The HarvestMoon Festival (Chuseok) is one of the most cherished festivals in Korean history. Koreans mark the day by paying homage to their ancestors and celebrating with their relatives. Most people visit their families to prepare food, honor their ancestors, and cherish relatives both living and deceased.
‘Chuseok’ is said to have been celebrated for more than 2,000 years in Korea. It is among the biggest and the most important holiday in the country. The Harvest Moon Festival is customarily held at the end of September for three consecutive days, if the dates fall over a weekend, an extra day may be taken on the following Monday. For many Koreans, the festival is a reminder that families are connected and bonded in the same fortune. Therefore during the festival many travelers back to their hometown and get together with family members, share food and give thanks to their ancestors. It is said that over half the Korean population travels during this festive period.
With the spirit of being part of the Chuseok Festival, the Park Chung Hee School of Policy and Saemaul (PSPS), the Yeungnam University students’ council and staff organized a form of the Chuseok dubbed the “2015 Global Saemauler Chuseok Festival.” This was held on Friday the 25th of September 2015 at YU’s Gugye Lecture Hall in the Folklore Village. The objective of the festival was to create an avenue for international students to familiarize themselves with the Korean culture and also to foster friendship as well as cut down on the boredom during the festive period.
The festive day saw YU Vice President CHOI Oe-Chool, the dean of PSPS, faculty members, administrative staffs, and as well PSPS students attending the event. The program started in the morning with an opening speech by the dean followed by some opening announcements. The festival was marked with an amazing performances by the international students, one of which was the Samulnori performance that left the audience standing.
Samulnori is a type of Korean percussion music that has been gaining popularity over the last few decades, both in Korea and abroad. The term “Samulnori” can be broken into two parts “Samul” meaning “four things,” and “Nori” meaning “to play.” The Samulnori ensemble generally consists of four main instruments: Puk, Janngu, Jing and Kkwaenggwari. In a minimal ensemble there will be just one of each, but you can also sometimes see larger groups with four or more of each instrument. However, even in these larger groups, the role of each instrument is the same. Each one represents an element of nature, the Jing being the wind, the Janngu the rain, the Puk the clouds, and the Kkwaenggwari the lightning.
Samulnori has its roots in farmer music (nong-ak), and includes not only music but dancing to celebrate the harvest time. The music also stems from the shamanistic tradition of utdari pungmul, which is performed on these same instruments together with singing and wind instruments. In its modern incarnation, samulnori relies solely on the four instruments, either in quartets or as a larger ensemble.
The samulnori performance by the 3 different groups however saw only the use of the almighty Janngu. The three groups gave a spectacular performance that showcase the beats that they have learned during the summer semester.
Making the festival a delightful one, PSPS students also competed against each other in Korean traditional games. Divided into three groups named after the three spirits of Saemaul Undong (Diligence, Self-help and Cooperation), students played OX, Charades, Shoesketball and Yutnori game. After a very fierce battle among these teams, Team Self-help became victorious with their tabulated score followed by Diligence and Cooperation
Another event, PSPS second and third semester students gave yet another remarkable dramatic taekwondo performance that left the crowd cheering. ‘Taekwondo’ is a Korean martial art with a heavy emphasis on kicks. It was developed during the 1940s and 1950s by various Korean martial artists, as a blend of the indigenous Korean fighting styles of Taekkyeon, Gwonbeop, and Subak, with influence from foreign martial arts as well.
Furthermore, the festival also staged talent shows, which unveiled PSPS students’ potential for entertainment, and traditional fashion show which also featured people from more than 20 countries; all participants were wearing traditional attire, notably the Vice President of YU.
At the end of the festival the winning teams and students were given prizes ranging from Ipads, restaurant gift certificates, bike gift certificates, sneakers gift cards, clothing gift cards, bags, selfie sticks, PSPS bottles and 16GB USB drives by the professors and Vice President CHOI Oe-Chool in recognition of their remarkable participation.
Overall the festival was fun, entertaining and educational. It was a wonderful way to learn about Korean culture and celebrate the Chuseok Festival.