October 26, 2017
Our fourth day in South Korea has been filled with awe and enchantment. I instantly fell in love with Nami Island but my first international adventure is just gathering steam. Our fifth and sixth days in Korea will be our last in the northern portion of the country as on Saturday, my friend and I will be traveling down to the southern part of the country. For our last two days in Seoul, we are to try one of the must-do activities in Korea, the temple stay experience. But before that, we are going to the Korean Folk Village to gain a deeper appreciation of Korean history and culture.
Located about an hour away from Seoul, the Korean Folk Village (KFV) can be found in the neighboring Yongin City, Gyeonggi Province. It is an outdoor exhibit introducing visitors to Korean culture during the late Joseon Era. Aside from being a cultural exhibit, the village is also a famous Korean drama and movie filming site. Such dramas include the Moon Embracing the Sun, Jewel in the Palace and Sungkyungwan Scandal. But beyond that, we are looking forward to immersing in authentic Korean traditions and culture.
As the village opens at 9:30 AM in October, we woke up later than usual today. Please note that the opening time differs on the month. Before going there, my friends and I first our things first in preparation to moving to a new accommodation. When all our things were prepared, we set out for Jonggak station on Seoul Subway Line 1. We exited through exit 3-1 and looked for the bus station where we waited for bus # 5500-1. Once we sat down, we automatically tightened our seatbelts.
After an hour’s ride, we reached the Korean Folk Village. We had to keep watch though as we are not familiar with the area. To be sure, we also asked the bus driver while watching out for the voice over for the announcement on our current location. Korean buses are equipped with voiceovers that announce the next bus stop. Just like the subway voiceovers, the bus voiceovers are translated into Nihongo, Mandarin and English. Please take note that not all destinations are translated as we later come to learn when we tried commuting to Jingwansa.
South Korea Travel Tip # 13: Whenever using public transportation in Seoul, everyone is required to tighten their seatbelts regardless of the seating location. It is a city regulation to ensure everyone’s safety.
South Korea Travel Tip # 14: Korean public transportation (subways, trains and buses) are equipped with voiceovers that announce the next stop or destination. It is always a good idea to have open ears to these announcements to avoid getting lost.
Thankfully, we alighted at the right bus stop. From the bus stop, we walked for a couple of minutes, relying on Google Maps to point us to the correct direction. It wasn’t difficult locating KFV because the rows of parked tourist buses gave it away! When we reached the Village entrance, my friend directly went to the ticket office to redeem our admission voucher which was booked through an online booking agency. She deemed it cheaper than paying it at the Village. For adults, admission ticket costs 18,000 Won.
What astonished as the most is the number of school children who were out on a field trip at the Village. There were elementary and junior high school students but what really captivated us were the kindergarteners who were very cute. We would have loved cuddling one of them but of course we had to keep ourselves at bay as it might be misinterpreted, especially in a foreign country whose traditions and laws we are not fully aware of. I commend the Korean education system for letting the students immerse in the country’s cultures and traditions.
Upon entering the village, we were astounded by its vastness. As our tour is not accompanied by a guide, we went on to discover the place on our own. From the main entrance, we turned right towards the amusement village. Unlike th rest of the village, this part is more modern and more westernized. We skipped most of this part as we are in a rush – we had to get back to Seoul the soonest we can to prepare for our Temple Stay orientation later in the day.
Instead of scouring every nook and cranny of the village, we opted to explore the main Folk Village, starting with the right part. After the Amusement Village, we explored the more traditional buildings like the Seowon (Confucian Institute) and the scholar’s house. All structures in the village are models of the original structures and are as authentic as the original ones. It felt great just walking around the place which, other than the students, is not all too crowded. It is unfortunate that there are not many visitors around because the place is teeming with knowledge on Korean culture and history. Well, it was all the better for us.
One of the most fun thing to do in the village, other than learning, is playing at the swing place. I only saw traditional swings in Korean dramas and they looked fun – well, indeed they are. my friend and I were as elated as the Korean schoolchildren who were swinging with reckless disregard. Oh the joys of youth! We also checked the other structures such as the mil mortar. It was an archaic but ingenious implement at the same time. The mortar used the natural flow of water, reducing human intervention.
From the right side of the village, we went to explore the left part of the village, starting with the traditional wedding ceremony area where one can witness a traditional Korean wedding. Unfortunately, we were not able to witness the ceremony as the performances were scheduled only at 12 noon and 4 PM. Please note that there are no performances from December to February. It was too bad we missed the performance. I guess I could always go back and witness it this time.
We explored one building after the other before moving in to the local government offices. At this area, visitors can experience the traditional implementation of traditional punishment. The punishment was reenacted by Tablo and his daughter Haru and Lee Beom-soo and his children in the popular Korean reality show The Return of Superman. When we were there, we witnessed a funny scene as ecstatic schoolchildren playfully reenacted the traditional punishments. One of the schoolchildren even volunteered to be “publicly flogged”. His friends beat his behind using the paddle, albeit very slightly as it was all for fun. Truly, the children are having a grand time and so are we.
After snapping more pictures, we moved to the central part of the village where a traditional performance was taking place. Daily, there are three performances at the village – the farmer’s Music and Dance Performance at 10:30 AM, the Acrobatics and Tightrope Performance at 11:00 AM, and the Equestrian Feat at 11:30 AM. We missed the first performance but we were fortunate to witness the acrobatics and tightrope performance. The performance was funny and gut-wrenching at the same time it was entertaining nevertheless. We skipped the last performance as we have to head back to Seoul in preparation for our Temple Stay.
Overall, I enjoyed our excursion at the Korean Folk Village even though it was cut short. It showed different aspects of Korean life and culture, enlightening the casual spectators. It would have been truly great if we were able to explore its every nook and cranny. Visitors are meant to immerse in the diversity of the Village in one whole day. Given the chance to return to Seoul, I will definitely put the Folk Village high on my priority list.
Do look out for the continuation of our Korean Odyssey.