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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Jinju Namgang Lantern Festival

A few week ago, Monica asked me if I wanted to go on a "culture trip" to the Lantern Festival with E.P.I.K. (the company I work for!)  Once in a while, they plan culture trips for the foreign teachers to go to different historical sights in the country as a thank you for our hard work.  I applied, and was chosen to go!  Fun news was, I got to bring Okk with me because it was a co-teacher culture trip!

So, on Friday, Okk and I left work early at 1:45pm and headed to the designated spot, where we boarded a fancy greyhound style bus with 35 other foreign teachers and their co-teachers and headed the 2 hours to Jinju!

First stop was Jinju Castle, the sight of the Japanese seige of 1592 and 1593.

These dragons were painted on the ceiling of the castle's main gate.  The tour guide told us that there's a Korean myth which says if you look right into the dragon's eyes for 3 seconds, you will have good luck for 3 years!  Okk and I did it for 9 seconds, hoping maybe we'd get lucky for 9 years instead of just 3! :) 

This fortress wall was built in 1379, surrounding the castle, and YES, this is the original wall where Korean soldiers fought!  This was our darling tour guide who stayed with us for the first 30 minutes or so.  Then we were allowed to roam around as we pleased!

These were the actual cannons used during the Japanese invasion.  Although, these didn't shoot bombs, they shot off arrows! 

Koreans follow the Chinese zodiac calendar, according to their birthdays.  The castle had statues of each zodiac animal.  Okk was born in the year of the monkey!  LOL

I was born in the year of the rooster!  I'm not sure exactly what it's suppossed to mean, but after looking at wikipedia, it says the roosters motto is, "I know!" which seems about accurate to my own motto!  LOL

The castle actually sits on the Namgang River, so this was our first glimpse at the floating lanterns!

Aaron and I always talk about how Korea "koreanizes everything", meaning they kind of try too hard to make things interesting by creating things like this light up tree on the castle grounds.

and this light up law decor... which granted, is very beautiful!  This one depicts a traditional Korean funeral procession. 

This one depicts a traditional Korean childrens game!  I don't know if you remember my blog about this at my last school.  My students would play this during break time.  It's the weirdest, most uncomfortable looking game, but they love it!

This Korean woman was taking a picture "dong cheeming" the boys butt!  If you've followed my blog for a while, you should know about dong cheems!  If not, Korean kids close their hand, leaving their pointer fingers up, and basically run up behind their friends and shove they fingers up their butt and yell "Dong cheem!"  NO JOKE!  I thought it was so funny that she was doing it, so I ran up with her and had Okk snap a picture!  We all had a good laugh about it! 

The foreign teachers and their co-teachers all gather together for dinner at a fancy restaurant (all paid for by my employer - awesome!) and then headed back out to the river to see the floating lanterns! These lanterns are to commemorate the patriotic spirit of 70,000 militia corps and government troops who died for Korea while defending the city from Japanese forces during the Imjin War (1592–1598).

The lanters were so beeautiful, all shining on the river's water.  I'm not sure how many there were, but I would guess there were between 100-200 total!

Okk and I took a walk along the rivers path where vendors had set up tents selling Korean food, arts and crafts and jewelry.  Within the path, there were 3 long and expanisve tunnels with handmade hanging lanterns!  Okk said she thought these were made by Jinju High School students!  It was definitely one of my favorite sights of the whole trip!  These were hanging for as far as the eye could see!

They also had these moving oversized lanterns along the pathway! 
This dragon actually shot fire out of it's mouth!

A two story high lantern pagoda.

This peacock was awesome, and HUGE!  It was about 30 feet tall and would open and close it's tail feathers every 5 minutes or so!  Absolutely stunning!

This lantern tunnel was filled with "purchased lanterns" with hand written notes hanging from each.

I had Okk stand next to this one because the girl had written that she wished to find a boyfriend! LOL

I had seen a picture, once, years ago of this festival and how people could light candles, attached paper lanterns, make a wish, and float it down the river!  So, when I saw the area where we could do it, I was super excited!  Whenever we saw a "man lantern," we joked that it was Okk's boyfriend and would say how tall and handsome he was! haha... Here we are with our lanterns!

Okk's wish was to find a boyfriend!  (Not a husband, just a boyfriend!)  haha!  I love her!

...About to float my lantern down the river...

I wrote two wishes on my lantern.  One the left one, I wrote, "I wish to be very happy and in love forever!  I wish!"  On the right one, I wrote "I wish for good health for my mom, dad, and sister!"  Here's hoping! :)

Our candles are lit and we're ready to go! 
I know it's kind of lame to say that this moment was a dream come true, but it kind of was!
I really wanted to do this before I left Korea!

There they go... floating down the river!

After releasing our lanterns, we walked the path back to the restaurant where we meet to board the bus back to Busan.  Okk and I had such a great time and kept saying how much fun we were having together!  It's one thing to enjoy a fantastic festival... It's another thing to do it with one of your best friends! 
So glad we went!   

*** As a side note for anyone living in Korea and wanting to visit the Festival. Here are some directions: Take an express bus to Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal.  Exit the Terminal towards the river. Turn right, and walk for 5min to arrive at the festival site.  It's totally worth it!


  1. Tony! It was great meeting you too! :) Okk and I had a great time with you at dinner the other night too!