By Ben Cowles
From October 1-13, hundreds of spirits, soldiers, and denizens from Korea’s past emblazon the night in the small fortified city of Jinju.
The Namgang Lantern Festival (진주 남강 유등 축제) is held every autumn in the small (for Korea) city of Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province. The festival not only commemorates the city’s great victory in the Imjin war, but also depicts traditional life in Korea at the time. Centred around the fortress and the Nam River (Namgang) outside, the lanterns bask the city in a beautiful glow. Accompanying the artistic luminosity are traditional foods, drinks, games, and fantastic performances of Joseon music, dance, and song.
City after city fell to samurai swords, yet Jinju refused to be capitulated. Utterly outnumbered and outgunned the ragtag army under the leadership of general Simin pushed the Japanese invaders back. Pic: Ben Cowles, monkeyboygoes.com
The city's great triumph was short lived however as the samurai returned in greater numbers, and this time levelled everything. The conflict raged for a further six years and ended in stalemate. Pic: Ben Cowles, monkeyboygoes.com
The festival is not all soldiers and war though. Korea's past customs, games, jobs, and beliefs are all represented in glorious glowing paper. Pic: Ben Cowles, monkeyboygoes.com
Here's the monkey from the Chinese zodiac. Pic: Ben Cowles, monkeyboygoes.com
Daksaum, or chicken fight, is a traditional children's wrestling game. The participants hold onto one leg and, hopping around like a chicken, try to knock their opponent's leg to the floor. Pic: Ben Cowles, monkeyboygoes.com
Joseon men enjoy a tea ceremony. Pic: Ben Cowles, monkeyboygoes.com
Young children giggle as they ride on tomorrow's dinner. Pic: Ben Cowles, monkeyboygoes.com
Janggi is a chess like game originating in China and is still played by old folks in parks across Korea. Pic: Ben Cowles, monkeyboygoes.com
Outside the Nam river is illuminated by hundreds of floating lanterns.Pic: Ben Cowles, monkeyboygoes.com
Jinju is easy to reach from Busan or Seoul by bus or train. The festival last for several days and is likely to be very busy on the weekends. However, don’t let that deter you from experiencing one of Korea’s most awesome festivities.
Find accommodation in South Korea to suit your budget on Agoda.com