From the 1st of October until the 13th every year Jinju puts on a massive festival of lights and lanterns along the Nam River, we took a trip up this weekend to see it.
Reading about this festival beforehand it sounded a lot like Loi Krathong in Thailand however once we were there we noticed the differences between the two.
For one, they hold two very different meanings. Secondly, the Korean festival is only held in the city of Jinju so if you wish to go you must make your way to Jinju. However in Thailand it is a country-wide national holiday.
We arrived in the afternoon when it was still light out and took our time exploring Jinju Fortress which is the setting in which the festival is held.
The festival is held to commemorate the 70,000 troops who died defending Jinju from the Japanese during the 1592-1598 Imjin War. During the war lanterns were used as a form of communication and once it had finished the people continued to float the lanterns down the river to remember those who were lost.
Walking around the festival there are many things to look at, such as the ‘Tunnel of wish lanterns’ where people who come to the festival can write a wish and hang it for all to see. This is beautiful as the last number we could find was 27,000 which gives you an idea how many lanterns were hanging in this ‘tunnel’. Anyone can hang their own lantern for 10,000 ₩. It is impressive by day with the blue and orange lanterns swaying in the wind, but by night all of these lanterns light up and make a magical tunnel which goes on and on for ages!
If you do not want to have your wishes open for everyone to see you can buy or even make your own lantern to float down the river for 3,000₩. Made from paper and a candle in the middle it’s very simple and Andy, Victoria and I decided that we would try this. We all sat down and attached our wishes to the lantern along with some decorations before setting off again as you can only send your lanterns down the river between 6pm and 11pm.
As the sun started to dim, all the giant lanterns turned on… and there were loads!!! Each one was to represent Korea’s culture, dancing, food and scenes from the Battle. It makes for a very beautiful scene as they all sway on the water giving of beautiful ripples of light down the river.
We continued to walk and stopped of constantly to take pictures of the hundreds of lanterns which were huge! There were food stalls from all around the world and sweets like Churros and candy floss not to mention all sorts of glowing, flashing accessories and toys.
Unfortunately the last bus was quite early at 8.00 back to Geoje so we headed down to the river to light out lanterns and send them off down the Nam river along with our wishes.
Unlike Thailand there are no Chinese lanterns which light up and float in the sky which would have given the festival the same magical feeling as Loi Krathong.
Setting them off it was funny as we were instantly transported back almost 2 years to the day when we were setting our krathong’s down the river in Thailand.
All in all it was a very beautiful festival and with the fortress light up at night it was an impressive scene.
I would defiantly recommend it!