My first weekend in Korea involved a jetlagged Holly navigating her first steps in terra incognita, finding strange new foods to eat and sleeping for 13 hours at a time to make up for a bleary-eyed cross-Pacific flight. By the next weekend, my nights and days had realigned and I was more than ready to begin exploring beyond the boundaries of the Seoul regional train system and my school, hotel and training headquarters.
Due to its proximity to my current neighbourhood, the Korean Folk Village seemed like a fine choice. On a hot Sunday afternoon, after looking up transportation options, I caught a free shuttle to a site that, though created in 1974, is now used to film several Korean historical dramas. Oh, Koreans and their K-dramas. That will make for a nice activity on a wintry day, but for now, sunshine, green leaves and fancy buildings are more enticing.
Fifteen minutes later, I was dropped off at the front gates, where I paid the 15 000 won entrance fee and made my way into the village.
Food vendors were at work just through the gates, selling both traditional soybean and pork dishes and hot dogs without missing a beat. I strolled along, appreciating the blue-and-red lanterns strung among the trees, before crossing a traditional wooden bridge across a stream. There I saw signs for a sculpture garden, which I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to visit. I did stop by the World Folk Museum, which took me by surprise with its detailed displays of traditional cultures from other nations, including Turkey and Iran.
There are four different half-hour performances that take place twice a day. I would recommend planning one’s day around seeing them, as they’re well worth it!
The farmer’s music and dance involved a dozen men in traditional attire (hanbok), carrying a variety of percussion instruments and putting on quite the spectacle. The songs performed were traditionally done to pray for a good harvest.
Next up was tightrope walking- a man in elaborate costume performed a series of increasingly daring moves on a tightrope. However, the tricks were somewhat repetitive, and there was a long break in between each trek across the rope as a story was told in Korean- somewhat frustrating for those unable to follow the plot (and one of those times a local friend fluent in Korean would be handy!).
A display of martial arts on horseback was certainly the most impressive feat, although I was too far away to take any decent photos. Men and women performed a series of acrobatic feats on horseback. Archers stood on the back of their horses, galloping at full tilt, and shot an arrow at a target with impressive accuracy!
Finally, a traditional wedding ceremony took place, complete with an elaborately costumed bride, a lot of red, blue, white and yellow, and a man reading various wedding rites (or anything, really, I’d never know!) in a neat, melodic vocal style.
Before leaving, I finally got to try the famed “King’s dessert“- a concoction made by poking a hole into a solid blob of honey, stretching it into a ring while dipping it in rice flour, then stretching it into 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, all the way to 16 000 fine strands of sweetness. Chunks of these threads are wrapped around crushed peanuts, and sold to newbies and long-time fans both. Delicious!
Overall, I thought the Korean Folk Village in Yongin was well-worth the time and money. For the 15 000 won entrance fee (~$16 CAD) , I could see beautiful traditional buildings and bridges, watch cultural activities, and learn about Korea’s history. This place is definitely suitable for children, families, ajjimas, backpackers, couples, waeguk and hanguk alike. Without paying for extras like going on a paddleboat, I was entertained for nearly 4 hours, and I didn’t see everything I would have liked to. I can’t say how it compares to folk villages elsewhere in Korea, but hey, check it out if you’re in the area! 😉