Cheonggyecheon Stream at the center of the city has been an intricate part of people’s lives for hundreds of years, since the Joseon Era. This local landmark was once hidden under roads laid, but was restored by the Seoul Metropolitan Government through a project that ran from 2003 to 2005, which restored the stream to its former glory and transformed it back into the major Seoul attraction it is today.
Cheonggyecheon Stream is a public space that remains open all year round. It is often frequented by workers from nearby office buildings who flock to the stream during lunch breaks for brief walks and chats with co-workers. In the summer, it becomes a beloved resting place where people sit and dip their feet in the stream’s refreshing waters in an effort to get some relief from the heat. It is a place where exhausted travelers can relax and find quiet a moment’s peace to escape from the busy, crowded city.
A veritable oasis in downtown Seoul, Cheonggyecheon Stream tempts people down to its banks throughout the four seasons with its greenery and crystal clear waters. An even bigger draw than the stream itself is the annual Seoul Lantern Festival that takes place along the stream’s waters. The Seoul Lantern Festival brings to life lanterns of all shapes and sizes, making for such an eye-catching spectacle that it stops passers-by in their tracks. During the festival, the nighttime scene at Cheonggyecheon Stream is even brighter than Myeong-dong during the day.
The Seoul Lantern Festival, held every year from the first Friday to the third Sunday of November, is one of the most popular winter festivals in Seoul. For as long as seventeen days, Cheonggyecheon Stream is illuminated every night with traditional and modern lanterns, each of which has its own story. During this time, the stream, which you may think would be deserted due to the cold, is teeming with visitors.
Illuminated Seoul Tour
Every year, the festival is held under a different theme; each theme is related to Seoul and is celebrated with newly crafted lanterns along with old favorites. In 2015, the Seoul Lantern Festival celebrated its 15th anniversary and ran under the theme “Illuminated Seoul Tour”. Festivities began with the launching of the title lantern, and included more than 600 works of art displayed under the themes “Antique Beauty in Seoul”, “Past Lives Met in Seoul”, “Seoul Today” and “Together, Seoul.” Lanterns lighted up the night for a total of 1.2 kilometers along Cheonggyecheon Stream, from Cheonggye Plaza to the Supyogyo Bridge.
The Seoul Lantern Festival was originally a festival for traditional lanterns, but over the years evolved into a more comprehensive festival that now includes modern digital LED works and lighted art works as well as lanterns in the shape of popular cartoon characters. This is harmony of the traditional and modern can be seen throughout Seoul and is paid tribute to in the “Antique Beauty in Seoul” portion of the event, which emphasizes the antique elegance of lanterns and modern beauty of LEDs.
Appealing to visitors of all ages, the Seoul Lantern Festival is a favorite among families with children and is also a popular date spot.
The kicking off of the theme, “Antique Beauty in Seoul” began with the launch of the main lantern “Ilwoldo”. Ilwoldo is a type of painting that was installed at the back of the king’s throne in the palaces or used as the backdrop of the king’s portrait during the Joseon period. At the festival, its traditionally Korean antique beauty was coupled with the application of digital LED technology which shows how the sun becomes moon and the moon becomes the sun again.
The second theme of the 2015 festival featured art pieces recreating Namsangol Hanok Village and Bukchon Hanok Village, both of which are traditional neighborhoods that are top destinations for visitors to Seoul. Other highlights in the traditional genre of this year’s festival were lanterns in the shape of real Seoul merchants along with symbols of their warm hospitality and stores.
Another popular section of the Seoul Lantern Festival is the lanterns of local governments and foreign artists. In 2015, Pyeongchang-gun, Yangpyeong-gun, Haenam-gun and Goseong-gun of Gyeongsangnam-do presented lanterns representing their local communities, and exquisite lanterns from outside of Korea, namely Chengdu and Changsu in China, Aomori Prefecture in Japan, Taipei of Taiwan, the U.S. Embassy in Korea, and the Philippine Department of Tourism.
From elaborately crafted traditional lanterns representing major tourist destinations in Seoul to brilliant modern lanterns, the exquisite light works of the Seoul Lantern Festival are enough to add joy and sparkle to even the bleakest of winter days. Whether you’re in Seoul for a week or a day, the Seoul Lantern Festival is a must-see event for anyone visiting the city. For more information, please visit the official website of the Seoul Lantern Festival (http://seoullantern.visitseoul.net/).