World ? Asia ? South Korea

Chunhyang Festival

The story of Chunhyang is performed. Courtesy of Korea National Tourism Organization
Photo courtesy of the Korea National Tourism Organization
May 2009 (annual)
Cost: Free
At this magnificent cultural festival in the city of Namwon, the Korean equivalent of Romeo and Juliet is re-enacted to spectacular effect. The festival's focus is the Kwanghallu Pavilion, where Sung Chunhyang and Lee Mong-Ryong had their famous romance.
The story tells us that Chunhyang, a nationally renowned symbol of female virtue, fell in love with handsome Lee Mongryong, the son of the Governor. Just after they had secretly married, Lee Mongryong had to leave Namwon because his father was transferred to a Government post in Seoul.

Unfortunately for Chunhyang, the new governor of Namwon took rather a fancy to her and would not take no for an answer. She refused to yield to his advances despite his repeated beatings and eventually her husband came back to rescue her and they lived happily ever after.

Koreans have long taken an anti-establishment stance towards those in authority and perhaps the tale is so famous because it underscores the country's resistance to tyranny. Whatever the reason for the story's cultural resonance, this festival draws thousands to Namwon for the re-enactment of the lovers' heart-warming story.

As well as the re-enactment, there is a lamp parade, a Korean music contest, the Miss Chunhyang Pageant, tournaments in archery and ssireum (Korean-style wrestling), and more folk fun and games.
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