One of the main reasons foreigners long to visit Seoul is probably to enjoy the city’s nightlife and culture, not to mentions its daytime attractions. Culture is literally everywhere. All across the city, there are places where people can enjoy all-night performances, pitch a tent and camp outside, or join night culture tours. Once the sun sets, stores throughout the city busily prepare to welcome customers at a time when most stores in other countries would be closed. For them, real business starts in the evening, when Seoul is just as dynamic, if not more so, than it is during the day.
Such is Seoul Culture Night, a culturally enriching summer night festival held once a year on the last Friday and Saturday of August at Seoul Plaza and Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). This festival attracts night owls not only from across the country but from around the world as well, all of whom are delighted to discover how pleasant and safe Seoul is at night.
The 8th Seoul Culture Night, held in 2015 under the theme “Seoul Summer Night Cultural Recharge,” was comprised of four main programs: Seoul Baekjung Nori (Summer Folk Festival, held at Seoul Plaza), Owl Feast (at Dongdaemun Design Plaza), Citizens’ Square (at Seoul Plaza), and Cultural Visit (15 tour venues across Seoul).
Seoul Baekjung Nori, a modern interpretation of various folk events that used to be held on Baekjung Day, which falls on July 15 of the lunar calendar, was comprised of Ganggangsullae (a traditional Korean circle dance performed under the moonlight to traditional Korean music), Gilnori (traditional folk dance), a traditional performance, and programs designed to allow participants to experience traditional musical instruments and social dining. The Owl Feast was a unique, night-long performance featuring world music beloved by people since long ago.
Citizens’ Square was a venue for various programs where people could camp out in the open air, rent or buy books to read, shop at cultural markets, and take part in various traditional Korean games. Finally, the Cultural Visit was a guided program that took participants on walks to explore Seoul’s characteristic alleys in areas such as Seochon, Dongdaemun, Hwanghak-dong, and Haebangchon, as well as the more historic neighborhoods, including the trail (Dulle-gil) along the Naksan Fortress section, as well as other sections, of Seoul City Wall.
The Owl Feast, held in an open-air theater at Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), was a new addition to this year’s event, intended to beef up the all-night program. Fifteen world music musicians, including Kalascima, Harim, the Gypsy and Fish Orchestra, and Kingston Rudieska, staged performances throughout the night.
Seoul Baekjung Nori, which was held at Seoul Plaza, gave participants opportunities to experience various aspects of traditional Korean culture, such as traditional performances and Gilnori, trying out traditional musical instruments, and joining a massive performance of Ganggangsullae, all while listening to traditional Korean music, or gugak, under the bright moonlight. Camping out in the middle of the city, the book concert, and the Square Cinema event added to the exciting programs that enriched the summer nights in Seoul during the festival period.
In addition, the Seoul Museum of History, Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA), and about 80 other venues remained open until 11 p.m., giving citizens more chances to visit places that they otherwise could not due to schedule and time constraints.
This year’s Cultural Visit program, which introduced to participants Seoul’s many hidden gems, such as Seochon, Dongsung-dong, and Haebangchon, focused on the areas that received the most positive reviews from participants of the previous year’s program and was based on two main themes: Alley Culture Tour and History and Culture Tour.
Detailed schedule and information on Seoul Culture Night can be found on the event’s official website (www.seoulculturenight.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/seoulopennight) as well as at the Culture & Arts Division of Seoul Metropolitan Government (☎82-2-2133-2571).