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[Opinion] Are Local Festivals Commodity Sales Places?

Posted November. 28, 2001 09:07,   


Since I live in local area, I had chances to visit to a couple of local festivals not far from my home last fall. I could enjoy a long-awaited rest free from the repeated routine, and also came in contact with the unique natural environment and customs of each area. I can still vividly remember the scarlet foliage bathing all over the mountain hills in Chunnam Hampyong, and the tinted leaves at Pia village in Mt. Chiri. And I saw a cultural festival held in a yard of a newly-built traditional house in Akyang, Hadong-Gun, Kyungnam, which was a setting for a novel `Land`.

It seems worthy to welcome the fact that various festivals that have revived local history and its unique features have been held every season in the midst of increasing centralization of culture. And the local festivals might bring about considerable economic benefits to the farmers who became no longer dependent only upon the farming. In actuality, it is said that 370,000 people visited to the `Glow-fly Festival` in Muju, Chunbuk, and `Ginseng Festival` of Chungnam Keumsan obtained the economic effect of 29 billion won. Besides, many local festivals settled down, as the years pass. Now, the festival is also becoming a profitable cultural commodity.

However, some raise the concerning voice that as the number of local festival sharply increases every year, and that each local area has excessively held the similar festivals. Despite numerous festivals that were held here and there, why have not the joy of festival and the communitarian sentiment been recovered in our lives? I find one of reasons in the limitation of local government-led events. As the festival hosts have been bent on display effect and economic benefit, the local residents have been systematically alienated from the events.

The festival should offer a common ground in which the community members can enjoy together and form solidarity. But from my short experience, the local residents seem to have not played a role other than sales person in most cases.

And most festivals have excessively focused on the external scale, revealing a conception of administrative convenience, and lacked a cultural specialty. For instance, there were no facilities with sufficient capacity, and shoddy structure or artificial fabric rather damaged the beauty of nature. The events, which were constructed without precise historical investigation or consultation of the experts and even responsible hosts, revealed nothing but the inferior state of the local culture.

Some might say that my words about the festival would be untimely in the midst of appalling war on the other side of world and wretched domestic politics. But if there were communicative and sharing culture, much less a violent situation might have taken place. The energy of society should be volatilized through the proper ways. Otherwise, it might be expressed through violence and crime.

Moreover, the festival functions as a cure to purify peoples` minds, which were wounded by fights and struggles. Let us look at the case of `Hiroshima Animation Festival` initiated by Mr. & Mrs. Ginoshita Lenzo 30 years ago. Mr. Lenzo, who greatly succeeded as a popular animator in the United States, began to hold the animation festival in order to wish for peace of Hiroshima, which was attacked by the atomic bombs during the World War II, since returning to his home country. Hiroshima city had given a little financial support to this event organized by an individual, and finally the city took it over as the festival began to gain international popularity. But in the year when the city took over the festival, there were no submitted works, and thus the city officials came to give up in hosting the festival. With a couple of months ahead, Mr. & Mrs. Lenzo resuscitated the festival with painstaking efforts.

From this case, we can learn that for success, the festival should be backed by affectionate efforts and professionalism, rather than money and administrative power. And the event should fully utilize the idiosyncratic cultural assets rather than hurriedly constructed commodity.

Finally, most important thing is that the local residents should be able to enjoy the festival, not as sales persons. Those who enjoy themselves can make others enjoy the festival.