
Once I was satisfied with my design, I gave my address to the instructor who told me that it would take about 30 days for the product to be burned and polished, ready to be delivered. The overall experience costs \18,000 including the delivery fee which was not as expensive as I had thought. The fact that pottery was used to create vessels for storing soy sauce, doen-jang******* and Kimchi, reminded me of when my grandmother used to plate her kimchi straight from the pot.
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On a hot summer day, The Korean Folk Village may not be your choice of travel, but it has a full year planned ahead, filled with diverse performances and activities. From “Adding the Moonlight********” to the “Historical Drama Festival*********,” there is not a month that is not enjoyable. In fact, I think I had more fun inmy recent visit than I did when I was a child, as I was able to understand the deeply-rooted culture embedded in the colors and designs of Korea.
*Han-bok: A Korean traditional dress
**Pung mul no ri: A Korean traditional outdoor performance that is composed of percussion instruments, folk dances such as, but not limited to, fan dance, and an act based on a folktale
***Our Everyday Life
****Our Everyday Life
*****LIN & JIRSA
*******Doen-jang: A Korean paste made out of fermented soybeans
********Adding the Moonlight: A program that is open from August 1 to November 17 where you can experience a night in the Joseon Dynasty
*********Historical Drama Festival: A program that is open from September to November where performers re-enact Korean folktales