Korea: Chuncheon Mime Festival

Korean FestivalsAs we made our way through the paper-draped entranced, we were greeted by white-jump suited men holding metal-detector wands. We raised our hands in compliance as they traced our bodies. There was a beep and then one of them said “yes, radioactive, you must drink makgeolli for cure” as he pointed to a nearby table covered in cups full of the rice-wine alcohol. Nope, this wasn’t going to be the typical Korean festival.

This was the 6th day of the 8-day Mime Festival being held in Chuncheon city and the first of 2 all-night parties at the festival. We didn’t know what to expect and that made it all the more interesting. We were handed peace-sign stickers and a vitamin-C tablet in a little plastic baggy. A little suggestive and cheeky, yes.

Festivals in Korea
Fireshows were on display at the night-time portion of the festival.

We walked out into a large open field with tents set up along each side. In front of us was a large teepee of sorts covered with various paper creations. Young passerby’s were sporting illuminated horned headbands and glow-stick eye-glasses. A bonfire was ablaze in one area and a crowd was gathered around some fire-show performers in another. “Was I really at a so-called mime festival…in Korea??” The vibe was infectious and I decided the name didn’t really matter in the end, I wanted to discover more.

In another area, there was an exhibit titled “Live Art Speed Date.” About half a dozen post-apocalyptic looking huts constructed out of everything under the sun populated the lake-side grounds. People dressed in full jump suits and goggles and others looking like they had just walked out of a Daft Punk music video busied themselves inside the huts, partaking in some sort of activity.  There was nothing speed dating about it. More like an art installation instead.

Cheers from a crowd further along drew us away. When we arrived, there seemed to be a group of 60+ headphone-clad people bobbing along to an inaudible beat. They were enjoying a “silent dance party.” An interesting concept where the dancers all wear headphones, listen to the same music while the rest of us stare in confusion and amazement.



The next day all signs of the previous night’s party were gone. But the day showed more promise of putting the word “mime” into Mime Festival. Throughout the grounds were little “stage” areas showcasing various mime performances and competitions. Children, youths, and adults all participated in the different performances. Performances ranged from stories about putting out a fire in an apartment, to a woman getting ready for work, to a social commentary on the life of the Korean office worker, to the split personality of a dog owner.

Mime Festival in South KoreaBut not to be outdone by the oddities from the previous night, there was an area devoted to displaying how babies are made. Yes, sexual education in the middle of a festival. No better time than the present, right? Festival goers could see the evolution of a baby in the mother’s womb, try on pregnancy suits (much to the hilarity of the men), relax on semen shaped pillows, crawl through a “birth canal” tunnel, and the best of them all, a station where people could decorate condoms blown up as balloons and tie them to the nearby trees. A fine example of quirky Korea in all it’s glory.

The festival was interesting, to say the least, but was rather expensive for the 2 days I visited. 25,000won (or roughly $22.50CAN) might not seem like a lot for 2 days, but it’s a bit steep when most other Korean festivals are typically free. Hopefully the money was shared with the performers, then again…condoms aren’t exactly cheap these days.