The 2014 Jeju Fire Festival at Saebyeol Oreum in Aewol-eup starts March 7 through March 9.
This famous festival began in its present form in 1997 and has received high marks by the Seoul national government committee for Korea’s festivals. They have deemed it in the top 50 festivals in Korea for representing regional culture, its large number of visitors, as well as for the wide-range of programs it has on offer.
In total the festival will have 61 hands-on traditional programs, including events that build community spirit and unity like a tug-of-war and a singing contest. For the complete schedule, go to the festival’s English Web site at buriburi.go.kr.
The burning of the oreum grass is to re-enact the local tradition of “banggae,” where farmers would burn their pastures to rid the land of pests and old grass.
Until last year it was called the Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival. According to the Encyclopedia of Korean Seasonal Customs, Jeongwol Daeboreum is “a traditional folk festival held on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.”
The Jeju Tourism Festival Promotion Council decided to move the event to March to avoid quote “overall inconveniences” like freezing road conditions and difficulties in setting fire to the oreum, particularly when the weather was windy or it was raining — a common occurrence in late January, early February.
And here’s an interesting aside: the Encyclopedia of Korean Seasonal Customs also points out that unlike Seollal, the Lunar New Year’s Day which is a family celebration, Jeongwol Daeboreum is more a community celebration to promote unity and solidarity.
Transportation to Saebyeol Oreum along the 1135 Road is always quite congested during the festival, so this year organizers have 60 free shuttle buses running every 30 minutes from both Jeju City and Seogwipo City. The former departs from the clock tower at the Jeju Sports Complex in Gu Jeju and then stops at the entrance to Cheju Halla University in Shin Jeju. From Seogwipo City, the buses run from City Hall and the entrance to Cheonjeyeon Waterfall.
A detailed Korean-language schedule in spreadsheet form is available on the festival Web site.
(Please note, a version of this story will appear on KCTV English News. — Ed.)