Korean Folk Village (with Photos)


This is an update of two blog posts I published in July 2005 about our first visit to the Korean Folk Village near Seoul, South Korea. Although other folk villages in Korea also showcase traditional Korean architecture and culture, this is the one most locals think of when they hear the term “Korean Folk Village.” The village is featured on my list of Top Ten Things to Do in Korea. This post combines the original two posts into one and includes photos. The original posts are here and here.

My family ventured July 15 to the Korean Folk Village in Yongin, an exurb of Seoul. Reputed to be one of the best daytrips out of the city, it lived up to its reputation. If you visit Seoul and only have time for one daytrip, this is a great place to go.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (1)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (2)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (3)

Opened in 1974, the village is the grandest of all the folk villages dotting South Korea. Although it was built as a tourist attraction, it’s fully functional. Many of the employees dressed up as peasants and in hanbok (traditional Korean dress) also live there. It’s an intriguing sight to see next to the modern high-rise apartment buildings that loom next to the village gates.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (4)

The route to the Korean Folk Village two hours south of Seoul is not well marked, and finding northbound Interstate 1 heading north is not easy.We missed the Giheung exit off Interstate 1 on our way to the village and ended up driving past it to Osan. We backtracked on an arterial road that paralleled the freeway.

By the time we arrived, we were so hungry that we stopped to eat at “Korea Restaurant” near the village gate. We thought that a restaurant with a lofty-sounding name representing the entire country had to have delicious food, but it turned out to be a cafeteria-style, massed-produced food operation with a limited selection and mediocre cuisine. All the restaurants near the entrance looked the same. At least the friendly help took a liking to our young son! If you visit, you’re better off making your way to the far end of the village and eating at the open-air village “Bazzar.” We eventually arrived at the “Bazzar” and saw some of the delicious foods sold there. Live and learn.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (5)

After lunch we went to “Seonangdang,” a religious shrine where one can pray to and solicit favors from the village’s guardian spirits. Koreans, like many peoples around the world, at one time carved ancestral totems out of wood. The ones in the village reminded me of the totem poles made by the Native Americans and First Peoples of the Pacific Northwest, although these totems were bit more free spirited (no pun intended). Korean totems can be whimsical and a bit chaotic with laughing, asymmetrical faces. They also follow the curvature of the wood and occasionally lean.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (6)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (7)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (8)

We walked to the ceramic village, where I bought my first kimchi pot (a ceramic jar used to make kimchi, not kimchi-flavored marijuana). As the national dish of Korea, kimchi is held in high regard in Korea. No meal would be complete without a side dish of spicy and sweet cabbage, radish, or cucumber kimchi. The Italian restaurant where my wife and I occasionally dine in Seoul serves sweet pickles as a substitute (western restaurants in Korea often serve sweet pickles in lieu of banchan, or side dishes).

I’ve wanted to buy a pot for quite some time because I thought they looked decorative. Mine is not too big, perhaps one gallon (two kiloliters). It’s not large enough to make enough kimchi to feed a family. To do that, you would need to buy at least a 20-gallon drum! Although I overpaid for the jar, I was happy to buy one from the shop where it was made. Knowing its source gave it character and an identity.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (9)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (10)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (11)

We made our way through the village and visited a replica of a typical traditional Korean peasant farm.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (12)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (13)

We stopped to watch two elderly women in hanbok making silk. I had never seen how it’s made. One woman boiled silkworm cocoons, killing the larvae, separating each from its cocoon and casting it aside, and helped another woman unravel silk from the cocoon. The second woman spun the raw silk thread around a spinning wheel. Watching them produce silk was fascinating. It’s amazing that such a manual, unglamorous process ends with the creation of one of the world’s most luxurious fabrics.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (15)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (14)

In an open area in the middle of the village, we came upon some traditional Korean games, the see-saw and arrow throwing. In a simulation of the ancient Korean game, some locals tried to throw three-foot long sticks into narrow jars. (Arrow throwing is akin to the western carnival game of throwing balls through holes on a backboard.) The Korean see-saws were thick planks of wood straddling sacks of hay. My son enjoyed giving it a try. Daddy put his foot on the plank and bounced him up and down. He laughed and held on for dear life as daddy rocked him. He then took over and did it himself.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (17)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (16)

Ready for a treat, we went to the “Bazzar” and stopped for ice cream. I loved the atmosphere of the open-air market filled with traditional buildings and workers dressed in peasant clothing. At that moment, contemporary Seoul seemed far away.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (18)

We left the “Bazzar” and crossed the Arch Stone Bridge, a picturesque structure straddling a gentle river flowing through the village.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (19)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (20)

We wandered along the far bank of the river through a group of farmhouses modeled after those found on Jeju Island made of volcanic rock. For the first time, my son saw farm animals that he knew well but had never seen before—rabbits, chickens, pigs, goats, and geese. His eyes lit up when he saw the real version of animals he had read about in books and saw as toys. He especially liked the rabbits. Unfortunately, the geese were unruly. We stood about ten feet from them until four decided to come after us. We backed away quickly and moved out of their territory. I wasn’t about to get bitten by a goose and end up getting rabies shots. That would have been a lousy end to a beautiful day.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (21)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (22)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (25)

I enjoyed trying some of the rudimentary milling equipment, a gristmill and hammermill. It made me thankful that I buy my bread, rice, and pasta at a store.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (23)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (24)

After wandering through replicas of old Jeju Island farms, we ventured into an open area where a Korean acrobat on a high wire performed a delicate balancing act. He did a fabulous job defying gravity, bouncing up and down on the rope, sitting on it, straddling it, and balancing himself on top. He balanced himself grasping only a handkerchief in one hand and a large white fan in the other. He used the fan to control his balance, waving it slowly, then feverishly to bring his body back into equilibrium. Dressed in a white traditional costume, he wore a black Korean-style hat reminiscent of a Korean sage. I enjoyed his performance.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (26)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (27)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (28)

We then headed to the Manor House, where we witnessed a traditional Korean wedding. The condensed ceremony that took place in the main courtyard highlighted some of its interesting aspects. As the ceremony began, the groom took his place to the east of the wedding altar and faced west, sitting cross-legging awaiting his bride. Symbolic foods lay atop the altar, waiting to be parceled to the bride and groom. An old sage to the north of the altar faced south and read the vows from a wedding book.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (29)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (30)

A few minutes later the sage called for the bride to come. She left the Manor House and descended its steps, entering the courtyard with two female assistants. They escorted her to the altar and helped her kneel on both knees to the east so that she faced towards her future husband facing west.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (31)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (32)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (33)

As the sage chanted the wedding vows, assistants offered food and drink to the betrothed couple. They ate chestnuts, a symbol of the yangban, or Korean aristocracy, and other delicacies. The bride’s arms were crossed and positioned over her face so that the groom could not see her until the ceremony ended. Prompted by the sage, the groom and bride stood and bowed to each other. Dressed in hanbok, they made a handsome couple.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (34)

The sage pronounced the couple married, and the ceremony ended as quickly as it started. Having seen many weddings around the world, I enjoyed this unique depiction of an age-old tradition.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (35)

After the ceremony ended, we headed to a modern children’s amusement park in the southern portion of the folk village across the river. Filled with amusements, modern architecture, and contemporary sculptures, it was much different than the rest of the village. We took our son on several rides. He had been such a good sport putting up with our wandering that we knew we needed to treat him to something he would enjoy. He first rode a roving mechanical dog. He was apprehensive about getting close to real animals but had no qualms climbing aboard this slow-moving “dog.” Afterwards, mommy took him on a carrousel for his first merry-go ride, and daddy took him on his first train ride aboard the children’s train. He had a great time.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (36)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (37)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (38)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (39)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (40)

Our son had so much fun that he didn’t nap all day long. Once we finished and went home, he was out like a light. I was tired too and wanted to do the same but had to wait until home to crash. Our fun adventure at the Korean Folk Village wore all of us out.

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village (41)

2005_07_15 Korean Folk Village

Map picture

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

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Hanliu / Hallyu (한류)


Hanliu (한류), also known as hallyu or the “Korean Wave,” refers to the Korean cultural phenomenon now sweeping across East and Southeast Asia.  Korean culture is hot right now, especially in Japan and China.  Asians are discovering the uniqueness and intrigue of a place once known as the Hermit Kingdom.  The phenomenon started with the spread of a 20-parent Korean drama series produced a few years ago called “Winter Sonata.”  You might have even heard of this series in the news.  Right now it’s the hottest thing in Japan and very popular throughout Asia.  Other Korean drama series that are popular right now include “Summer Scent”, “Fall Fairy Tale”, and “Stairway to Heaven” (yes, the Led Zepplin classic is one of the featured songs).  I enjoy watching these dramas to improve my Korean, but they are not my kind of movie.  They can be slow, and the plotlines are too simple and have too many coincidences for my taste.  Rather than using violence to create suspense, these dramas tend to inflict characters with illnesses–blindness, amnesia, and heart failure.  Nothing like a good heart transplant to bring people together.

My wife, who grew up in Asia, is crazy about these movies.  Her favorite actor is a hunk who makes every woman in Asia weak in the knees, Bae Yong Jun (배용준).  Very few actors have made the same kind of splash in the U.S. as BYJ has in Asia.  The rapid rise of Leo DiCaprio after the release of the movie “Titanic” is probably the best comparison to Bae hysteria in Japan and Asia.  Interestingly, the popularity of “Winter Sonata” has cooled in Korea because it’s already a few years old.  I imagine that when the new “Spring” series comes out–the last of the four “seasons” dramas, it will be immensely popular in Korea and Japan.

Korean movies have heightened interest throughout Asia in other aspects of Korean culture, including music, technology, martial arts (tae kwondo), and language.  In Japan the wave of Hanliu is still on the rise.  It’s rare that the Japanese embrace another culture so quickly and feverishly.  Korean dramas are especially popular with Asians because many closely identify with the dramas’ main themes–love, love triangles, family duty, personality conflicts and manipulation, innocence, intimacy, and tragedy.  Korean culture itself is intriguing because it still embodies many Confucian principles, and Asians are revisiting these principles, perhaps for the first time.  This is especially true in China, which lost some of its Confucist character following World War II and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

For Christmas I bought my wife the “Winter Sonata” soundtrack and a Bae Yong Jun T-shirt.  After an exhaustive search I found just one to buy on the Web.  (I found it at Kpopmusic).  I told my mother, and she exclaimed, “You bought her a T-shirt?!”  An American, she doesn’t understand.  At this moment that’s the best gift I could give her.  She plans to wear it proudly and show it off to all the Koreans she knows.