Raise your glasses, toast the cults

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Raise your glasses, toast the cults


Oktoberfest, held every year in Munich, Germany, is said to be the largest beer festival in the world.

In fact, together with the Rio Carnival in Brazil and the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, Oktoberfest is reckoned to be one of the three largest festivals of the world.

Considering that the first Oktoberfest, originally a horse race, was held on Oct. 17, 1810, this year could have been the 200th festival, if it had not skipped some years because of war and disease. This year, 5.7 million people visited Oktoberfest, the 176th festival.

Although the number of visitors decreased by 300,000 compared to last year, the event was considered a success because it went ahead despite three bearish factors: the threats of terrorism, the new flu and the international financial crisis.

Participants drank 6.5 million liters (1.72 million gallons) of beer, more or less the same as last year, and ate the equivalent of 111 heads of cattle, seven more than last year.

The festival sponsors say success is due to loyal drinkers who gather each year for the celebration of beer.

Oktoberfest became famous when American soldiers discovered it after the end of World War II. They were followed by American tourists, and then tourists from other European countries, Australia and Japan.

What captivated the minds of visitors most was beer in tall, one-liter beer mugs and the noisy atmosphere in the festival tents and drinking spots. The whole city rings to the sound of clinking glasses and people announcing toasts.

Although there are people who criticize it as “a huge intemperate hallucinatory drinking party,” visitors admire it, saying it is almost as if they are witnessing a ritual.

Because of these factors, Oktoberfest is called the biggest cult in Germany.

The dictionary definition of a cult refers to a great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement or work - such as films, TV series or various events.

For example, it is possible to argue that a cult has built up around the Vienna Opera Ball, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Harley-Davidson, Apple computers and Rolex watches.

Something or someone becomes a cult if there are people who actively admire it - even if there are faults ?? consistently over some years.

What could become a cult in Korea?

Possibilities are traditional food, religious cults, ondol (under-floor heating systems), taekwondo, new town development, television dramas, plastic surgery, online games, the stock exchange, experience in economic development and even the Korean alphabet, Hangul.

Last week, Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics opened a new chapter in the history of Korea’s exports when their technology standards were adopted as the international standard for mobile television technology.

We are now at a stage where we can give full support to something that has the potential to grow into a cult admired by the people of the world.

The writer is a deputy business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Hoh Kui-seek
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