The Seoul Fringe Festival 2010

For those who are in Seoul these days, there is an event you cannot miss. The Seoul Fringe Festival, which takes place every year in the area near Hongik University will be taking place from August 12th to the 28th.

This year’s festival poster.

Hongdae Area, or just Hongdae, is the area surrounding Hongik University, and one of the most vivid areas in Seoul. Being Hongik a university manly for art-related studies, the area surrounding it is full of art galleries, street markets, coffee shops and other interesting places. Hongdae is where Koreans try to scape from its Confucianist rules and become free. Many Korean alternative music groups (like 10cm, Crying Nut or Deli Spice) started playing for free in the streets of Hongdae.

Any weekend you can see performances in this ares, but during this festival there will be many more, and also during weekdays. There will be lots of live performances in the streets, and art centers. Outdoor performances are free of charge. Indoor ones range from 5,000 KRW ($4) to 15,000 ($13).

To give you an idea of what you can find during the festival, here is one of the promotional videos with images from last year’s festival.

Boryeong Mud Festival

The Boryeong Mud Festival is one of the most popular events of the summer in Korea among the foreign community in the country. This festival started in 1998, when the city of Boryeong decided that it would be good to have a small mud festival to promote the products based in the mud that the city produces. After some years, the festival attracts millions of people every year and its popularity keeps growing year after year. After missing this festival the last two summers, this time I could not miss it, so there we went to spend the weekend in this city in the west Korean coast.

Andoni was one of the first ones to jump into the mud.

Group picture on saturday. Even though it rained a little, it was not cold at all and we could enjoy the mud.

Of course, we couldn’t miss a music band in the festival. If was funny to see them struggling not to get dirty with mud.

Although there were also quite many Koreans in the festival, the truth is that more than half of the people in this festival are foreigners living in Korea, among whom the festival is quite popular.

During the night there is also quite a good atmosphere in the festival, there are concerts, lots of beach-bars open, fireworks, etc.

After the rain on saturday, on sunday we were lucky enough to enjoy a great sunny day.

As the pictures that I took were not as awesome as I would have liked to, here you have somebody else’s much better ones.

Korean Movies with Subtitles

For those who are in Seoul, since a couple of weeks ago, it is finally possible to watch Korean movies with subtitles in English at the CGV movie theaters in Gangnam, Yongsan, Myeongdong, and Guro, thanks to the Seoul City Hall and CGV itself. I think this is a great idea, as there are a great community of foreigners in Seoul who were really looking forward to watching recent Korean movies with subtitles in English. I got to know about this initiative because we got an invitation to see one of these Korean movies with subtitles in exchange for filling out a survey asking us what we thought about this initiative and whether we would be willing to watch more Korean movies if they offered them with subtitles in English. Of course, I guess the survey showed that foreigners in Seoul are looking forward to watching Korean movies, and the initiative has been passed. Now we (foreigners) only need CGV offering schedules of movies in English on their website 🙂

Poster of 방자전 (The Servant), one of the most popular Korean movies this year, which we were invited to watch.

Yellow Dust Storm (Hwangsa)

The Yellow Dust storms (or hwangsa, as they call it in Korea) are a phenomenon quite common in countries like Korea, Japan, or China. These storms are basically dust clouds coming from the Gobi Dessert that are brought to Korea by strong winds. This dust, on its way to Korea is mixed with sulfur, ash, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants released by Chinese factories, and passes over to the two Koreas, and Japan as a yellow fog which makes you not feeling like going out at all.

View from my window, on a day with hwangsa.

During days with hwangsa, it is very common to see people in the streets wearing these surgical masks to protect themselves from the dust, from children to the elders. These masks are usually sold in the street or in the subway stations, and there are a lot of different models to choose from (someday I will make a post about those too).

A child protecting himself from hwagsa with a mask (and from the cold with his bear hat.

Buddha’s Birthday

Last May 21st was Buddha’s Birthday. Being Buddhism the majority religion in Korea, this day, as in many other countries in Asia, is celebrated in a very special way. During all the week before this day, several parades take place around the most touristic areas of Seoul. We decided to take a walk around Gwanghwamun and Insadong during the first day of the celebrations.

The parade in Insadong reminded me of the Cavalcade of Magi in Spain.

Pungmul performance during the parade.

As in Chinese culture, the dragon is a very important figure in Korean culture, and it is very present in all Korean celebrations.

Chariots were made of a kind of paper with light inside, which made them very colorful at night.

View of another chariot.

Lanterns are everywhere in the city during the Budda’s Birthday previous days. All Buddhist temples, as well as the busiest areas of the biggest Korean cities are adorned with lanterns like these during these days.

More lanterns 🙂

View of the Jogyesa Temple, with all the lanterns for Budda’s Birthday.

Also for this occasion, the Cheonggye Stream (a.k.a. Cheonggyecheon) had this great look with all the lanterns.