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Lantern festivals promoted in North America
By Chung Ah-young
The Korean traditional lantern festival is likely to be lit up in more cities in North America as the Jinju city government of South Gyeongsang Province is promoting it as the nation’s iconic cultural event.
Sixteen representatives from Jinju, including Mayor Lee Chang-hee, are touring the United States and Canada to discuss ways to hold the Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival in both countries.
The delegation was in Washington on Dec. 3 in connection with the city’s interest in the festival after seeing it during the Korean Festival in Los Angeles in September and the Winterlude in Ottawa, Canada in February. The delegation will also promote the festival in Texas on Dec. 9 as part of ways of getting it to be included in its regional light festival.
They will also visit the Winter Festival of Lights on Dec. 5 in the tourist heart of Niagara Falls in Canada which is taking place through Jan. 31. About 20 displays of Korean lanterns along with a variety of lights, statues and themed illuminations will showcase the charms of Korean culture and tradition there. Along with the illuminations, other Korean cultural events such as cooking demonstrations and performances by Korean drummers will also be held during the festival.
In a related development, the Jinju government earlier dispatched its officials to Mexico’s Chapala City as part of plans to showcase its festival there next year. Chapala is a sister city of South Gyeongsang Province.
“Making inroads in other countries carries significance in that Korean traditional culture is being exported. We’re promoting the Yudeung festival globally and expecting it to join the world’s top festivals,” Lee said.
The festival began in 2000 as the nation’s representative event, which originated from 1592 when General Kim Si-min raised a torch in the sky and floated the lanterns along the river to send military signals during the Japanese invasion of Korea.