Go to contents

[Op-Ed] Influenza A and Provincial Festivals

Posted September. 09, 2009 08:24,   


The Edinburgh International Festival held every August in Scotland is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest cultural festival on the planet. Started in 1947 to console Europeans from the effects of World War II, the event attracts more than 10 million tourists from around the world every year. The 2007 Oktoberfest in Munich drew 6.2 million tourists who consumed 6.94 million liters of beer and almost 80,000 liters of wine. The Mardi Gras in New Orleans is said to create an economic generating effect of 976 million U.S. dollars.

Other famous global festivals include Rio Carnival of Brazil, Carnival of Venice in Italy, and La Tomatina (tomato fighting) of Spain. The tomato event originates from a Spanish tomato farmers’ protest in 1944. When tomato prices plummeted that year, enraged farmers threw tomatoes at politicians. Asian countries developed their own festivals in making the most of bad weather conditions. Japan holds the Sapporo Snow Festival, Mongolia has the Naadam festival, and Thailand is known for the Songkran Festival (Thai New Year). An internationally renowned festival not only boosts the image of a country or region, but also significantly contributes to the host economy.

In Korea, a number of provincial festivals are held year round. A butterfly festival in Hampyeong, South Jeolla Province, opened April 24 this year and attracted 530,000 paid visitors over its first 17 days, the largest in 10 years. A mime festival in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, has gained international fame 20 years after its inception. A masked dance festival in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, has seen its popularity rise after Queen Elizabeth II of England stopped by in 1999. Many of the festivals, however, fail to appeal to tourists due to lack of content and participation by the locals.

Fall is the traditional season for festivals, but provincial regions have been hit hard by outbreaks of influenza A. The central government ordered all regions to cancel festivals that attract more than 1,000 people and last more than two days. Of 777 provincial festivals, 167 were either canceled or postponed and 65 were scaled down. The organizers of the Global Fair and Festival 2009 Incheon, Korea in New Songdo City are struggling to protect against the flu by operating sanitizing equipment at gates. The number of visitors to the event has declined, however. Hopefully, the outbreak of the flu will also drive out unfeasible or non-functioning festivals.

Editorial Writer Kwon Soon-taek (maypole@donga.com)