A September 2005 trip
to Seoul by E. B.
Quote: A lot has changed since I last visited the Korean Folk Village, known to native Koreans as Minsokchon. Twenty years ago, I remember a quaint town of yesteryear. Today, it resembled a miniature Disneyworld. American culture has pervaded the world, even in a folk town meant to be authentic.
1. The Facilities Zone, which is a commercial area with restaurants and souvenir gifts shops
2. The Folk Village Tour Zone, which is where you can see performers, museums, and traditional houses and buildings that illustrate the old-fashioned way of life
3. The Bazaar, where you buy merchandise and eat in a country-style food court
4. The Family Park, where you can ride amusement-park rides with children and adults who are kids-at-heart
You should definitely check out the performers. You can see an elderly man walk a tightrope and perform tricks. The traditional folk band is something you should see if you have never seen a Korean band. Drummers perform acrobatic tricks as they play. Also, you can drink dongdongjoo rice wine at the food court. Minsokchon is reputed to have excellent rice wine, so you should partake in it while you have the chance.
There are five museums within Minsokchon, so give yourself plenty of time to see them all. If you go early when the park opens, you should be able to see all the sights within 1 day.
1. From Jamsil, take bus no. 1116 towards Bundang. It will take you to Minsokchon.
2. From the Gangnam Subway Station, take the 1560 or the 5001-1 seat bus towards Yangje-dong. It will take you to Minsokchon.
3. From Suwon Station, take bus nos. 37 or 10-5 towards Shingal. It will take you to Minsokchon.
4. From Gwanghwamun, you can take bus no. 5500-1 towards Yangje-dong. It will take you to Minsokchon.
5. From Yeouido, you can take bus no. 7007-1 towards Yangje-dong. It will take you to Minsokchon.
You can also take a shuttle bus from the Suwon subway station. It runs at 10:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, and 2:30pm.
You can always take a taxi or even come in your own car. Parking is not very expensive. It’s 3000 won, which is about .
The first place we visited was the World Folklore Museum. Then we went directly to the performance area. There was a folk band, a tightrope walker, women jumping on a seesaw, and men riding horses. Afterwards we went to watch the traditional wedding ceremony. My sister was bored, so we walked to the Korean Paper Workshop station. You can pick out handmade paper banners with calligraphy on them. My sister picked out one that said the Buddhist equivalent of, "Patience is a virtue."
Then we visited the Haunted House. It wasn’t very scary, but a little girl did cry. On our way to the Korean food court, we bought yut, Korean taffy candy. My sister bought a handmade traditional pipe for her friend. At the food court we drank dongdongjoo (rice wine). We also ate jun (a spicy pancake). After finishing the wine and pancake, my cousins decided to buy soondae, a sausage made by stuffing rice and noodles inside pig intestines.
After we ate, we walked through the traditional houses in Jeju Island. There were chickens and pheasants in coops. Huge black pigs resided in a pen. There was a playground area where you can swing on stand-up swings. Those were popular, so you had to stand in line. There was also a seesaw where you could try to jump in the air. My cousins and I tried, but we had difficulty. We also threw long bamboo sticks into a metal target. Although my sister and my cousins attempted to hit their marks, I was the only one to hit the target twice. We then visited the Korean Folk Museum and the Historical Drama Exhibition.
Minsokchon was getting near closing time, so we quickly hopped aboard two rides before getting kicked out of the park. The first ride was the Viking, a huge boat that swings high in the air. It’s fun but not scary, definitely appropriate for small kids. The last ride was the 3D Theatre called The Simulator. It is a car that has a movie screen showing different roller coasters in Europe. The car moves and shakes with the twists and turns that you see onscreen.
We were tired and out of time. Next time we visit, we’ll have to get an early start in order to see everything. Minsokchon is open 9am to 5pm (winter) and 9am to 6:30pm (summer). The park closes 30 minutes later on Sundays and holidays.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 16, 2005
Korean Folk Village
Yongin, Gyeonggi 449-900
Then you move to another arena, where you watch two women jump into the air with the help of a seesaw to leverage them into flight. The two women come out in traditional outfits, except for two differences. The skirts, which are traditionally long, have been updated into miniskirts. The women also wear sneakers. It was odd, but I can see why they have miniskirts. The women would get caught on their skirts, and also the sneakers protect their feet. They go pretty high up into the air.
After that, a tightrope walker comes out. I was amazed at how limber such an old man was. He’s been tightrope walking for 40 years. 40 years. I don’t know how old he is, but I hope that I’ll be as agile as him when I’m his age. He would hop on one leg across the rope then crack jokes. My sister got very bored since she wasn’t really listening to his speeches. It’s very hard to sit through it unless you understand what’s he is saying, but he does require some time to recuperate in between his sets. After all, he’s no spring chicken. While I was watching the tightrope walker, my sister went to watch other performers do tricks on horseback.
When we made our way to the horse-riding arena, it was very crowded. Unfortunately, it was going on at the same time as the tightrope walking. They really should stagger the shows so that people would give each performance the attention that it really deserves. The people who got bored with the tightrope walker did what my sister did—leave for the horses. What little I did see of it was like a rodeo.
After that, we went to see the traditional Korean wedding. Again, there was a huge crowd, so it was hard to see. At least there was an English translation for this event, but the pace was so slow, my sister didn’t want to continue. Since it was so hot and humid, I didn’t really want to stay either. The best thing to do is go when the weather is better, preferably in the fall, before it begins to get really cold, or the spring, before it gets really hot.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 16, 2005
Traditional Folk Performers at Minsokchon
107, Bora-ri, Kiheung-eup
Seoul, South Korea
Attraction | "The World Folklore Museum"
In Exhibition Hall 1 are Afghanistan, Turkey, and Pakistan. I was amazed at how the Afghani house called a yurt looks very similar to the roundhouses of Native American tribes.
In Exhibition Hall 2 were Mongolia and China. The Mongolian house called the gher also resembled the roundhouse. There were little models of native towns of each country.
In Exhibition Hall 3 was Japan. There were native costumes of warriors and women, tools, and Japanese food.
In Exhibition Hall 4 were Malaysia and Indonesia. I enjoyed the percussion instruments at the end of the hall. A child was playing on the drums, so I went ahead and played the drums, too.
In Exhibition Hall 5 were Papua New Guinea and Australia. The most unusual item was the penile sheath. Instead of wearing a loincloth to cover their genitals, the traditional Papua New Guinean wear is a sheath to cover their penises. I liked the Australian exhibit, but I thought it would have been better if the native people of Australia were named as Koori—their own word for themselves—rather than Aborigines as the British immigrants named them. It was also here that I noticed that the native food of the Koori was incorrect. After this, I examined the native foods more thoroughly.
In Exhibition Hall 6 were the native tribes of the United States of America and Mexico. I wish they had highlighted the diversity of the tribes. Native American tribes are extremely different from one another. An Inuit (formerly known as the derogatory word "Eskimo") is nothing like a Tongva (usually known as a Gabrieliño Indian). I was extremely pleased to see that they had featured the Huichol tribe from Mexico. My sister and I had visited Puerto Vallarta. We visited a Huichol art gallery. Unfortunately, some of the Huichol art wasn’t really Huichol, although some of it was.
In Exhibition Hall 7 were Peru and Brazil. I was thinking of all the immigrants in Peru—European and Asian—who did not look like native Peruvians. The Brazilian native tribes I have seen in various movies, so I wondered if they were accurately represented, since the Australian, Native American, and Mexican food looked a bit off.
In Exhibition Hall 8 were the tribes of Africa. Although it was titled as North and South Africa, I noticed food and tribal instruments from East Africa, particularly Ethiopia. In this exhibit, the food was accurately represented. I have had quite a bit of Ethiopian food, so I recognized the dishes.
My sister and my cousin rushed us through the museum. In our haste, we missed the special exhibition hall in the World Folklore Garden. Instead, we ended up at the gift shop. We glanced through the souvenirs quickly, then left.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 18, 2005
World Folklore Museum
107, Bora-ri, Giheung-eup
Seoul, South Korea
Attraction | "The Folk Museum"
There were diagrams of the Korean floor heating system called ondol. Instead of heating air and circulating it out from a Western-style air duct, Koreans heat up water to steam the underside of the floor. Since heat rises, the heated floor warms the air in the room. It’s a pretty effective way to keep warm during frosty winters.
There were also the rites of passage that people go through: weddings, funerals, and birthdays. You celebrate baek-il (100 days) when a baby is 100 days old. Due to high infant mortality, people celebrated the event when a baby made it to its 100th day. The sixtieth birthday is called hwangap. In Chinese astrology, there are twelve signs for each year—rat, cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Each animal has five different elements—fire, water, earth, wood, and metal. With the combination of the twelve animal signs and the five elements, it takes 60 years for the exact same combination to cycle around again. In the traditional wedding ritual called pye-baek, the parents of the couple throw dates and chestnuts to wish the couple many children. The bride catches them in her skirt. The number caught signifies how many children she is fated to have. There was the shamanic kut ritual that a mu-dahng (Korean shaman) performs when people die to make sure the spirit of the departed does not haunt the family of the deceased.
What particularly interested me was the intricate table setting for Chuseok. My sister and I were visiting Korea for the first time during Chuseok. There is a particular order of the traditional foods served during Chuseok. I happened to visit Palm Springs right before my trip to Korea, so I bought dried dates for my family since I was seeking items that were particularly Californian—such as Napa wines, dates from Cabazon, and Ghirardelli chocolate from San Francisco. As it turned out, dates are actually one of the traditional dishes for Chuseok.
When you celebrate Chuseok, you give thanks and prayers to your dead family members. You perform rites that are Buddhist in origin by offering food and pouring a drink to your ancestors. The idea of "pouring one for your homies" is not an original idea that belongs to African Americans but is religious in origin that goes back even to the Greeks who poured out some wine to the Greek gods.
So it is in examining the clothing, foods, and customs that are particular to a specific country that I continue to remember that people are universally the same.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 18, 2005
National Folk Museum of Korea
1-1 Sejongro Jongno-gu
Seoul, South Korea 110-050
+82 (0)2 3704 3114