Hangang Summer Festival begins

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Hangang Summer Festival begins

The Hangang Summer Festival, an annual festival in Seoul, will begin this Friday, with more than 80 programs scheduled through August in 11 parks near the Han River.

“We’ve all forgotten the beauty of the Han River and its boundless entertainment after highways and city development have blocked our access to it and made obsolete many of its entertainments,” said Yoon Seong-jin, head director of the Hangang Summer Festival since 2013. “Now is the time to go back through time to enjoy the Han River for what it used to be and what it can be.”

The festival will take off with an opening parade at the Yeouido Hangang Park at 7 p.m. this Friday.

Among the 83 programs from water sports and camping to concerts that are scheduled from Friday to August 21, the Seoul Metropolitan Government introduced on Monday some of its “must-see” programs.

These include camping at the Yeouido, Ttukseom and Janwon Han River parks and enjoying outdoor barbecue with the Han River in sight; sitting under a bridge at night to watch the movie “The Host” (2006), which was filmed at the Han River parks; rowing across the Han River in a do-it-yourself paper boat; joining a water-balloon fight with 10,000 people in Yeouido Hangang Park; watching the top 100 wakeboarders in the world compete on the Han River; tapping your toes to the popular Jarasum International Jazz Music Festival on the artificial Some Sevit Island; watching fire dance performances at the island; tasting food from all over the world at 100 food trucks in Yeouido Hangang Park; and sitting down for a traditional folk performance like namsadang nori under the Mapo Bridge.

“We hope to create a first-rate festival that could be ranked as one of the top 10 festivals in the world, and we especially invite foreign residents and tourists to join us,” said Hwang Bo-yeon, head of the Hangang Project Headquarters at the city government.

First launched in 2013, the annual summer festival saw some 60,000 foreign participants that year. Last year, the number doubled to roughly 130,000. The total number of participants grew from 9.44 million in 2013 to 11 million last year.

“This year we hope to see some 300,000 international participants and a total of 12 million people enjoy the festival,” Yoon added.

In order to attract foreigners to the festival, the city government has been working with various tour agencies and has established a team of 150 foreigners to focus on advertising the events to tourists via social media and other online tourist platforms like Seoul Mate.

Yet for a festival that focuses on attracting foreigners as well as Seoul residents, it seemed to lack a comprehensive system for foreigners to make reservations.

According to the festival website (hangang.seoul.go.kr/project2016), all reservations must be made through websites noted under each program.

“But since may be difficult for foreigners to make reservations online, please call the Dasan Call Center (120) to make reservations,” the website says in its FAQ section.

“We will be creating an English version of our website for the festival,” said Park Sung-je, an official of the Hangang Project Headquarters. “But it will be a simpler version with very basic details.”

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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