4 upcoming festivals in Korea actually worth attending

4 upcoming festivals in Korea actually worth attending

Snow, fire, costumes, street food and subsidized entertainment at some of Korea's showiest annual events

Korea has a helpless addiction to festivals. Whether it's pottery or smart phones, food or flowers, anything remotely worthy of celebration gets its own festival. But for the discerning visitor (or local), this abundance means little, because not all festivals, unfortunately, were created equal. 

Fortunately, we've done the work and gathered four of the best festivals below. 

Although they can get a little cheesy with their advertising (is there any combination of words more boring than "multi-cultural events?") this quartet has some rollicking fun in the works. 

Snow, fire, concerts and fireworks? Count us in. 

New Year (Seollal) Festival 

SeollalThis kind of jumping takes great skill and practice.
The solar New Year's Day may have come and gone, but in Korea, there's still Lunar New Year's Day, or Seollal, as it's called here. The Seoul Museum of History (recently home to a quirky exhibit on the history of Korean robots) will be holding its annual Seollal Festival on Lunar New Year's Day, which falls on January 23.

From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the museum will showcase performances, instruments, traditional outfits, and food from around the world, in a scheme to introduce a more international angle to the traditionally Korean event. 

Festival participants will be able to sample traditional food, try on traditional clothing and try out traditional musical instruments from various countries, including China, Thailand and Mongolia as well as Korea. 

50 Saemunan-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea (서울특별시 종로구 새문안로 50); +82 2 724 0274; www.museum.seoul.kr

Taebaek Mountain Snow Festival

taebaek mountainNature's entry for the snow sculpture contest.

With four distinctly beautiful seasons in Korea, it's hard to pick a favorite, but here's a case for winter: the Taebaek mountain range covered in powdery white snow may be one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. 

To celebrate the snowfall, Taebaek plays host to a snow festival every winter for 10 days. This year, the festival will take place from January 27 to February 5. 

The festival will open with a musical performance and a snow sculpting contest for university art students. Festivities also include a national climbing contest, a snowman contest and Okung sled riding. Giant ice sculptures will adorn the designated area, and there will also be driving and sledding courses, including a course for dog sled rides.  

21 Taebaek-si Taebum-ro, Gangwon-do (강원도 태백시 태붐로 21); +82 33 550 2085; festival.taebaek.go.kr

Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival

DaeboreumA legal way to play with fire.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival on Jeju Island. The festival is supposedly about the "burning away of misfortune" and "attraction of luck," and it just might increase your chances of finally getting that promotion this year. 

Held from February 2 to February 4, the Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival will begin with a prayer ritual for a good harvest. Throughout the day there will be folk performances, a tug-of-war for "Great Unity", a "lighting of the sacred fire," a "moon house" building competition, a volcanic eruption show, a stone lifting demonstration (deumdol-deulgi), congratulatory performances from international exchange cities, fireworks and a laser show. 

Luck is an uncertain concept, and this festival may not necessarily bring you luck or "burn" your misfortune away. But it certainly looks ready to bring you a good time. 

Yon-dong, Jeju-city, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province (제주특별자치도 제주시 광양9길 제주시청); +82 64 728 3021; buriburi.go.kr

Hi Seoul Festival 2012

Hi Seoul
In 2011, more than 10 million people attended the Hi Seoul Festival, the biggest street festival in the capital. Held annually since 2003, the festival is one of the biggest attractions of the year, for locals and tourists alike. This year's theme is "non-verbal performance." 

The festival begins at the Han River Park and ends in downtown Seoul, and will feature a wide array of interpretive performances, concerts and other activities over the course of five days.

517 Cheonggyecheon-ro, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, Korea (서울특별시 동대문구 청계천로 517);+82 2 3290 7000; hiseoulfest.org

Lotus Lantern Festival 

Lotus lanternHappy birthday, Buddha.
The Lotus Lantern Festival, or Yeon Deung Hoe, is one of Korea's oldest folk festivals, dating back to the Goryeo Dynasty. The festival celebrates Buddha's birthday, but is open to people of all religions, and will be held this year from May 18 until May 20, 

The streets of Jongno will be bustling with participants as they gather to see the exhibition of traditional lanterns, the lotus lantern parade, the Buddhist street festival and other cultural performances.

The lotus lantern parade will be held on May 19, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., from Dongdaemun to Jogye-sa Temple, along Jongno-gil, and the Buddhist street festival will be held on May 20 from noon to 6 p.m. on the street in front of Jogye-sa Temple. The highlight of the packed schedule, however, is the final Dharma Ceremony and lantern lighting on May 28, at 10 a.m.

Although the festival is only three days long, traditional lanterns will be on display for ten days, from May 18 to March 28, at Bongeun-sa Temple.

110-170 Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea (110-170 서울특별시 종로구 견지동 45); +82 2 2011 1774; llf.or.kr/eng

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Heidi Chung was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and received her Bachelor's Degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is currently training to become a broadcast journalist. 

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