Trip Brightened by Chance to Observe Fireflies

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Trip Brightened by Chance to Observe Fireflies

A Chinese folktale tells the story of a scholar who needed to study well into the night. Since electricity had not yet been invented, he caught some fireflies and studied under the light the bugs emitted. He passed his exam and became a model of hard work. You can see it for yourself whether it is possible to read a book by the light of a bug at the Firefly Ecology Museum during the Muju Firefly Festival starting Saturday and running through Wednesday.

Muju county in North Cholla province is renowned for its beautiful valleys and clean streams. The county is also a well-known habitat for fireflies. Fireflies are more than just insects that radiate beautiful light. They are living proof of a clean environment since the bugs thrive more in pristine surroundings. Every summer the county celebrates its clean environment by hosting the firefly festival and offering various events to promote the importance of keeping nature clean.

Inside the large air-dome that is the Firefly Ecology Museum, there is a traditional straw-thatched house, called a choga in Korean, lighted with fireflies. There are also exhibits of wildflowers and rare insects. You can take a free bus tour to the forest to watch wild fireflies at night. Many people find it romantic to spend a summer night under the moonlight, accompanied by the flickering lights of fireflies. The tour starts at 8 p.m. each day, and begins in front of Hanpungru pavilion. The festival includes many cultural events such as concerts and exhibitions, as well as contests for speeches, writing, singing and painting about environmental themes.

Another firefly-related event is the stocking of Namdaecheon stream with marsh snails, or daseulgi, the main food for fireflies. That evening, there will be a street parade of local people carrying candles to wish for the fireflies' success. All visitors are welcome to join the parade. On Tuesday, you can help catch bullfrogs, the natural enemies of fireflies. The event will begin at 10 a.m., and each participant will receive a small souvenir.

On other days, there will be many interesting performances including madanggeuk, or traditional outdoor plays, based on folktales such as the one about the man who studied under the firefly light. You can also play some Korean folk games at the Hill to Experience Folklore and try some local traditional food at the firefly market located near Hanpungru pavilion.

For more information, visit the Web site at www.firefly.or.kr (English available) or call 063-320-2460.



Train Tour

The best way to visit the Muju Firefly Festival is by train. During the festival, the Korean National Railroad offers a special program. The tour includes a round-trip to Muju, a visit to the festival sites, a sightseeing tour to the Gucheondong valley and a trip to a farm to pick corn. The tour leaves Seoul Station at 8:10 a.m. It takes about two hours to Yeongdong Station where you transfer to a bus for a half-hour ride to Muju. The returning train departs from Yeongdong Station at 8 p.m. The train tour costs 35,100 won (about $27) per person. For more information visit the Web site at www.korail.go.kr or call 1544-7788 (English available).



by Lee Sang-min

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