Friday, June 3, 2016

Looking back on the 20th Edition of the Jeonju Hanji Culture Festival

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Jeonju Hanji Culture Festival.

The annual event was held from May 5 through 8, 2016, and HanjiNaty was there to celebrate Hanji paper, one of the cultural treasures of Korea.

Before writing this blog post, I took the time to re-read my observations and comments on the previous editions, in which I participated both as a visitor (see the text on the 2013 Festival), and as a vendor in the Hanji market (take a look at last year's blog post, which covers my first experience as a vendor at the Jeonju Hanji Festival).

While re-reading my previous blog posts, I quickly came to this conclusion : not much has changed. I still love and appreciate many aspects of this singular event, but the grievances and concerns I had regarding the Festival organization are still lingering. Some things have been addressed, but there are still issues that need to be improved, in order to bring to this event the notoriety and popularity it deserves.

Let's take a look at some of the great aspects of the 2016 Festival, along with the elements that would deserve to be reconsidered and reworked.

New location for the Hanji market

This year, the vendors were located closer to the main stage area, and it was a very pleasant change. There was more foot traffic, and we could all feel more excitement and enthusiasm in the air, due to the proximity of the performances, the increased number of passer-by, and the general conviviality of the festival atmosphere. 

Even if the proximity to the stage came with loudness, it was definitely more pleasant - and more profitable - for the vendors, including myself.

The market was slightly smaller this year (there were 15 vendors present for the festival this year, compared to 20 in 2015), but visitors still had the chance to purchase high-quality Hanji paper, Hanji fans, umbrellas and small objects, along with hair accessories, jewelry and deco items designed by HanjiNaty. There was also a convenience store stall and several food stands, where people could purchase snacks, cold drinks or ice cream.

A nice spread of cultural performances

During the four days of the Festival, numerous cultural performances were held on the main stage. Visitors were invited to enjoy - for free! - various dance and musical performances, including Korean traditional dancing, belly dancing, K-pop performances, opera, and even a big band concert!

Sadly, some performances were given in front of a very sparse group of festival goers. That's unfortunate for the performers, who surely spent a lot of time and energy to prepare their shows.

The afternoon dress rehearsals for the fashion show and the Costume show were more popular; people had a great time admiring the amazing garments made of Korean paper. Unfortunately, the rain chased away many spectators for the evening performances. What a shame, especially considering the amount of work and effort were poured into the creation of these amazing costumes!

How about organizing a parade in the streets surrounding the site, and even in the Hanok village? It would be a great experience for the fashion models and designers, and it will bring attention to the Festival, and hopefully attract more visitors and tourists who might not have been aware of the event.

A new website.... but where's English?

The Jeonju Hanji Festival recently redid its website, to modernize it and make it more vibrant and user friendly. You can visit it here :

The new hot pink titles and the colorful pictures are very attractive! I especially like the large picture banner and the fresh look of the site. Unfortunately, there is still something major missing : there is no English version! It appears especially problematic this year, as the theme of the 20th edition of the Festival was "Hanji into the world."  How can we expect foreign visitors to learn about Hanji if they can't read anything about it? It is foolish to think that the internationalization of Hanji can be done without a minimal amount of English language material available. In this digital era, an English version of a website is a obvious necessity.

I have been talking about this issue for years now (on my blog, as well as in person with some people involved in the organization of the Festival), but it seems that my message hasn't reached its target yet. I will keep on beating my Hanji drum as loudly as possible, but it is not a mission I can tackle alone.

I had the occasion to discuss and share ideas with a few members of the organizing committee; I offer my help for next year's edition, and they seem happy to hear that I wanted to get involved in the organization. I really hope they indeed contact me, so I can give a hand to this event that I sincerely love.

A team of KTV produced a TV segment on the 2016 Jeonju Hanji Festival.
HanjiNaty in the news

This year, my presence drew interest from different media outlets, including KTV, the Jeonju City blog, and the JB Life Magazine. Wow!

I was thrilled to be able to talk about my craft and my passion for Hanji paper.

You can take a look at different segments and blog posts featuring HanjiNaty :

KTV segment on the Hanji Festival (HanjiNaty featured from 1:48) :

Blog post on the Jeonju City blog (in Korean) :

Blog post by "HanjiMaster" (in Korean) :

Thank you for your support!

Once again, taking part in the Jeonju Hanji Festival was an interesting and inspiring experience, despite certain frustrations. It is a beautiful event, and I really want to see it thrive. I am hopeful that the organization will accept my offer to give them a hand, and that this way I can contribute concretely to the development and promotion of this important event.

Finally, I want to take the time to thank all the visitors who took the time to visit my booth at the Festival, with a special thought to my dear friends who travelled to come and support me. Thank you! I also want to sincerely thank my dear husband and partner for his constant help and support.

See you next year, Jeonju!

1 comment:

  1. Everything looks amazing! Hope it continues to improve! Your booth is so lovely! Wish I could have been there to see it in person!