6 crazy fun things to do in Korea this summer

6 crazy fun things to do in Korea this summer

Slather a stranger in mud! Jump off a cliff! That's some of the fun -- and crazy -- in Korea this summer
korea summer
Radiohead is coming! Radiohead is coming! Radiohead is coming!

Korea’s “fifth season” -- the monsoon -- is here. But the summer showers do little to dampen the festive mood as some of the year’s most anticipated music, film and big bashes open around the country.

Korean festivals are getting more and more globally superlative every year -- here's where to go for some of the world's best live rock ’n' roll, classical music, horror films and mud-ball fights this summer.

1. Rock festivals galore

korea summerThe kind of crowd that, anywhere else, would make us hate humanity. But at Jisan Valley Rock Festival, we want in.

Every summer two of the country’s biggest, baddest rock events open, and the monsoon rain only seems to fuel the hype. Ponchos are nowhere to be found among crowds -- drenched, gumboot-clad fans jump up and down in unison to intense, non-stop outdoor performances by some of the world’s biggest acts.

Jisan Valley Rock Festival (chosen among CNNGo’s “50 music festivals for the summer”) will raise its curtain first with a particularly strong British lineup including Radiohead, The Stone Roses and Beady Eye. Local faves to hit the stage include the veteran Kim Chang-wan Band and hip young indie group Busker Busker.

Pentaport Rock Festival opens the following month to beats by Northern Ireland’s Snow Patrol and Ash as well as Canada’s Crystal Castles, and Korean bands such as 10cm.

Jisan Valley Rock Festival, Jisan Forest Resort, Icheon (이천), Gyeonggi Province
28-1 Haewolli-san, Majang-myeong, Icheon, Gyeonggi Province (경기도 이천시 마장면 해월리 산 28-1) +82 31 644 1200
Dates: July 27-29
Tickets: www.valleyrockfestival.com

Pentaport Rock Festival, Jeongseojin (정서진), Incheon (인천), Gyeonggi Province
Jeongseojin, Oryu-dong, Seo-gu, Incheon (인천광역시 서구 오류동 정서진) 
Dates: August 10-12
Tickets: www.pentaportrock.com

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2. Boryeong Mud Festival

Organizers expect 3 million people to roll in the mud this year.

This festival was launched as the city of Boryeong became reputed for its natural mud-based cosmetics, particularly facial masks.

Hence it’s sort of like taking part in messy but fun outdoor games with the effects of a spa session.

Hordes of swimsuit-clad tourists indulge in a slippery “sireum” (Korean wrestling) match or sloppy mudslides, and strangers get all tangled up in a mess, wearing silly grins.

Boryeong Mud Festival, Dae-Chon Beach, Boryeong (보령), South Chungcheong Province
1029-3 Sinheuk-dong, Boryeong, South Chungcheong-Province 충청남도 보령시 신흑동 1029-3; +82 41 933 7051
Dates: July 14-24
Tickets:  www.mudfestival.or.kr

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3. Sensation Dance Music Festival

Sensation Dance Music FestivalWe can only imagine the type of music that would go with a stage show like that.

Since its launch in Amsterdam in 2000, this dance music festival has travelled across 19 countries -- and it finally kicks off its first Asian tour in Korea.

The eight-hour event is supposed to be full of pizzazz, showcasing acrobatic, dance and theatrical performances set to laser lights, firecrackers and live music by world-class DJs. This year festivalgoers can groove to tunes by Fedde le Grand, Sébastien Léger, Nic Fanciulli and Funkagenda.

Hosted by Heineken, the festival starts past children’s bedtime, at 9 p.m., it is limited to adults over 19.

This year’s theme is “Ocean of White,” in tune with the traditional all-white dress code, which originates from the founder’s wish to commemorate his brother’s death. The festivities will continue in Bangkok, Thailand, on August 18 and Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on September 29.

Sensation, KINTEX, Ilsan (일산), Gyeonggi Province
2600 Daewha-dong, Ilsanseo-gu, Goyang, Gyeonggi Province 경기도 고양시 일산서구 대화동 2600; +82 31 810 8114
Date: July 21
Tickets: www.sensation.com/koreawww.heineken.com/korea

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4. Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

korea summerA scene from “The Origin of Creatures” by Floris Kaayk, winner of 2011’s Puchon Choice Short Film Competition Jury Prize.

Let's face it, Bucheon is a pretty boring city. But when monsoon showers hit, the sleepy suburban city suddenly becomes a great eerie setting for surreal dramas, wacky sci-fi flicks and creepy horror stories.

The second largest cinema event in the country, PiFan has grown into a hot regional festival for cult favorites.

The midnight screenings offer one hit film after another until daybreak (free snacks are provided to keep you going). The festival offers not just bloody slashers but also family-friendly films of which some are screened outdoors.

Movie fanatics should be advised, however, that tickets for most screenings sell out quickly and that the rain can muddle the fest’s otherwise efficient shuttle bus system (screening venues are scattered around town).

Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan), Bucheon (부천), Gyeonggi Province
529-2 Sang-dong, Wonmi-gu, Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province (경기도 부천시 원미구 상동 529-2); +82 32 327 6313
Dates: July 19-29
Tickets:  www.pifan.com

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5. "Fight fire with fire" 

korea summerKorean food can be puzzling sometimes: Hot food in the dead of summer, and an entire chicken as the basis of a health food.

As our spicy Korean foodie quest illustrates, Koreans tend to be masochistic when it comes to food.

Hence the traditionally designated “boknal” -- the three hottest days in the summer -- when you're supposed to indulge in something super nutritious ... and super hot. 

This year boknal fall on July 18 (“chobok”), July 28 (“jungbok”) and August 7 (“malbok”) and samgyetang (hot chicken ginseng stew) is a classic "yi yeol chi yeol" ("fight fire with fire") boknal remedy, the concept of beating the heat with more heat. 

Where to try it: Tosokchon, one of the most popular samgyetang places in Seoul, is housed in a traditional “hanok," and is known for being a favorite with past Korean presidents. Make sure you get there early, or the wait will take hours. 

Tosokchon (토속촌), 85-1 Chebu-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울시 종로구 체부동 85-1); +82 2 737 7444; 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

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6. Jecheon International Music Film Festival

korea summerEven if all the films suck, you day is not lost: You can jump off a cliff.
JIMFF is a destination film festival that is strategically located by Cheongpung Lake, a seasonal getaway hot spot. It’s about musical movies as much as it is about bungee jumping over the lake.

Random? Yes, but very fun. Crazy fun, even. 

The lineup includes not just Bollywood musical films, but also works in which the film score plays a central role in the narrative (some of the fest’s biggest hits include the Irish indie flick “Once” starring The Swell Season), as well as documentaries about African drummers or famous rockers.

Live concerts take place all over the venue -- from stage performances by major K-Pop stars to street samulnori (traditional Korean percussion) gigs.

Jecheon International Music Film Festival (JIMFF), Jecheon (제천), North Chungcheong Province
128-1 Hwasan-dong, Jecheon, North Chungcheong Province 충청북도 제천시 화산동 128-1; +82 43 646 2242
Dates: August 9-15
Tickets: www.jimff.org

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A member of the UNESCO International Dance Council, Hyo-won Lee writes for The Korea Times while contributing to The Hollywood Reporter and appearing on English radio programs. In her free time she can be spotted ordering “jajangmyeon” during a picnic by the Han River, snooping around vintage boutiques or trying to compose tone poems.

Read more about Hyo-won Lee