Opening Ceremony of 2014 Seoul Kimchi Festival
Date October 16th, 2014 | Venue Briefing Room, Seoul City Hall
It is autumn, a beautiful season. A variety of festivals are being held all over the country. Hopefully you have all been enjoying a number of festivals here and there; Seoul is also hosting many festivals of various sizes in various locations. I have been participating in large and small festivals in Seoul and have had the chance to meet and spend time with a number of wonderful citizens.
Despite this festive atmosphere, however, I have not been able to get one concern out of my head. There are a number of international festivals around the world. Each of those festivals is their own assets. That is how they attract so many tourists from all around the world. What about our festivals? I have thought long and hard about how to transform our festivals, which we enjoy with citizens of the world, into tourism resources.
I took note of Sharing Kimchi of Love, the event hosted together by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Korea Yakult Corporation. I was inspired while attending that event. Not only was the event big enough to be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, but I was also hugely inspired by the spirit of sharing with neighbors while making heart-shaped Kimchi with yakult ladies in Seoul Square.
Kimjang, or the making and sharing of Kimchi together, is a community culture unique to Korea, where flavor, fun, and the spirit of sharing are alive. I realized it could become a genuine world-class festival, containing our unique culture, as something we could present to the world with pride.
I realized that the time has come for Seoul to have one world-class festival as a global city. Spain has the Tomato Festival, Germany has Oktoberfest, and Japan has the Sapporo Snow Festival, all of which are among the top three festivals in the world. I think the time has come for the word Korea to remind people around the world of Kimjang.
Kimjang is our unique community culture. The whole family gathers and makes Kimchi with neighbors, putting freshly made Kimchi in each other’s mouths and sharing makgeoli. Laughter flows from the courtyard to the whole town. As a festival of unity with flavor, fun, and sharing, kimjang is being recognized for its value around the world; it was listed as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of humanity in December 2013. In reality, however, the culture is disappearing from our lives. We should shed new light on kimjang and recreate the culture by turning it into an international festival beyond Korea.
For this task, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has taken the lead. We are hosting the 2014 Seoul Kimchi Festival for three days from November 14th to 16th in Seoul Square and surrounding areas with citizens and the world. Under the theme of “The Mixing of 10 Million citizens: A New Beginning of Kimjang,” a platform will be provided so that all public entities and citizens can participate. Notably, we signed an MOU with Gwangju-si, which has been holding a Kimchi festival for over 20 years, and arranged for the Kimchi of Gwangju to stand out at our festival.
The exciting festival is full of things to eat, watch, enjoy, and share. The sharing events, exhibitions, experiences, markets, and food will raise excitement throughout the festival. During the three-day festival, we will make 255 tons of Kimchi with care, love, and the best ingredients to share with our neighbors. The exhibitions will present the history, present, and future of Kimchi. Children and youth will have an opportunity to make Kimchi themselves for the first time. A variety of programs enjoyable for the whole family, such as Kimjang Sports Day, will serve as a savory seasoning for the tasty and fun festival.
I have said before that Kimchi reflects the nature of the Korean people. Kimchi brings out different flavors depending on what salted seafood is used, a reflection of our dynamic nature. The Seoul Metropolitan Government will expand the festival to become an international festival expressing Korean cheerfulness. We will do our best to turn the Seoul Kimchi Festival into one of the top three festivals in the world. The government will take the lead in making the most iconic Korean cultural asset the most international. Distinguished journalists, anything is possible with citizens’ participation. I deeply appreciate your continued attention on our growing festival. Thank you.