Look Back, Look North or Look Up

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Look Back, Look North or Look Up

Fall is the peak season for cultural events because so many performances and exhibitions are held. In Kyonggi province, there are some well known places you can go as the leaves change color to have interesting cultural experiences among natural surroundings.

Yangju Byeolsandae-nori

Every Saturday, you can enjoy a free Korean traditional theatrical performance at an outdoor stage located at the foot of Mount Bulgok in Yangju county.

The county is the origin of a mask dance play known as Byeol-sandae-nori. The play features 32 actors who wear one of 22 different masks to assume roles such as a depraved Buddhist monk, a ruined nobleman, a shaman, a servant and commoners. Accompanied by cheerful tunes coming from traditional instruments such as the piri (pipe), janggu (hourglass drum), daegeum (a large fife), and ajaeng (a string instrument played with a bow), the play offers a variety of singing, dancing and miming.

There have been many efforts to preserve the tradition of Yangju Byeol-sandae-nori, mainly led by an organization formed to promote the county's cultural asset. Each year between April and October, the organization offers weekly performances of the traditional theater. It also runs a Web site to promote the art.

The county office is putting the final touches on an all-weather outdoor performing hall that was specially designed to accommodate Yangju's Byeol-sandaeo-nori. The county expects the hall, which will seat 2,000, to attract more tourists to the county.

The Saturday performances start at 4 p.m. and last 90 minutes. Afterward, the audience can participate by learning some of the basic motions for the mask dances from the performers. The dance-along sessions will be fine opportunities to hop all your stress out.

For more information, visit the Web site at www.yjtalnori.or.kr or call 031-840-1389.

Jeongok Installation Art Festival

In Jeongok-ri, a small area in the northern part of the province, there is a huge site with remains of the area's Stone Age inhabitants. Located on a hillside boasting a lovely view over the Hantan River, the site contains relics of human communities that lived there 300,000 years ago. It is the oldest site of its kind on the Peninsula. Connection - Chongoknian, an art festival hosted by Jeongok Forum, a group of archaeologists and artists seeking to preserve the ancient remains, is now being held at the site. This year's festival has on exhibit 25 works by Korean artists such as Lim Geun-woo, Kim Kee-tae and Cha Youl.

The festival's most attractive exhibit is a bright cluster of flags displayed near the parking lot of the complex. Each of the 200 flags, hung on bamboo poles, is one of five colors that represent the center and the four cardinal directions: blue for east, white for west, red for south, black for north and yellow for the center. Each flag is 70 centimeters wide and 3 meters long and painted with various patterns.

Near the historic site is the Old Stone Age Remains Hall which displays ancient artifacts from various continents such as Europe and Africa. Visitors can also examine an excavation site at a corner of the complex.

For more information, call 031-400-5021.


Mintongseon is the Civilian Control Zone in Yeoncheon county. Inside the zone, there are two popular tourist attractions from which you can peer into North Korea: Baengmagoji and Yeolsoe Observatory Platform. Many people go there to soothe the pain of separation from their family members living in the North.

Baengmagoji, which means a white horse-shaped upland, is a famous battlefield from the Korean War. In 1952, there was a fierce 10-day fight between the South Korean army and the Communist Chinese forces, which left 3,146 South Korean troops and 14,389 Chinese troops dead. The land was left severely pockmarked from the estimated 300,000 mortar shots fired during the battle. The elevation of the upland shrank about 1 meter, and the ridgeline was deformed, taking the shape of a horse; hence the name.

Yeolsoe Observatory Platform is about a 20-minute drive from Baengmagoji. It affords good views of the mountains and fields of the North. Inside the observatory building is an exhibition hall featuring various North Korean household items.

Both Baengmagoji and Yeolsoe Observatory Platform are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no formal procedure to visit the places except an inspection of identification cards at the guard post of the Yeolsoe Military Force in Mintongseon. Visitors are allowed to drive their own cars to the sites.

For more information, call 031-830-6650.

by Jeon Ick-jin

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