Jinju accuses Seoul of copying its lantern festival

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Jinju accuses Seoul of copying its lantern festival

In November 2009, the Seoul Metropolitan Government held its first Seoul Lantern Festival on the Cheonggye Stream in a bid to attract more domestic and international tourists in accordance with the central government’s “Visit Korea Year” promotional campaign.

Many types of lanterns, including traditional Korean style lanterns that were derived from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), were displayed on the Cheonggye Stream, central Seoul.

During the Joseon era, lanterns were used at night time in military maneuvers and civilians also wrote down their wishes, placed them in the lanterns and sent them down the river.

The festival has been successful since it began. About 2.57 million people visited in 2012, according to the city government.

After wrapping up its four-year lantern festival series, the city government announced last year that they would continue holding it, as it helps to attract more tourists and boosts the local economy.

But people in Jinju, South Gyeongsang, are opposed to this because they have been holding a similar lantern festival for many years.

They think having a similar festival would negatively impact Jinju’s tourist industry, which led the city to organize an emergency response committee against Seoul’s plan.

At 3 p.m. yesterday, about 4,000 Jinju people, including government officials, members of the city council, civic group members and local residents, gathered at a Jinju gymnasium and urged Seoul to stop.

“Seoul clearly violated the regulation that prohibited local governments from holding a similar festival that was provided as a measure to secure the competitiveness of each region’s tourist industry,” said Lee Chang-hee, Jinju city mayor.

“But we had let Seoul have the festival because they said the festival is a temporary event during the Visit Korea Year. It is very obvious that Seoul has copied our festival.”

Jinju has held their lantern festival since 2000.

Every October, many types of traditional lanterns are displayed on the Nam River for two weeks. The event attracts an average of 2.8 million tourists per year and generates 14 billion won ($12.6 million) per year.

“Seoul said they will provide a win-win plan for the festivals when we complained about this last year, but we haven’t heard anything,” Seo Yeong-soo, a spokesman of the emergency response committee said.

By Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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