한국민속촌 Korean Folk Village

As part of the week leading up to Chuseok my school was super busy. My students had soccer games in the middle of the day, there were cultural festivities and guests and all sorts of fun things that meant I barely had any classes at all. The only day where I was with my students at my main school for the majority of the day was when we all went on a field trip to Yongin which is an area near Suwon, South of Seoul. We went to a folk village that my coworkers had trouble explaining to me beyond “The vice principal thinks it will be good for you.” It’s been awhile since I’ve been invited to go on one of the field trips so I was excited.

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We took three buses to Yongin and as soon as we were there we headed straight to one of the performances. There are about three small performance areas all next to each other that host different shows. I managed to see three throughout the day. The first one we all went to was Equestrian Feats 마상무예  which happens twice daily at 11:30 and 3:00pm. It was really fun to watch the performances and tricks they were able to do.

There was however limited seating and availability to see. By the time we arrived most of it was already taken up by other school groups on field trips.

After the equestrian feats performance we split up for lunch. The students packed picnic lunches and all ate together with their classes and homeroom teachers, except for the older students who were allowed to do what they wanted and their teachers joined the other miscellaneous staff like myself at a restaurant. It was near the entrance where all the other food stands and snack shops were. However it had plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, unlike the stands. The restaurant offered a variety of Korean food and was set up like a Korean food court. You order your food, pay, and then head towards the corresponding counter to give them your receipt and wait for your food. They sold bibimbap and rice dishes, soups and stews, grilled fish and noodle dish, a variety of meat platters like jokbal (a sweet pig feet dish) and snacks. The majority of my coworkers ordered Andong-style wild vegetable bibimbap (8,000 won). I like bibimbap but it usually comes with gochujang already a part of the dish and thus spicy. Even though the menu didn’t make it look spicy what my coworkers ended up with did have that red pepper paste in it. Instead I ordered the Pyongyang-style cold buckwheat noodles or 평양 물냉면 which was refreshing on such a humid hot day and cheaper at 7,000won. Everything like water, chopsticks, scissors, spoons and accoutrements were near the pick up counters.

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After some confusion I learned that I didn’t have to stay with anyone and could just wander about at my leisure until we met up later, so I headed off to explore the amusement park and see what it was. It was cute, with interesting looking buildings.

I found some of my students waiting in line for the Viking and buying gelato in some of the shops. There are about 15 rides and it’s a popular spot leading to long waits. My students told me that they didn’t ride a lot of them due to how long some of the lines were or the wait time. They had fun though, a few even went in the Ghost Zone which tells stories about the different types of ghosts found in Korea. It costs 3,000 won per adult and 2,000 for children (2,500 for teens) to visit. This isn’t the only scary ride, there is also one called “Legendary Hometown” which is 500 won more expensive no matter the age then the Horror of the Ghost Zone. I am not sure, since I didn’t go in, how much of these rides would be easy to understand since they seem to be story based.

After bidding my students farewell to wait in lines I headed across the river to visit the folk museum and some of the more historic and cultural buildings.

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The first spot I visited was Seowon which was a Confucian Institute. It was also one of the filming sites for Korean dramas. Because of how big the Korean Folk Village is and all of its historical grounds it’s a popular spot for historical Korean dramas to be filmed at, having hosted film crews for various shows since 1983.

Nearby were other experiences like viewing traditional houses and how they vary depending on region, a ferryboat ride experience that was available only in the afternoon and by buying tickets at the nearby convenience store for 2,000 won for children and 3,000 won for adults.

I also visited the folk museum which had some English but not enough for me to fully enjoy it. There were many cartoons about Korean traditions and beliefs but they were in Korean. There was plenty to look at though and I was quite happy to see some old type pieces that made me missing using the printing press at my college.

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Throughout the grounds were  plenty of places to get snacks or drinks. Including a scholar’s home that had been converted into a traditional cafe with beautiful art.

I didn’t get anything. Instead I pressed on and found a pocket of my students sitting around eating ice cream which seemed like a good idea.

There were also a lot of other traditional buildings including one where a fortune teller stayed.

At this point it was time to head back to where the performances were held and meet up with my coworkers and students. I ended up catching part of the Farmers Music and Dance 농악놀이 performance that happens twice at 10:30 am and at 2:00 pm across from the event we were all meeting up for.

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Before going home we watched the Acrobatics on a tightrope 줄타기 which I was able to see once before in Suwon. Like the other performances this occurs twice daily at 11:00 and 2:30pm. At this point I saw all of the large performances except for the traditional wedding which happens at the Nobleman’s mansion at 12 and 4pm.  (except during winter from December through February)

We got good seats to see one of the tightropes but were blocked from seeing the other. I’d try to get a seat somewhere where you can see both because we were unlucky and the performer used the rope that was blocked partially from our view. The students greatly enjoyed the show and it was fun. I noticed that the host for the show was the same one who’d hosted the equestrian event and the farmer’s music and dance. From the two tightrope performances I’ve seen it seems that the performer is always accompanied by music (in this case a janggu, traditional drum) and someone else to talk with who adds some sort of comedy to the performance. It’s always fun.

I had a good time walking around the Korean Folk Village on my own. I do wish I’d had time to pop into the information building before going in to get a map with things to do before I’d gone in and been at a loss of where I was or what there was to do. I didn’t even find their website which is available in many languages including English here. My students had a lot of fun during the day, learning and enjoying their time. It seems to be a very popular spot for school trips and I can see why, there’s a little bit of educational, cultural and historical things included with fun performances and a small amusement park. Hours vary by season and weekday versus weekend but it opens daily at 9:30am and tends to close between 5:30pm and 7pm. There was plenty to do and it was very easy to spend the majority of our day there. Ticket prices range from 13,000 won to 27,000 won.

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