Festivals provide visitors with a unique insight into South Korean customs and traditions.South Korean festivals are widely anticipated across the country, with people of all ages taking part. Tourists can also get involved and gain a greater understanding of South Korea’s culture and heritage.
Involving everything from fireflies to mud and fire, South Korean celebrations are varied and vibrant. In addition, holidays are distributed throughout the year so visitors can easily time their trip to coincide with one of these important annual events.
Seollal Festival: Lunar New Year’s Day
Seollal is the first day of the new year and one of the most significant Korean holidays. The celebration extends over 3 days, starting the day before the new year and ending the day after. It marks the first day of the Korean calendar and is generally held on the second new moon after the winter solstice.
Koreans spend time with family members, prepare traditional South Korean foods, and play games. Young members of the family usually receive gifts of money from their elders.
This South Korean festival is celebrated throughout the county, tourists anywhere in South Korea can enjoy the festivities.
- Location: throughout South Korea
- Seollal date 2021: Friday, February 12th, 2021
Boryeong Mud Festival
This unique festival takes place in the town of Boryeong which is located approximately 200km from Seoul. Each year, millions of visitors head to Boryeong for the mud festival. It takes place over 2 weeks although most people arrive in time for the final weekend in mid-July.
The event dates back to 1996 and was originally created to promote cosmetics made from Boryeong mud: it is considered to be rich in naturally occurring minerals.
Over the last 20 years, the Boryeong Mud Festival has become one of the most popular and well-known occasions on the South Korean calendar. Highlights include mud wrestling, mud sliding, and swimming in a mud bath.
There is also a seafront market where festival-goers can purchase cosmetics made from Boryeong mud.
Music and partying continue at the beach into the night and the festival is brought to a close by an impressive fireworks display.
- Location: Boryeong in the South Chungcheong Province
- Boryeong Mud Festival date 2021: Friday 16th July to Sunday 25th July 2021 (estimated dates)
Muju Firefly Festival
The Muju Firefly Festival in South Korea promotes environmental awareness. The festival takes place in the South Korean countryside and celebrates the firefly, known only to survive in the cleanest environments.
There are performances, cultural events, and exhibitions that highlight Muju’s commitment to protecting the environment and the natural world. Firefly gazing takes place once night falls.
- Location: Muju, in the North Jeolla province
- Muju Firefly Festival dates 2021: Late August/early September (dates to be confirmed)
Jinhae Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival
South Korea is well known for its beautiful cherry blossom. Each spring tourists head to South Korea in time to see the trees in full bloom.
The Jinhae Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival is the largest spring festival in Korea attracting around 2 million visitors each year. Events not to be missed include:
- Romance Bridge: to admire reflections of the cherry blossom in the river
- Gyeonghwa station: train passing through the cherry trees
- Yeojwacheon light festival: the Roman Bridge and Yeojwacheon river illuminated with lights
For anyone hoping to see the cherry blossom in South Korea, the Jinhae Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival is an excellent option.
- Location: Jinhae-gu, a district in Changwon City
- Jinhae Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival date 2021: late March/early April
Seoul Lantern Festival
This festival takes place in the South Korean capital, Seoul. It starts on the first Friday in November and lasts 2 weeks.
During the festival, downtown Seoul is illuminated at night with various types of colored lanterns. The Seoul Lantern Festival started in 2009 and each year has a different theme.
The Lantern Festival is a colorful event enjoyed by tourists and locals.
- Location: Seoul, the South Korean capital
- Seoul Lantern Festival date 2021: November, date to be confirmed
Jeju Fire Festival
The Jeju Fire Festival is one of the most famous South Korean festivals. Jeju Island, situated off the southern coast of South Korea, is a popular visitor destination throughout the year but really comes to life during the celebrations.
The event symbolizes the ancient practice of burning old grass to get rid of pests before the start of the new farming season.
The Jeju Fire Festival marks the start of spring and is filled with hope and happiness. The central act is the burning of the daljip, a large bonfire made from tree branches and logs which is believed to bring good fortune and protection.
Concerts and fireworks add to the party atmosphere.
- Location: Jeju Island
- Jeju Fire Festival date 2021: March, dates to be confirmed
Foreigners who would like to visit South Korea for any of the above festivals in 2021 will be able to take advantage of the new South Korea ETA travel permit which is to be launched next year.
Questions and Answers
There are many festivals throughout the year in South Korea. Some of the most well-known festivities are the Seoul Lantern Festival, the Boryeong Mud Festival, and the Jeju Fire Festival.
The Jinju Lantern Festival is the oldest festival in South Korea which is believed to date back to the late 16th century.
The people of Jinju communicated with those outside the Jinjuseong fortress during the Japanese invasion in 1592. This was kept going after the battle to commemorate those who lost their lives, evolving into today’s annual event.
Chuseok is considered to be the biggest holiday in South Korea. Chuseok is similar to Thanksgiving and most South Koreans visit their hometowns over the 3-day festivity. Traditional foods such as Songpyeon play an important role in the celebrations.
Seollal, lunar new year, is another major holiday enjoyed throughout South Korea.
There are numerous popular music events in South Korea, from traditional folk festivals to rock and pop concerts. Some of the biggest music festivals include the Asia Song Festival, Busan Rock Festival, K-Pop World Festival, and Seoul Jazz Festival.