Islanders Take Time From Isolation to Fete Their Cultures At Cheju FestivalCheju island is not known as a melting pot, but from May 19 to June 17, the island will be a prime destination for inhabitants of 30 islands from around the world.
They will arrive in Cheju, 100 kilometers off the southern tip of South Korea, to celebrate the second World Festival for Island Cultures. Island life can be an isolated existence. A thread common to many islands is that the isolation has led to colorful lifestyles and cultures and identities that differ from those of inhabitants on the continental land masses.
The 30-day festival will bring together 570 performers from 27 countries at the Ora Tourism Complex in Cheju city. Islanders from such nations as Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Mauritius, Vietnam, Indonesia, Samoa, Russia, Madagascar, Puerto Rico, Chile, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Jamaica will participate, as will representatives of Cheju's sister cities － Santa Monica, United States; Wakayama, Japan and Laizhou, China.
The festival's events are grouped under the theme "From Islands to the World!."
At 7 p.m. on May 18, the eve before opening day, there will be a parade of ships and fireworks at Cheju port, and a street parade.
After the 10 a.m. opening ceremony the following day, each island will showcase its traditional music and dance, which will continue throughout the festival. There will be a percussion festival, a techno music festival and street performances. A troupe from the host island will perform traditional Cheju dances.
To enhance the cultural experience, traditional houses will be constructed for visitors to explore. Tourists will also have an opportunity to watch ssireum, Korean wrestling.
Indoor exhibitions include a percussion gallery and three performance areas devoted to the Asia Pacific, North America/Europe and South America/Africa.
Special events include a Miss Island beauty pageant and a photography exhibition of North Korea. The photographers are South Koreans and foreigners who have been to North Korea. Torches will be lit at Baekdu and Halla mountains, at opposite ends of the two Koreas, in a symbol of peace.
Extra events include a singing contest for married women. Food and folk crafts indigenous to some of the islands will be available.
Organizers said 50,000 participants from foreign nation's will attend. For more information, check the Web site at www.wofic.or.kr (English available).
by Joe Yong-hee