On west coast, mud is king for 7-day Boryeong festival

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On west coast, mud is king for 7-day Boryeong festival

Along the west coast of Korea, by Daecheon beach, the seafood is fresh, the vistas are much heralded, and the mud is black, gooey and good for smearing all over one’s body.
Boryeong, South Chungcheong province, boasts a 13-kilometer (8-mile) tidal flat with a beach made of eroded shells. But the city is especially famous for the alleged restorative properties of its mud.
It got this reputation because the rich-in-minerals mud boasts high concentrations of bentonite and germanium. Bentonite mud is used to clear pimples and to help tighten pores; germanium is said to increase natural immunity, help deliver oxygen to the skin and lessen skin problems. Wait, there’s more: Boryeong’s mud is supposed to stimulate circulation, ease arthritis and do away with all those wrinkles.
In 1996, the city collaborated with scholars and researchers to develop skin-care products from the mud. Five years later, Boryeong Mud Cosmetics was born. In the meantime, Boryeong had launched a mud festival with a two-fold purpose: promoting the area’s beaches and its mud. The festival was a success, particularly among expats. One year, foreigners made up 93 percent of visitors to the festival. Over the years, interest among Koreans has risen, however.
At this year’s seventh annual festival, set to run from July 20 to 26, organizers are anticipating 1.5 million tourists, an uptick from last year’s 1.3 million. Lee In-haeng of the Boryeong tourism office observes that Korea’s best-attended festivals are those that offer ways for people to participate. “From the beginning, the events at the Boryeong Mud Festival have been very interactive,” Mr. Lee says, adding, “We’re also riding this health kick going on in Korea.”
When it comes to getting dirty, this festival provides more than one way for tourists to get involved. The offerings have been expanded to include mud softball, mud wrestling, an oversized mud tub, a mud slide, beachfront do-it-yourself mud massage, mud body painting, a celebrity soccer match, fireworks, a laser show, street performances, a mud king contest ― even a classical music concert.
Passing tourists who are not lathered in mud might even be thrown in a mud jail.
Most events ― including a three-hour bus tour of the region ― are free. Normally, the tour costs money, “but we’re offering it as a service,” Mr. Lee says. A marathon, and massages at Hanna Condo and Mud House, do require payment.
Though at times it’s difficult to tell, this coastal region does offer more than just mud. There are 78 islands and 36 cultural attractions like the Muchangpo “sea road,” which occasionally parts, and an ancient tower dating to the Silla Dynasty. On the food scene, the city is famous for raw fish, mushrooms and blue crab.

by Joe Yong-hee

From Seoul, catch a train (9,500 won or $8.25 to14,100 won) or bus (10,400 won) to Daecheon. Then take a local bus to “Haesuyokjang.” For more information, visit the Web site www.mudfestival.or.kr/eng or call (011) 9408-4899.
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